Cloisterfuch fonts

Typeface Review


Reviewed by Grendl Löfkvist on December 22, 2020

Matthijs Herzberg’s Cloisterfuch1 is a chunky, striking blackletter that takes the varying pen angles and waisted strokes found in calligraphic scripts and pushes them to an extreme. The result is an exaggerated, blocky face with personality, best viewed large on the page.

Cloisterfuch is reminiscent of prior hunky blackletters like Underware’s Fakir, House Industries’ Blaktur, or Ethan Cohen’s work-in-progress variable font Black Bone. And the extreme “pen angle” shifts found in Cloisterfuch are clearly influenced by expert Russian scribe Andrey Martinov’s excellent contemporary take on blackletter scripts.

Cloisterfuch’s letterforms draw mostly on Textura Quadrata, with a little Fraktur influence in the majuscules. This is especially manifest in their robust, curvaceous, pendulous “elephant trunks”, a.k.a. “Schnorkels”.2 Cloisterfuch’s lowercase contains few such rounded strokes, as befits a traditional Textura.

This typeface is far from static, however. There are hardly any straight lines to be seen (only the hairline strokes, and even some of those are slightly waisted, such as the slash that defines the ø). Extreme flaring, waisting, and cupping can bestow a cartoonish quality on type. Cloisterfuch definitely walks that line, but doesn’t cross it. The result is a friendlier, less relentlessly brutal type than a Schaftstiefel­grotesk,3 for instance, although it’s hardly the Blackletter Lite™ you’d find on a poppy nu-metal album cover.

The letter and counter spacing provide a fine balance of black and white on the page, with black emerging victorious. That balance, plus the thick wedge-shaped blood drops languor­ously dripping from the top strokes of the r, c, and the crossbar of the t, helps keep one’s horror vacui4 in check.

Basically, if you’re looking for a playful, beefy, mostly PG-rated blackletter display face, Cloisterfuch might just be the ticket.

A few minor quibbles:

  • Something about the way the strokes of the “Schnorkels” align made me think my printer had cut part of them off! I want the strokes to extend a little farther or angle a bit more where they meet so they don’t look accidentally and unceremoniously whacked.
  • The z/Z can be challenging in blackletter, and although these versions aren’t unprecedented, the knockout hairline is jarring and interrupts the flow of the text. The convex curve within the uppercase Z is somewhat easier on the eye than its inverse in the minuscule, but this is an instance when the descending forms of z/Z (that avoid the knockout entirely) would be preferable.
  • And … the somewhat romanized lowercase x is a little too reminiscent of a symbol venerated by some of the (thankfully outgoing) US admin­istration’s more extreme followers. Fortunately, Herzberg reports that this issue has been remedied! We look forward to this new iteration, which will avoid any unfortunate symbolic resonance.
  • Finally, a heads-up: the extreme blockiness of this script makes it challenging at smaller point sizes. This is big display only, baby. And for that reason, although the promotional material suggests it, I would not recommend this typeface for your next tattoo (unless it’s a full backpiece). The small counters (especially the eye of the e, but also those of the a, the s, and so on), would fill in with the passage of time and the ink spreading from the heavy black strokes surrounding them.

    Which, by the way, would hurt like fuch.


    1. What’s up with that name? Apparently Matthijs’ partner Katie Mancine suggested it when she heard that the typeface was a mashup of different blackletters. It combines the word cloister, hearkening the medieval scriptorium, plus fuch, to give it a PG-rated resemblance to clusterf*ck.
    2. Schnorkels: curvaceous flourishes spouting from uppercase Fraktur letterforms (such as on the A, U, V, etc.).
    3. SchaftstiefelGrotesk (jackboot grotesque) is a colloquial term for a simplified genre of blackletter combining the angular and predominantly vertical strokes of a Textura with the relatively consistent stroke widths of a grotesque. The name is derived from the style’s association with Germany’s Third Reich.
    4. Horror vacui: fear of the void. A medieval theological principle that was also applied to art and design.

    Grendl Löfkvist, Education Director at Letterform Archive, teaches type history and theory in the Archive's Type West program. She also teaches graphic design history at City College of San Francisco, as well as calligraphy at the San Francisco Center for the Book. Grendl has ink in her veins: she was an offset press operator for twenty years, and she serves on the board of directors for the American Printing History Association and for its Northern California chapter. Her interests include the study of printing as a subversive “Black Art” and she’s always on the lookout for bizarre or macabre print, type, and lettering lore (she is a bit of a goth).


  1. Thomas Rettig says:

    What a lovely, sparkling take on the blackletter genre! My favourite glyph is the lowercase “z”.

  2. John Butler says:

    The § is glorious.

  3. Hrant H Papazian says:

    Superb review of a notable typeface.

    BTW I’m very much hoping somebody will pair Cloisterfuch with Alisa Nowak’s Eskapade Fraktur as a text face!

Post a Comment

Comments at Typographica are moderated and copyedited, just like newspaper “Letters to the Editor”. Abusive or off-topic comments are not published. We appreciate compliments, but don’t publish them unless they add to the dialog. Thank you!