I spent my early childhood in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It's a beautiful area with lots of green and farmland and a fair amount of wildlife. It's also a very artistic area. New Hope, especially, is a hub for the literary and creatively minded. Many prominent artists, writers, and musicians have made the area their home including a few of my favorites: writer Dorothy Parker, singer/songwriter Michael Hurley, and Stan and Jan Berenstain. Realist painter Andrew Wyeth spent his entire life a hop, skip, and a jump over in Delaware County.
Anyway, why I mention this is because as time goes on, I increasingly realize that some of my aesthetic predilections have their roots in my Pennsylvanian origins. I can only speak for Southeastern, PA, but folk art is everywhere. The bright blues, sunny yellows, happy orange-reds of traditional Pennsylvania Dutch and Quaker art somehow worked their way into my psyche. And I have a hard time imagining better ornamentation than sweet, stylized birds, flowers, and hearts. So, when I discovered these wonderful Fraktur documents, it's no wonder I went all googly eyed and giddy before I even learned of their history. Strangely enough, this little illumination I did back when I was in Maryanne's class at NBSS almost has a Fraktur feel to it... even though I had no idea what this art form was at the time (Cordelia is my adorable pet rabbit).
Jillian Schrager (2009), image by Maryanne Grebenstein
The word Fraktur refers to gothic/blackletter-style hands, which were often present in this style of art (Italic hand also appears frequently). Just as the word "blackletter" indicates the hand's text block-defining density, "fraktur" refers to the fractured nature of the hand. Note the angularity of the following example. Each pen stroke* is distinct, and their connections are overt rather than rounded .
image from Wikipedia
Similar illuminated documents were created in other regions by other groups. But between 1750 and 1850, Fraktur documents were truly the province of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Fraktur art most commonly took the form of official documents (marriage, birth, baptism), book plates, and religious texts. Occasionally it was purely ornamental. During Fraktur's early years, text was all handwritten. But as time and technology progressed, the text was sometimes printed, and then the illuminations were added, generally with ink and watercolor.
I think what I like best about Fraktur art is that it represents a distinctly American take on old world illuminated manuscripts; I love its earnest, unpretentious beauty and I love that these documents often served a function and were used by everyday people. Anyway, I've yammered on enough: onto the images!
Baptismal certificate, artist unknown (circa 1800?), image from Wikipedia
Religious text, Jacob Botz (circa 1800), image from Free Library of Philadelphia
Religious text, Susanna Hübner (1807), image from Free Library of Philadelphia
Reward of merit, artist unknown (circa 1820-1840), image from Free Library of Philadelphia
David Kulp (circa early 1800s?), image from FrakturWeb
Unknown artist, image from schmookie
Birth and baptismal record, Christian Beschler (1814), image from schmookie
*I realize this example is actually a typeface, but it'll do for explanation's sake.