Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Herald's look-back letter H

The grand old New Zealand Herald, which has been talking to Aucklanders daily since 1863, has been shrunk from broadsheet down to compact size and been given a big revamp. But in one way it’s not so new because while the old masthead has been sidelined, we are still left with one lonely letter, the capital H, printed in what’s known as blackletter font.  

And that’s not new at all. In the middle ages, monks used to fill their days by writing out religious texts by hand, using ink and quill pens to produce convoluted gothic lettering. 

So when Mr Gutenberg invented, in 1455, a way to print words over and over again, using movable type, it was natural for him to copy the monastery style you can see below. . 

He printed his famous bible and showed the world a way to make books available en masse for the first time. 
Blackletter is closely linked with German history and much used by Hitler's lot for nasty propaganda publishing, which is why it fell right out of favour after World War II. 

There are of course thousands of modern, more readable typefaces, but many newspapers, in love with the aura of history and authority conveyed by blackletter script, have clung on to it. 

So even now the Herald still carries a 15th century echo of Gutenberg. Given how very hard it is to read, we can just be very thankful that graphic designers dropped blackletter font for any other purpose a very long time ago.  

No comments: