Typeface Review


Reviewed by John Butler on April 4, 2009

In years past, František Štorm released two blackletters. The first was Monarchia, a revival and extension of Rudolph Koch’s almost forgotten Frühling, a fraktur. It featured expanded diacritics, text and display weights, plus a new bold weight.

Later he released Plagwitz, a wholly original textura, in a single weight much darker and less ornate than Monarchia. Plagwitz exhibits the first instance of what seems to be a novel ductus, where the pen angle of vertical strokes is different from that of cross strokes. It is most apparent in the top left and bottom right corners of the lowercase o, and in related letters like e and s. I looked through some other textura specimens to find any predecessors for this, and could not find any.

This ductus reappears more noticeably and becomes, effectively, a signature within each letterform in Štorm’s newest and most original blackletter design yet, Moyenage. Koch’s influence was not as pronounced in Plagwitz, and returns as just one element in this new design. The usual reflex when classifying entries in competitions or reviews like this one is to categorize this as a “Display” font, but this may be the first blackletter family yet to qualify as a “system” — five weights times five widths equals twenty-five fonts. Add in what may be the most successful execution of Cyrillic in a blackletter design, plus small caps previously unheard of until Underware’s recent Fakir design, which would have held the blackletter-“system” crown previous to this. Monarchia and Plagwitz are sonnets compared to the epic Moyenage. The specimen (136K PDF) speaks for itself. Most previous attempts to make a Cyrillic blackletter are comical or insulting depending on who you ask, and I cannot speak as someone who reads Russian to begin with, but something tells me that this new design can finally pull it off. Time will tell, but I look forward to seeing it used well in both Western and Eastern hemispheres.

Finally, in his specimen, Štorm writes “The font is drawn as if written with a flat pen or brush, and with the ambition to, perhaps, serve as a calligraphic model.” The unusual variability in pen angle from one stroke to the next will on its own easily achieve this ambition. This new system of fonts deserves a smashing success.

John Butler is a font engineering consultant and general end-user IT consultant based in Murphy, North Carolina and working in the Atlanta area. John’s work includes some of the earliest OpenType font migrations outside of Adobe and extends to other smart font technologies including Graphite and AAT.

One Comment

  1. vic says:

    Very nice, it’s difficult to implement in Cyrillic.

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