An English book set in blackletter?
July 17, 2007 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I want to read a book set in blackletter. Not just for titles 8212; I want blackletter for the text. Unfortunately I don't read German, nor a Northern European language, and I want to really read it, not just look at it, so it has to be a book written in English or French. I'd prefer a book from the past two centuries.

I'm open to almost any content, although I'd prefer prose (fiction or non).

Does anyone know of a specific book? Or of a publisher, time period, or genre? I have easy access to the University of Minnesota library system.
posted by Utilitaritron to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
Well, one possibility would be to download a book you want to read from Project Gutenberg, typeset it yourself in a blackletter font, then send that off to a print on demand service, such as Lulu. Lulu will let you use arbitrary fonts as long as they are embedded in the PDF you send them.
posted by jedicus at 3:14 PM on July 17, 2007

Not blackletter per se, but heavily influenced by it, is Golden Type by William Morris. You may be able to get your hands on books set in this type, including books written, illustrated, or printed by Morris. I believe he may have also printed some books in blackletter, so check him out first (he was British, so anything he has will be in English). It's worth it just for the aesthetic interest, as Morris was a very interesting character in the world of typefaces.

It might be useful to know why you want to read in blackletter. As jedicus said, if it's just a question of reading something you could always take an MeTa page and print it out in blackletter. That would be something.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:43 PM on July 17, 2007

U of Minnesota has online access to Early English Books Online, which has photo reproductions of most books published in England between 1475 and 1700.

Once you log in, may I recommend this example. The preface is not in blackletter but the text is, starting at page 5.
posted by zepheria at 4:11 PM on July 17, 2007

(counts centuries and sighs) Sorry, missed your italics there.
posted by zepheria at 4:23 PM on July 17, 2007

I'll take a look at those. I don't mind something old pe ser, I'd just prefer the age of the text not to bias me too much.

My whole idea is just to see what it's like to read continuous BL text. I want something book-length so that BL becomes somewhat familiar while I'm reading.

The print on demand idea is good too, if I don't find something. Are there any good free/<$25 BL text fonts?
posted by Utilitaritron at 6:15 PM on July 17, 2007

Last two centuries? That's a real stretch. Yes, Morris, but even that's not a true black letter typeface. Blackletter was a rare typographical ornament even in the 18th century -- usually for archaic and legal purposes. So you might find some early 19th-c legal texts that fit the bill.
posted by holgate at 6:36 PM on July 17, 2007

Early English Books Online! I wish wish wish I has access to this. I took a class two summers ago where we used this a lot and by the end of it the entire class of high schoolers could read blackletter fluently. Browse around; I'd recommend the ballad sheets.
posted by MadamM at 7:32 PM on July 17, 2007

The British Library has two different editions of the Canterbury Tales in printed blackletter.
posted by clearlydemon at 12:19 AM on July 18, 2007

How about one of the Daniel Press editions of Robert Bridges's poems? The Growth of Love (1890) and Shorter Poems (1894) are both printed in the Fell black-letter type, and both are available in the Wilson Library (Rare Books 825B76 OG and 825B76 OS respectively). Falconer Madan wrote of Shorter Poems that the black-letter type gives 'just the check to hasty reading which thoughtful and elaborate poems need'.

Or you could look at a facsimile of the 1611 Authorized Version (the King James Bible). If you don't want to stray from your computer, then Matthew, Mark and Luke are available here to download.

You might also be interested in Keith Thomas's article, 'The Meaning of Literacy in Early Modern England', in Gerd Baumann (ed.), The Written Word: Literacy in Transition (1986). Thomas suggests that some people in early modern England were black-letter literate, i.e. they could read texts in black-letter but not in roman-letter. I don't know of any evidence to back this up (apart from the fact that ballads, chapbooks and other forms of cheap print were still being printed in black-letter when most other books were printed in roman), but it is an intriguing suggestion.
posted by verstegan at 2:42 PM on July 19, 2007

« Older How to keep a turtle aquarium clean.   |   How to define this language mistake? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.