Useful info about gothic majuscules

gothic writing: capital letters A-Z: Y alternative
There are many, many varieties of majuscules (capital letters) used in gothic writing. So keep your eyes open for more examples of capital gothic letters A-Z or even single letters (fonts, signs, titles, manuscript facsimiles etc). Build up a collection. Once you know the basics of how to write calligraphy, you can then imitate or adapt whatever you fancy for a particular project.
Generally, gothic capitals defy the oblong up-and-down aspect of their minuscule brethren. They occupy a square area, or even a widish rectangle, and are often very rounded. I believe this contrast came about for at least two reasons. Partly, it's because gothic capitals derive somewhat from uncial letters and later versals, which are extremely round. Partly it's because capital letters in long passages of gothic writing have always served as necessary navigational aids around the page, so the more contrast they have with the angular 'fenceposts' of the ordinary text, the better.
gothic writing: a gothic majuscule typically contrasts with the text around it
The latter fact should also tell you that gothic majuscules work very well in bright colour: traditionally, vermilion, blue or green. Important initials can have little gold boxes painted round them, as well as much other ornament. Gothic writing in general lends itself enthusiastically to majusculedecorated letters.

However, the big round shapes of the majuscules in gothic writing leave big white spaces inside (this space in any letter is called the 'counter'). And in gothic writing you must at all costs fill white space! So decorative lines, lozenges and little twiddle 
twaddles abound, both inside and out.

Gothic writing: majuscule gothic letters A-Z

This alphabet is written around six nib-widths high. Thin vertical lines are formed by turning the pen round to point directly to the left and then drawing downwards. Any other puzzling hairlines are created by twisting the pen to use just the left corner of the nib.

Here's an 'Xample':
gothic writing: example of step-by-step layout for how to write a gothic majuscule

(Remember: the rule for gothic writing is that you always draw the nib either from higher on the page to lower, or else from the left to the right; either way, the pen moves back or sideways from where the nib is pointing. If you push the pen nib-first, then the patron demon of bad writing, Titivillus, will come spluttering out and haunt your desk. He will dry your nib, grease your page, muddy your colours and joggle your hand).

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter A
'A', ironically, is the one letter in this alphabet which won't help you much to write any of the others. But it's simple enough. Actually, I think this 'A' is a bit sissy. 

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter B

'B' introduces a wonderful element of gothic writing which you'll use again and again: the hackle. This is the 'hook' decorating the first long downstroke of the letter (fifth stroke in the sequence). It can be angular or curved; 

To tackle a hackle on gothic letters: as you can see, the idea is to place your nib at its usual 45-degree angle so that the right corner of the nib is just barely touching the back of the letter. From there, draw the nib across and down in a steady curl until the left corner of the nib also meets the downstroke of the letter. (Meanwhile, make sure you have kept the angle constant so that the right corner of the nib doesn't intrude over the other side of the downstroke and leave an unsightly bulge or point.)

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter C

 The basic pattern shown here is about C: start just below the top line; draw a smooth round 'crescent moon' from top left to bottom right – that is, thin stroke through thick stroke to thin again; go back up to the top line, just to the right of the top point of the crescent, nib at 45 degrees, and draw a vertical (add a small angle at the bottom if you like); back up, and turn the nib sideways to draw a thin line neighbouring; lastly, go to just below the top again to add the rest of the letter.
If you can do that, then you're also ready for 'E', 'G', 'O', 'Q', 'T', 'U', 'V' and 'W'. Whoo-hoo!

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter D
The version of 'D' shown here is a rather splendid letter: start as for B, and then just have fun with that long ski-slope sweep of a stroke. Try not to exaggerate the curves too much. It's interesting to see from this element of gothic writing how the majuscule 'D' and the minuscule 'd' are essentially the same letter, just differing in which is the straight stroke and which is the curved.

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter E
'E' ... very much the same as 'C'. Keep the final 'tongue' fairly short. It's easy to get carried away.  Another twisty nib-trick: keeping the nib at 45 degrees, draw the horizontal and, while still drawing, lift the right corner of the nib off the page for the last millimetre. The right corner of the nib will leave its usual oblique line-end; the left corner of the nib, continuing, will obediently draw out the wet ink at the bottom of the stroke to form another perfectly matching point: 

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter F
'F' is also quite a grand letter, because its doubled black lines enclose a white stripe to create a dramatic contrast. Keep the lines smooth and slightly curved, avoiding the sharp angles of minuscule gothic writing, for a more flowing 'dazzle' effect.

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter G
'G' ... ain't this easy-peasy. Not even the forked tongue of the 'E' to worry about.

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter H
'H' is fairly self-explanatory. The new element is that flourished head. (Yes, it has one of those forkward awks on it, like the 'E'.)

Tip: When you draw the first downstroke, make sure you start by moving the nib slightly to the left for a tiny, initial leftwards curve into the vertical. Then you can go back to that point and draw up from it and to the right for another slight curve into the horizontal. The smooth, narrow join then introduces a more graceful forward-running flourish.

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter I
'I' is a nice, simple letter, but watch the proportions so that it doesn't end up looking too much like a 'J'. A handy rule of thumb is to make sure that the flourish at the head and the curl at the foot don't extend back further than a hackle's width plus about half again.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter J
As you can see, a gothic 'J' is considerably more flourished than 'I'. Remember, this is quite a modern letter – in general use for only three hundred or so years. 'J' is therefore essentially an adaptation of 'I'; exaggerate the bowl and the top-stroke to distinguish it clearly.

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter K
'K' is formed quite similarly to 'H'. Its chief feature is its bold diagonal leg, which should thrust forward with both assurance and decorum – ie not so inconsiderately far that the next letter in the word will be pushed away along the line.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter L
'L' is almost as simple as 'I'. Don't overdo the curves on the horizontal. Aha, here's an interesting tidbit. That symbol coming up below is of course the '£' sign; you can see how it started off as a majuscule 'L' in gothic writing.
gothic writing: the English 'pound' symbol was originally a gothic majuscule L
That 'L' stood for the Latin word 'librae', meaning 'unit of weight'. 'Librae' was the word the English used to mean 'pounds' as in 'pounds, shillings and pence' (L, s and d – librae, solidi, denarii). And why was it called a 'pound' to begin with? Scholars suggest it was because a £ consisted of enough pennies to weigh 1lb on the scales. And then 'Libra' of course also means the Balance or Scales in astrology; and gives us the words 'equilibrium' (equal balance), to 'deliberate' and 'library' .

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter M
'M' is quite tall and graceful. Try not to make the shoulders too wide. Think of those high, narrow, arched windows in gothic cathedrals.

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter N
'N', you will be happy to know, is nothing more complex than a hatless 'H'.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter O
The challenge with 'O' as in any calligraphy alphabet, gothic or otherwise, is to get the curves balanced so that the overall aspect is smoothly round rather than eggy or squished on one side.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter P
'P', as you see, begins like a B but the stem goes below the line so you get a nice large brash bowl.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter Q
'Q', like 'D', is an opportunity for a bit of a flourish – this time, below the line.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter R
'R' should be easy: it's more or less the top half of a 'B' stitched onto the bottom half of a 'K'. Make sure it has a rather larger bow at the top than a 'B', though. And the same warning applies about the leg as for 'K'.

gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter S
'S'. Hm. In gothic writing, majuscule 'S' comes in so many varieties. But, for the moment, this version resembles 'F' in consisting for the most part of two parallel, slightly curving lines. Be sure to begin and end the diagonal middle section below the top-line and above the base-line, so that you have space for a graceful transition into the head and foot of the letter. The final diagonals should be positioned so that if either were extended in a straight line it would meet the other.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter T
'T', by way of relief after 'S', is the simplest round letter of all these gothic letters A-Z. Keep the horizontal smooth, and balance its width against the curve of the body; don't let it go too far in either direction, and not too curly either.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter U
'U', too, can draw 'U', too. (Ho, ho, ho.) Seriously: it's almost the same as the 'C's and 'G's earlier. The main difference is the little left-pointing flourish; and even that is rather like the beginning of a 'T'.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter V
'V' is extremely similar to the other round letters, but it is useful to make the first 'crescent moon' shape a little narrower and more egg-shaped than in 'U' and its fellows, so as to help your reader to decide more readily which letter it is.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter W
'W' is a walloping great humdinger of a letter. But for all that, it is indeed nothing worse than a 'double U': it's another modern letter in gothic writing, devised by us Germanic types because we'd turned a perfectly good 'V' (pronounced 'W' by the Romans) into its modern vuvvly sound, while we wanted 'U' to remain a wowel and nothing more.
 The only possible sticky patch is deciding how to position the second 'crescent moon'. Start it from just below the top-line as usual and straight above the place where the first crescent ends. You want the curve of the second crescent to just brush across the tip of the first in passing. Then, when you draw the thick verticals, angle the second one in so that it looks as though it's joining up with the end of the first crescent. 
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter X
'X' is curiously spidery, very much a large version of the minuscule letter already familiar to you from earlier gothic writing experiments. It is not always easy to get all four legs balanced. Keep an eye on what you have already drawn so you can see when and where to stop.
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter Y
'Y' is a funny one. You'd think after 'V' and 'U' that 'Y' would be formed similarly, but the tail doesn't work well on the round shapes. It is different from the other letters in this gothic alphabet in starting with quite long 'ears'. The second of these 'ears' should start not too far away from the first – you can see in the example that all that separates them is the distance between the thin vertical and the first downstroke. The tail is of course drawn with the corner of the nib..
gothic writing: capital gothic letters A-Z: letter Z
And here we are finally at the 'Z' of these majuscule gothic letters A-Z! Your gothic writing will never be the same again – in a good way, of course. It's hard to make 'Z' very exciting. As with 'L' and 'T', don't get carried away by the curves on those horizontals. Gently does it.



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