Beyond History Blog

Puzzling Fonts

Andrea Bentschneider - 17. June 2015 - Emigration, Genealogy, General

Some days, we put our heads together and puzzle over a document. Is that an H? Is it an S? What kind of occupation could this be? The reason for this is not our defective sight but the old German handwritings that we decrypt daily in records, church book entries and so on. After many years of experience, there is a certain routine in doing so – but even after a thousand records a bad copy, smudgy ink or just the particularly scrawly handwriting of a registrar from 200 years ago can bring us to verge of despair.

While today, records are produced easily produced with a computer and are always legible, in former times what had to be registered was written down with a pen.And this, of course, didn’t happen in block letters but in “Kurrent”, an old German handwriting that was the official communication font from the Early Modern Age until the mid-twentieth century. 

Kurrent is not to be confused with “Suetterlin” – a handwriting developed in the early twentieth century in Prussia to make it easier for children to learn to write. In 1941, the National Socialists abolished Kurrent and Suetterlin in favor of the “Deutsche Normalschrift” (German Normal Handwriting) which, according to Hitler, fitted better in a “New age of steel and concrete”. 

Today, of course, fonts are fitted to international standards to make communication easier and handwritings become less important thanks to computer keyboards.

When did you write a letter with a pen last time? If you are looking for a challenge,you should try Kurrent (you can study the Kurrent alphabet here). In case you want to leave something to posterity though, in the name of future researchers we beg you:please write legibly!  

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