Quondam Exploration


  Discovering The Past In The Present  . . .               

 Deciphering Colonial Documents Which Use
Old German Script

Kurrent is an old form of German Language handwriting based on late medieval cursive writing, also known as Kurrentschrift or Alte Deutsche Schrift  ("old German script").    Colonial Documents will reflect 'Kurrent' alphabet letters/symbols.   Over the history of its use into the first part of the 20th century, many individual letters acquired variant forms.     (Old German Script Tutorial

“German Script” and “Kurrent”


The Kurrent script, which is commonly known as “The Old German Script” (Example of Kurrent alphabet) evolved from the gothic cursive handwriting at the beginning of the 16th century.   The gothic cursive had been in use throughout much of the medieval ages and had developed into a staggering number of different writing styles. The need for a uniform and legible handwriting led many important writing masters to the development of the Kurrent, a script that was soon adopted by many chancelleries because it was beautiful, fast to write and comparatively legible. This initiated the widespread use of Kurrent as an everyday handwriting.


Over the next two hundred years, writing styles became more and more standardized, so that by the end of the 18th century the “modern” form of the Kurrent was established.


Sütterlin vs. Kurrent


Anybody who has tried will confirm that the classic Kurrent script is very hard to write. There are many sharp angles, straight lines and abrupt changes in direction.   To give schoolchildren an easier start on the art of writing, the Viennese graphic artist Ludwig Sütterlin (born 1865, died 1917) devised a form of Kurrent that consisted of wide curves and very few sharp angles.   He intended it as a basic script on which pupils would develop their individual handwriting.   This Kurrent was accepted as standard script in all Prussian schools in 1915.   By 1934, it was firmly established at virtually all German schools. Sütterlin Kurrent is the handwriting remembered by the older German generation. Like all Fraktur and Kurrent types, it mostly disappeared after 1941.

One problem of old German handwriting is that some letters look quite similar. The example on the left is in one's best handwriting. Even then it is difficult to make out if it is "u" or "n". Therefore, the "u" has to be written with a bent horizontal line. The "e" is much more narrower than "n", but be aware the writers in earlier times did not use always their best handwriting.

On the right side you can see the word "Summen" (sums). You can see what happened when these similar letters are written in one word. The bend line on the "u" is sometimes really helpful. The straight line on the "m" stands for a double "m". You can find such a strait line also on top of an "n" if the word has to be written with a double "n". With these two lines - bent on "u" and strait on double "m" and "n" - it is a bit easier to read a word.