Gothic Littera Bastarda

The Gothic Littera Bastarda script type is, like all other Gothic script names (and indeed script names in general), a category rather than a uniform, prescriptive and predictable rubric or standard to which all examples were assiduously compared. There was wide variety in the ways in which the Gothic style spread through Europe; for example, not all areas took with equal pleasure to the narrower, attenuated letter style. Italian, southern French and Spanish Gothic styles were called rotonda, rotunda, or gothic rotunda and their letter-forms, as the names would suggest, are much rounder, not so compacted and more evocative of uncial and cursive styles from the outset than some other areas (e.g. England, Germany).

Gothic Littera Bastarda, appearing in most regional varieties of the Gothic, is a much more cursive variety of script from this period than the textualis or textura style. The point of developing it was, as usual, to economize both space and time; this time the latter was the subject of greater focus. The goal was to produce an imitation of the textura script that did not take as much time to produce as the more formal mode; the "lowborn" result took the angular and broken strokes and minims of the Gothic and restored to them some of their original Carolingian rotundity and grace. If the line began straight, it might perhaps end in a curve, for example; in this more rapid and, for the purposes of university scribes, more functional script, a single stroke would be used to produce a similar effect to that produced in the textura variety with several distinct smaller ones. The pen in the case of the Littera Bastarda would not be lifted (hence much of the cursive, flowing quality that is so immediately visible). Occasionally, accidental “messiness” that resulted from the rapidity of such a ductus (e.g. overextension of strokes, serifs, finials, etc.) would come to be prized as attractive elements and thus reproduced with greater and greater exaggeration. Some examples of this would be the horned or pointed top of the “a” and “e”; the use of elegant, attenuated ascenders that occasionally utilize a bend (sometimes these ascenders, as well as descenders, will be extremely dramatic in Littera Bastarda forms); and the intentional use of the half-“r” instead of usage exclusively following the “o” and other bowed letters (the use of the half-“r” is known as a “conjoin”); and very slender, tall letters in general, rather than the thick, at times stumpy letter-forms of the textura mode.

As far as punctuation is concerned, much modern punctuation is in use, though some forms (such as punctus elevatus and the mid-minim-height punctus) from earlier periods are still current; this is described in the Textura section elsewhere in Assignment 6.

In Gothic Littera Bastarda, the versals take on a particularly elaborate and ornamental form and are known as “cadels”; in the production of these forms, most prevalent from the 13th to the 15th centuries, the letters are very large and sweeping and contain lots of flourishes.

English, early 16th century
German, 16th century
French, 15th century
A cadel, or highly-developed form of versal characteristic of Gothic Littera Bastarda.
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