Fraktur (Pennsylvania German folk art)

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An ornate Taufschein, or baptismal certificate

Fraktur is both a style of lettering and a highly artistic and elaborate illuminated folk art created by the Pennsylvania Dutch (also known as Pennsylvania Deitsch or Pennsylvanian German). Most Fraktur were created between 1740 and 1860.

Fraktur drawings were executed in ink and/or watercolors and are found in a wide variety of forms: the Vorschriften (writing samples), the Taufscheine (birth and baptismal certificates), marriage and house blessings, book plates, and floral and figurative scenes. The earlier Fraktur were executed entirely by hand, while printed text became increasingly common in later examples. Common artistic motifs in Fraktur include birds, hearts, and tulips, as well as blackletter and italic calligraphy.

Today, many major American museums, including the American Folk Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art have Fraktur in their collection. Important Fraktur have been sold by major American auction houses and antique dealers for prices in excess of $100,000. The definitive text on Fraktur is widely considered to be The Fraktur-Writings or Illuminated Manuscripts of the Pennsylvania Germans, written by Dr. Donald A. Shelley and published by the Pennsylvania German Society in 1961. In late 2004, the majority of Dr. Shelley's Fraktur collection was sold at public auction at Pook & Pook, Inc. in Downingtown, Pennsylvania for $913,448.

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A religious poem produced in Bucks County, PA in 1785