Context: I live in Germany.
I'm fond of shopping for old books at fleamarkets, second-hand-shops, and online. Mostly interested in English 19th century or early 20th century printed books (date of print, not date of first publication). Think Dickens, Doyle, Shakespeare, Burns, Shaw, etc.
German books from that period are usually typeset in Fraktur. Difficult to read for my untrained eye. So although I do like some Schiller I would usually not buy his books when set in Fraktur because reading it is too much of a hassle.

Therefore I was quite astonished to find an English book typeset in Fraktur:

George Borrow - Wild Wales

Beautiful book, leather bound, and I will read it despite the type.

My question is: Is it actually quite an exception for an English book printed in the 19th or early 20th century to be printed in Fraktur?

The edition is "The World's Classics" Oxford University Press, Humphrey Milford, 1928

"Printed in England at the University Press Oxford by John Johnson printer to the university."

Addendum: I have to apologize. The book is in fact not printed in Fraktur. I can't fathom how I got my memory so completely wrong. Yesterday, as I wrote the question I was completely convinced that it is set in Fraktur. It is awhile now that I last read in it and I was sure it is in Fraktur. But it is not. It is set in good old Roman type.
That means I haven't seen an English book yet that is set in Fraktur. And I can answer my own question: yes, it would indeed be quite an exception if ever one is found.

  • 1
    Is it a genuine English print or could it be a reprint for the German market of that time explicitly? Dec 10, 2018 at 14:14
  • 2
    You could turn your "addendum" into an answer instead.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 11, 2018 at 9:02

2 Answers 2


Which edition? The 1862 and 1868 John Murray editions are not set in Fraktur.

In general Blackletter (the English word for Fraktur) was not used for setting connected prose, but occasionally for decorative purposes, such as on title pages and in chapter headings, and so on.


The earliest English types by William Caxton were blackletter types, but the fact that most early printed material in England was written in Latin led to the adoption of Roman types for English typesetting pretty soon after.

No serious effort at reintroducing blackletter types for English was contemplated until the nineteenth century when William Morris had a blackletter cut for the use of his Kelmscott press edition of Chaucer. Morris later had a dark Roman type cut (generally called the Golden type after the first book in which it was used) and dropped the use of the Kelmscott Chaucer type.

I’m going by memory here as my go-to book on the subject, Updike’s Printing Types, is a bit inaccessible at the moment but I’m confident in at least the broad outlines of what I’ve written.

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