In German, the word Fraktur seems to imply a sense of broken-ness. All Blackletter types in German are referred to as “Broken Types” (gebrochene Schriften). Frakturs are the most decorative of the main Blackletter categories, as well as the most used, and the most quintessentially German (see German nationalism), even though they were also used in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, which are non-German speaking areas of Europe.
The Fraktur style of type was invented around 1517 at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in Nuremberg. Many artists and designers were involved in the process, including Albrecht Duerer and Johann Neudoerffer the Elder.
Fraktur quickly overcame Textura and Schwabacher as the main style of type used within the empire. The style got a boost after Martin Luther’s first full-translation of the Bible into German appeared on the market—set in Fraktur. For a while, Fraktur was regarded as a “protestant” type. But it managed to be used by the southern Catholics, too.
After the Napoleonic-era, Fraktur slowly began to loose ground against Antiqua, as the Germans called Roman type. It disappeared during the 1800s from the Netherlands, Sweden, and the Czech lands altogether. By 1900, almost all books sold in Germany that were translated from foreign languages, as well as most scientific books, were set in Antiqua. By 1930, only about half of all books sold were in Fraktur. After the Nazi ban on Blackletter type in 1941, the type slowly disappeared out the of public eye. The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) managed to print a few books a year in Fraktur, but in the West (and today’s Germany) Fraktur is usually only used in the following contexts: Typographic Games, History, Beer Labels, Gastronomy, Art Books, Heavy Metal, and Neo Nazi paraphernalia.
Some of the most famous historical Fraktur typefaces have been digitized, and are available in digital form.