• Light
  • Regular
  • Bold
  • Black

Elfreth Light

Preservational Society
Dungeons & Dragons?

Elfreth Regular

Frontier Pyschiatrist
The Balrog of Melkor

Elfreth Black

Total Armageddon
Holographic Lodge

Elfreth Bold

Cursiva refers to a very large variety of forms of blackletter; as with modern cursive writing, there is no real standard form. It developed in the 14th century as a simplified form of textualis.

Elfreth Regular

Fraktur is a form of blackletter that became the most common German blackletter typeface by the mid-16th century. Its use was so common that often any blackletter form is called Fraktur in Germany.

Elfreth Light

Hybrida is also called bastarda (especially in France), and as its name suggests, is a hybrid form of the script. It is a mixture of textualis and cursiva, developed in the early 15th century.

About Elfreth

What if blackletter was for more than graduations and gravestones? Perhaps more than any other style of type, blackletter tends to carry a lot of baggage. It would probably be safe to assume that pretty much everyone in the latin-type-using world has an association with it; some of these are good and some are not so good. Is there a way to make a blackletter typeface that pushes against these associations? Elfreth is an attempt to make a blackletter typeface that is less strict in its upbringing.

Part of what makes blackletter so interesting (and challenging to read) is its repetition of form in its lower case. Most of us, when we think of repetition of form in letterforms, tend to think of the Modernists and their sans serif designs. Everyone from Herbert Bayer with his Universal Alphabet to Max Miedinger with Helvetica was working to make every letter look the same, something blackletter had already been doing for several hundred years. Part of our goal was to liven up this space—add a bit more character and a little less severity to the notoriously rigid blackletter we are so familiar with.

While really interesting, this Didot Blackletter is so uniform in the lowercase it is almost unreadable.

The starting point was with the contrast. Blackletter usually has a strong contrast between thicks and thins, Elfreth was a study in the effect of keeping things more mono-linear. This effect, we found, immediately made things a bit more casual (and gave us the cool bone-like strokes on the top of the ascenders). So we had something that was casual but it was still a bit sterile. It was then that we discovered the work of Max Körner.

The cover of Max Körner’s lettering manual.

Seeing that blackletter could be written with this kind of character was such a breath of fresh air (despite the lettering manual being around 90 years old). This work helped us solidify our direction. While we wouldn’t be copying anything in particular about his work (those crazy dieresis, for example), we couldn’t help but be inspired by the overall feel of it.

With that work on our mind, we took our bone-y blackletter and started to humanize it. By playing with contrast and swapping some sharp angles with graceful curves, Elfreth took on a much more lively personality without looking like handwriting.

Another area of contention was what to do about some of the uniquely blackletter designs of some characters. The lower-case x and k, in particular can be quite indecipherable to a lot of non-German readers. For Elfreth, a compromise was devised that blended the traditional German form with the more familiar non-German design.

Elfreth compared to work by Rudolf Koch. The k and x in Koch’s design are harder for non-Germans to read.

Elfreth ended up as blackletter that isn’t a pastiche or anachronistic. It is meant to be used in contemporary design. Due to the modulation of its unique strokes, the personality of the typeface changes as weight is built up, giving the black weight a different feel from the light, while still carrying the same relationships all the way through the extremes.

OpenType Features

Oldstyle Numbers
Contextual Alternates
Tb Th ll rv
Tb Th ll rv

Design Notes

Elfreth features a lower contrast than most blackletter typefaces to give it a less traditional and formal feel. It also allows it to be used at smaller sizes.
In traditional blackletter typefaces, some letterforms, like the “r” and the “x” can be hard for non-native readers to distinguish. Elfreth is designed to make sure that it’s easy to tell the difference between the two.
The lowercase “k” is another form that’s tricky for people who aren’t used to reading blackletter. Elreth’s “k” is drawn to reference the traditonal “k” while maintaining familiarity for readers who are less familiar with blakcletter.
Elfreth is full of subtle curves that help give it a less formal feel; allowing it to work in places normal blackletter might be too austere.
Elfreth was drawn so that it could work in all-caps settings.
To make it easier to distinguish different letterforms—unlike in traditional blackletter—letters like “o”, “b”, “d”, and so on feature rounded sides.

In Use

  • The Common Era
  • In House

Language Support

  • Afrikaans
  • Albanian
  • Algonquin
  • Asturian
  • Basque
  • Bavarian
  • Bemba
  • Bikol
  • Bosnian
  • Breton
  • Catalan
  • Cheyenne
  • Cornish
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Esperanto
  • Estonian
  • Faroese
  • Fijian
  • Finnish
  • French
  • Galician
  • German
  • Greenlandic
  • Hawaiian
  • Hungarian
  • Icelandic
  • Indonesian
  • Irish
  • Italian
  • Kurdish
  • Latin
  • Latvian
  • Lithuanian
  • Luxembourgish
  • Madurese
  • Malagasy
  • Malay
  • Maltese
  • Mandinka
  • Māori
  • Norwegian
  • Occitan
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Quechua
  • Romanian
  • Romansh
  • Northern Sámi
  • Lule Sámi
  • Inari Saami
  • Samoan
  • Serbian
  • Slovak
  • Slovenian
  • Spanish
  • Strine
  • Swahili
  • Swedish
  • Tagalog
  • Tswana
  • Turkish
  • Umbundu
  • Vietnamese
  • Walloon
  • Welsh
  • Wolof
  • Xhosa
  • Zulu