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Fraktur (script): Wikis


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Latin script (Fraktur variant)
Schriftzug Fraktur.jpg
Type Alphabet
Spoken languages German¹ and some other European languages
Time period 16th century – 1946
Parent systems
  • Latin script (Fraktur variant)
Child systems Kurrentschrift, including Sütterlin
Sister systems See Blackletter
Unicode range 002000FF²
ISO 15924 Latf
1: And related languages.
2: normal Latin range; see below
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.
German map (in Antiqua) of script usage in Europe around 1900

The German word Fraktur [frakˈtuːr]  ( listen) refers to a specific sub-group of blackletter typefaces. The word derives from the past participle fractus (“broken”) of Latin frangere (“to break”). As opposed to Antiqua (common) typefaces, which were modeled after antique Roman square capitals and Carolingian minuscule, the blackletter lines are broken up.

The term fraktur is sometimes applied to all of the blackletter typefaces.



One difference between the Fraktur and other blackletter scripts is that in the small-letter o, the left part of the bow is broken, but the right part is not.

Besides the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, and the ß (Eszett, IPA: [ɛsˈtsɛt]) and vowels with umlauts as well, Fraktur typefaces include the ſ (long s), sometimes a variant form of the letter r, and a variety of ligatures once intended to aid the typesetter and which have specialized rules for their use. Most older Fraktur typefaces make no distinction between the majuscules "I" and "J" (where the common shape is more suggestive of a "J"), even though the minuscules "i" and "j" are differentiated.


The first Fraktur typeface was designed when Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (c. 1493–1519) established a series of books and had a new typeface created specifically for this purpose, designed by Hieronymus Andreae. Fraktur quickly overtook the earlier Schwabacher and Textualis typefaces in popularity, and a wide variety of Fraktur fonts were carved.


Overview of some blackletter typefaces

Typesetting in Fraktur was still very common in the early 20th century in all German-speaking countries and areas, as well as in Denmark, Norway, Estonia, and Latvia, and was still used to a very small extent in Sweden and Finland (see map to the right) while other countries typeset in Antiqua in the early 20th century. Some books at that time used related blackletter fonts such as Schwabacher; however, the predominant typeface was the Normalfraktur (Fig. 1), which came in slight variations.

Since the late 18th century, Fraktur had been progressively replaced by Antiqua as a symbol of the classicist age and emerging cosmopolitanism. The debate surrounding this move is known as the Antiqua-Fraktur dispute. However, the shift mostly affected scientific writing, while most belletristic literature and newspapers continued to be printed in broken fonts. This radically changed when on January 3, 1941 Martin Bormann issued a circular to all public offices which declared Fraktur (and its corollary, the Sütterlin-based handwriting) to be Judenlettern (Jewish letters) and prohibited their further use. It has been speculated that the régime had realized that Fraktur would inhibit communication in the territories occupied during World War II. Fraktur saw a short resurgence after the War, but quickly disappeared in a Germany keen on modernising its appearance.

Fraktur is today used mostly for decorative typesetting; for example, a number of traditional German newspapers such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine, as well as the Norwegian Aftenposten, still print their name in Fraktur on the masthead, and it is also popular for pub signs and the like. In this modern decorative use the Fraktur rules about the use of long s and short s and of ligatures are often disregarded.

Individual Fraktur letters also appear frequently in mathematics, which often denotes associated or parallel concepts by a single letter in various fonts. For example, a Lie group is often denoted by G, while its associated Lie algebra is \mathfrak{g}. A ring ideal might be named \mathfrak{a} while an element is a\in\mathfrak{a}.

Fraktur in Unicode

In Unicode, Fraktur is considered a font of the Latin script, and is not encoded separately. However, Fraktur symbols for mathematics are encoded in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane (SMP). Bold Fraktur letters (with the exception of the German character ß, which is not used in mathematics) are encoded from 1D56C1D59F in the Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols area. Regular Fraktur letters are encoded from 1D5041D537 with the following exceptions: Capital C is encoded 0212D, H 0210C, I 02111, R 0211C, Z 02128 and long s with 017F. Fraktur numerals are not encoded as of Unicode 5.0. Fraktur symbols are supported in the freeware Unicode font Code2001.


In these figures, the German sentence which appears after the names of the fonts (Walbaum-Fraktur in Fig. 1 and Humboldfraktur in Fig. 2) reads Victor jagt zwölf Boxkämpfer quer über den Sylter Deich. It means "Victor chases twelve boxers diagonally over the Sylt dike" and contains all 26 letters of the alphabet plus the umlauted glyphs used in German, making it an example of a pangram.

Fig. 1. Walbaum-Fraktur (1800)
Fig. 2. Humboldtfraktur (Hiero Rhode, 1938)

See also

References and further reading



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