Old-German Script

The church books are written in old-German script. This represents an initial hurdle for those who want to read them, but with practice one can make rapid progress. Here you can find general information about old German script, and the alphabet table and our reading exercises can provide you with an initial look at the form of writing itself.


General information

Starting the 16th century, old-German script could be found in two forms: the more regularly shaped, squat, and “subdued” ‘chancellery script’ (Kanzleischrift), and the more fluid, sweeping Kurrent script, which was based on gothic cursive (kurrent = rapid, flowing).

After the turn of the 16th century, the common script (Kurrent script) became more differentiated over time. Depending on the intended application, the following forms were developed: calligraphic scripts for official documents (e.g. certificates, rescripts, documents for third parties), more informal script forms for every day working documents (reports, protocols, transcripts, invoices), and extremely informal  draft notes and handwriting used for personal and private purposes.

Church books also contain a mixture of Latin script forms and Gothic cursive: Latin and French words were written in Latin style (Antiqua cursive); Names were written in a stressed (display) script, in which upper and lower case characters cannot be distinguished from one another.

In the 17th century, swashes, squiggles, arches, and trunk-like flourishes began to appear on capital letters and on the v and the w, promoted above all by the use of goose quills as writing tools. In the 18th century, the letters began to be connected more closely together than in the 17th century, and they were often written slanted at an angle to the right.


Please pay attention to the following differences to today’s spelling:

  • ck instead of –k: kranckheit instead of Krankheit (also note the lack of an upper case letter at the beginning of the word!)
  • A double consonant instead of a single consonant: auff instead of auf
  • Irregular use of upper and lower case letters throughout the same text
  • Upper case letters in the middle of a word: StattKirche instead of Stadtkirche
  • The use of hyphens: Löchels-gaß instead of Löchelsgaß


The church books contain many different abbreviations, and specialized handbooks are essential to understanding their meaning.


Many linguistic phrases from earlier centuries may not make sense at first. Latin phrases were also often used. In such cases, specialized dictionaries (such as Grimm’s German Dictionary and regional dialect dictionaries) can help you understand the text. Some words also had different meanings in the past.

The length of some of the sentences in the church books may also seem confusing today, and the structure of a sentence may not make any sense at first glance.