Elfreth fonts specimen

Typeface Review

Elfreth

Reviewed by Grant Hutchinson on March 4, 2021

First, a disclaimer. There have been times when I have bought a typeface late at night after enjoying possibly one too many adult beverages. Drunk-buying fonts is a thing. In any number of situations, this could be considered a perfectly reasonable excuse for purchasing not just one, but an entire family of blackletter faces. However, that’s not the way this scenario rolled out. I bought a copy of James Hultquist-Todd’s Elfreth on a completely sober whim.

I can count the number of times I’ve used a blackletter (unironically, anyway) on one hand. But something about Elfreth caught my attention and held onto it like a Brockhaus-Heuer Schraubstock. I immediately envisioned potential applications for this family beyond the requisite “graduations and gravestones”, as Hultquist-Todd states in his own description of the design.

Maybe it’s because of the details. The stylish typographic cowlicks, subtly modulated wows and wobbles, perky dog’s ear terminals, and an abundance of flared calligraphic nudges. Maybe it’s because Elfreth isn’t limited to a single, serious weight. The lightest cut talks like a typewriter, but walks like a sans. Spare, but affable. The heaviest member of the family has the demeanor (and pants size) of Cooper’s Black Forest cake-eating cousin. Stout, but cuddly.

Subtle. Perky. Spare. Cuddly.

These are not words generally used to describe blackletter faces. And yet, here we are.

Elfreth certainly bends the blackletter rules, but still respects the bones.

Grant Hutchinson appreciates typography, photographs suburbia, accumulates gadgets, and sweats the details in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys black coffee, low-bit synthpop, geometric shapes, single malts, juggling, and the smell of a freshly tarred roof. A shelf in his office sports a Diploma in Visual Arts from the Alberta College of Art & Design (now the Alberta University of the Arts) and an Emmy Award for his technical work during the 1988 Winter Olympics. He is currently a board member of the Society of Typographic Aficionados and head glyph monkey at Typostrophe.

One Comment

  1. Luke Dorny says:

    Whoa. Great review, Grant. And respect to anyone attempting blackletter. I’d love to but would be ever afraid to attempt it. This one (four) looks mythical and if ever I need to repair the uprights on a hockey goal, I’d reach for this typeface with both hands. Yes. This. Want.

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