The term Old German Script, as used throughout this tutorial, refers to the typefaces and handwriting styles of German-speaking countries during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. Although these scripts are based on the Latin alphabet, many of the individual letters may appear to the untrained eye as unique as the letters of the Russian or Arabic alphabets. Old German Script was used widely until the end of World War II, when Latin forms became the accepted standard for handwriting and printing. Nowadays very few German speakers can read or write Old German Script.
Centuries ago, German scribes developed forms of handwriting and typesetting that were very different from other parts of central and Western Europe. These forms came to be known as Gothic Style or Gothic Script. The term Gothic does not hearken back to Gothic arcitecture or even the ancient Gothic tribes; it was derisively applied to denote inferiority.
It is important to note that there were several different styles of Gothic handwriting and typefaces, including some regional variants. Eventually all the Gothic typefaces came to be called after one of the variants, Fraktur. In this tutorial we will also refer to the Gothic typefaces as Fraktur. The handwriting styles also went by several names, usually based on the name of a variant: Kurrent or Sütterlin, for example. Most Gothic handwriting is harder to decipher nowadays than Gothic typefaces, which more closely resemble Latin text.
The materials and exercises of the German Script Tutorial cover both Gothic handwriting and typefaces, although more attention will be given to handwriting. Most German documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were originally handwritten, and reading them is a challenge for modern scholars and researchers. Our goal in this tutorial is to help you overcome this challenge.
The key to reading Old German Script is developing the ability to write it yourself. By the time you finish these learning exercises, you will be able to write words, sentences, and phrases in Gothic style. You will also be able to read words and passages in Fraktur. These skills will make it easier for you to peruse old German literature and read old German documents.