A weird kind of gothic

"Initials and Decorative Alphabets," Erhardt D. Stiebner and Dieter Urban
Solved by: 
K.C. Thompson

I've saved a while back this image off the internet but I don't remember from where, or what it is and by who. I was wondering if anyone knew anything about the history if these letters. Thanks in advance


I found these in one of my books ("Initials and Decorative Alphabets," Erhardt D. Stiebner and Dieter Urban, Blandford Press, 1985). It's an English translation of the German "Initialen und Bildbuchstaben," 1983.

It appears on page 172, and is described as "After Renaissance original, Silvestre, 19th cn." The image it accompanies is the same as shown in your sample "Typography.jpg," but reversed (white on black) as in your "Sample.jpg."

More information about Silvestre here (as well as a cropped sample of this alphabet):

Good find Kevin.
The original has a fascinating amount of nuanced detail. Here is a slightly enhanced copy

BTW the black and white rendition posted for ID is a good quality adaptation and catches a substantial part of the detailing.
It would be a real challenge to capture this in a digital font. There would have to be some drastic simplification of the engraved sphere like circles to make them work for the upper case and they might not even be feasible for the lower case.

It almost looks like a harp is the theme.

Thank you so much to both of you. I really appreciate it!


Hi Mike, a harp is as good a guess as any.
All we know about this alphabet is that it's an Italian lapidary alphabet from the 15th century.
From the shading, the circles appear to be spheres on strings, ropes or pipes.
Why spheres? Musical, astrological, astronomical, heraldic, cannon balls?
Is this supposed to represent armor laced together, plumbing, something architectural?
A lapidary alphabet was intended to be engraved. This might have been used on something metal, a platter, a bronze door etc. Religious, scientific, military?
Last guess: knobs on a pipe organ.
A true mystery alphabet.