Difference between Gothic and Blackletter?

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Christopher Burton's picture
Joined: 30 Aug 2012 - 4:53pm
Difference between Gothic and Blackletter?
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I come across typefaces such as Trade Gothic yet it is a sans-serif. There's obviously a difference between that and blackletter so what am I misunderstanding?

Karl Stange's picture
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Joined: 17 Sep 2009 - 10:07am
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Gothic is an older term for sans-serif that is still commonly used in East Asian typography. More information can be found on the Wikipedia pages:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sans-serif

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Asian_gothic_typeface

Apparently, "In English, Gothic is an outmoded typographic term for sans-serif. It was so named because the type color of early sans serif typefaces was thought to be similar to that of the blackletter or “gothic” script. The term “gothic” is now rare in English, having been largely replaced by "sans-serif" except in the names of some typefaces such as "Century Gothic"."

Christopher Burton's picture
Joined: 30 Aug 2012 - 4:53pm
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Thanks, Karl. That certainly makes a lot of sense.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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“Gothic” was the North American term for sans serif.
Hence Franklin Gothic, News Gothic, Trade Gothic, Century Gothic and more recently my Brown Gothic … and Gotham.

However, perhaps due to the international nature of the present day font market, we now mostly refer to “sans serif” types, if not those that are specifically “grotesque”.

William Berkson's picture
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Joined: 26 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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Gotham is a [[http://www.nypl.org/blog/2011/01/25/so-why-do-we-call-it-gotham-anyway|name for New York City,]] and the typeface is so named because it was inspired by old lettering on buildings in the city. Not related to Gothic as a name for sans, so far as I know.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Well yeah, but don’t you think there was also some punnery involved in its naming?

HVB's picture
HVB
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Joined: 17 Feb 2006 - 9:43am
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No more punnery than when in 1939 Bob Kane and Bill Finger chose Gotham as the name for Batman's city, or 130 years earlier when Washington Irving used it as a nickname for NYC.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Those were metaphors, comparing one city/town to another.
A pun is a word which has two meanings, in this case the name of a city and a category of typeface.

HVB's picture
HVB
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Joined: 17 Feb 2006 - 9:43am
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Yes - my intent was to note that H&FJ used the name specifically because it was associated with New York, and the style of the typeface was based on lettering commonly found on the city's buildings. So if there was a pun involved, it wasn't intended.

[[http://www.typography.com/fonts/font_history.php?historyItemID=1&product...|H&FJ's history of Gotham]]

- Herb

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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… if there was a pun involved, it wasn't intended.

Really?
Jonathan and Tobias are quite eloquent chaps y’know.
I wouldn’t put it past them to come up with a multi-meaninged typeface name.
Jonathan has written some quite erudite essays, for instance “On Classifying Type” for Emigre magazine, and Tobias wrote many of the very witty specimen texts for the Font Bureau when he was there, if I’m not mistaken.

Alline betts's picture
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Joined: 16 Dec 2012 - 1:19pm
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Good post.

phrostbyte64's picture
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Joined: 8 Oct 2008 - 10:38pm
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Where does the term grotesque enter into the description for a san-serif? I don't find san-serif fonts to be outlandish, bizarre, or distorted.

John Savard's picture
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Joined: 23 Nov 2009 - 8:42pm
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You don't. But back when the very first sans-serif faces were designed, they did seem grotesque to people then.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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The meaning of “grotesque” is open to interpretation.
Refer to The Nymph and the Grot by James Mosley, the definitive history of the emergence of the sans serif letter form.

Todd Macfie's picture
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Joined: 18 Jun 2009 - 4:25pm
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Does intention matter?

When I consider Gotham I think of NYC, but the connotation of "Gothic" type is also packaged into my experience.

Grotesque: I thought this categorization occurred because these sans-serifs were considered grotesque in comparison to the at-the-time more conventional serif. (Citation needed)