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Black-letter   Listen
adjective
Black-letter  adj.  
1.
Written or printed in black letter; as, a black-letter manuscript or book.
2.
Given to the study of books in black letter; that is, of old books; out of date. "Kemble, a black-letter man!"
3.
Of or pertaining to the days in the calendar not marked with red letters as saints' days; compare red-letter. Hence: Unlucky; inauspicious.






Collaborative International Dictionary of English 0.48








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"Black-letter" Quotes from Famous Books



... deaths, and the like, the novelist may perhaps venture to deal with actual affairs of life: but otherwise, they scarcely can enter into our stories. The main part of Ficulnus's life, for instance, is spent in selling sugar, spices and cheese; of Causidicus's in poring over musty volumes of black-letter law; of Sartorius's in sitting, cross-legged, on a board after measuring gentlemen for coats and breeches. What can a story-teller say about the professional existence of these men? Would a real rustical history of hobnails and eighteenpence a day be endurable? In the days whereof we ...
— The Virginians • William Makepeace Thackeray

... "Percy's Reliques," from an old black-letter copy in Mr Pepys' collection, corrected by two others, one of which is preserved in a Choice Collection of 120 Loyal Songs ...
— Cavalier Songs and Ballads of England from 1642 to 1684 • Charles Mackay

... the light of the present, is a paradox peculiar to our system of jurisprudence. There are lawyers and judges, who enjoy a high reputation, whose fame rests upon their profound research among the worm-eaten tomes of black-letter law, and whose glory consists in their familiarity with the opinions and axioms of men who lived and died so long ago that their very tombs are forgotten. This class of lawyers and jurists hold in contempt all the learning, the philosophy, the practical ...
— Wild Northern Scenes - Sporting Adventures with the Rifle and the Rod • S. H. Hammond

... great and tall family of the Van Hornes. Here are to be seen ancient Dutch corner cupboards, chests of drawers, and massive clothes-presses, quaintly carved, and carefully waxed and polished; together with divers thick, black-letter volumes, with brass clasps, printed of yore in Leydon and Amsterdam, and handed down from generation to generation, in the family, but never read. They are preserved in the archives, among sundry old parchment deeds, in Dutch and English, bearing the seals of the early governors ...
— Wolfert's Roost and Miscellanies • Washington Irving

... had always known that it would come. The widow Navarro threw up her eyes, and in a whisper called the attention of her own special black-letter saint to this business. Rosa was glancing surreptitiously at Felipe, who, to do him justice, was smiling on the ...
— Tomaso's Fortune and Other Stories • Henry Seton Merriman

... James the wise. And wizard black-letter tomes which treat Of demons of every name and size Which a Christian man is presumed to meet, But never a hint and never a line Can I find of a reading ...
— The Wit and Humor of America, Volume X (of X) • Various

... called Snuffy Davy, from his inveterate addiction to black rappee, was the very prince of scouts for searching blind alleys, cellars, and stalls, for rare volumes. He had the scent of a slow-hound, sir, and the snap of a bull-dog. He would detect you an old black-letter ballad among the leaves of a law-paper, and find an editio princeps under the mask of a school Corderius. Snuffy Davy bought the 'Game of Chess, 1474,' the first book ever printed in England, from a stall in Holland for ...
— Game and Playe of the Chesse - A Verbatim Reprint Of The First Edition, 1474 • Caxton

... great opportunity. The speech he delivered on that occasion lives in the memory of those who heard it. His eyes did not at that time let him read, so he repeated by memory, and quite accurately, all the black-letter authorities, bearing on the question. So great an intellectual effort has rarely been seen in an English assembly. But the result was deplorable. Not by means of his black-letter authorities, but by means of his ...
— The English Constitution • Walter Bagehot

... evening, about six o'clock, over a glass of that gorgeous Burgundy which he kept behind a pile of black-letter folios; he was striding about the room, fingering, after a habit of his, one of the great swords in his collection; the red glare of the strong fire struck his square features and his fierce grey hair; his blue eyes were even ...
— The Club of Queer Trades • G. K. Chesterton

... never knows how I look, what I put on," she said. "He was an ardent lover enough, but now I do not think I could provoke him if I tried. He simply does not think of me. An illuminated manuscript is more to him than I am; and he would rather have a black-letter book than my youth. As for my Robin, I adore him; but his fine nurse comes between him and me. And to be sure, even if she didn't I have no ...
— The Story of Bawn • Katharine Tynan

... prayers too far, Mr. Storm," said the Bishop. He was picking up one by one some black-letter books that were lying on the table and on the bed. "I know that divines in all ages tell us that the body is evil, and that its desires and appetites must be eradicated. But they also teach us that the perfect Christian character is ...
— The Christian - A Story • Hall Caine

... may bestow on him a brief: rushing home to his chambers in the Temple, he mastereth the points of the case, cogitating pros and cons: he heareth his own voice in court for the first time: the bottled black-letter of years falleth from his lips, like treacle from a pipkin: he maketh good his points, winneth the verdict and the commendations of the judge: solicitors whisper that there is something in him, and clerks express their conviction that he is a "trump:" the young man ...
— Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, No. 327 - Vol. 53, January, 1843 • Various

... ghost-stories connected with the house; and there is an attic chamber, with a skylight, which is called the Martyr's chamber, from the fact of its having, in old times, been tenanted by a lady, who was imprisoned there, and persecuted to death for her religion. There is an old black-letter library, but the room containing it is shut, barred, and padlocked,—the owner of the house refusing to let it be opened, lest some of the books should be stolen. Meanwhile the rats are devouring them, and the ...
— Passages From the English Notebooks, Complete • Nathaniel Hawthorne

... to an abrupt standstill—he was staring at the bill-board of the theater where she had played, the familiar entrance bedecked with bunting and festival inscriptions. Before its classic portals appeared the black-letter announcement of an act by "Impecunious Jordan, Ethiopian artist, followed by a Tableau of General Scott's Capture of the City of Mexico." Mechanically he stepped within and approached the box office. From the little cupboard, a strange face looked forth; even the ticket vender of old had ...
— The Strollers • Frederic S. Isham

... book on the bed before him, and he began to read the crabbed marks as easily as though they were good black-letter. ...
— Montezuma's Daughter • H. Rider Haggard

... in this quaint-looking apartment, half study, half drawing-room. Scott had read several passages from the old romances of Arthur, with a fine deep sonorous voice, and a gravity of tone that seemed to suit the antiquated black-letter volume. It was a rich treat to hear such a work, read by such a person, and in such a place; and his appearance as he sat reading, in a large armed chair, with his favorite hound Maida at his feet and surrounded by books and relics, and border trophies, would have formed an admirable ...
— The Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. IX (of X) - America - I • Various

... S. porch has a fine groined roof, with niches and holy-water stoup. Note (1) the carved seat-ends (one having the date 1522); (2) the large tomb (temp. Edward III.) in the S. aisle belonging to the Warres; (3) black-letter Bible (1617) and Bishop Jewel's works (chained). The neighbouring mansion of Hestercombe, once the possession of the Warres, but now belonging to the Portmans, is said to preserve a sword taken by one of the Warres from King ...
— Somerset • G.W. Wade and J.H. Wade

... privately printed later ballads are wholly founded upon Abrahamson, Nyerup and Rahbek, and yet, so far as I can discover, he never mentions their names in any part of his writings. He professed that the public should believe his knowledge to be wholly derived from a mysterious black-letter volume washed up on the sands of his native county, and read by him with agonies of labour by the ...
— Grimhild's Vengeance - Three Ballads • Anonymous

... A curious old black-letter volume published in London in 1632, entitled "The Lawes and Resolutions of Women's Rights," says, "the reason why women have no control in Parliament, why they make no laws, consent to none, abrogate none, is ...
— History of Woman Suffrage, Volume I • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage

... Sunflower game is calling them after the black-letter saints in the Kalendar, and reading about them in a very old book—a big one with a black leather binding—in the attic, called "Lives of the Saints." I read, and then I tell it to Margery as we walk up and down, and ...
— Last Words - A Final Collection of Stories • Juliana Horatia Ewing

... Sensenschmidt of 1475, in an equally desirable and pristine condition;[36] the Polish Protestant Bible of 1563, with its first rough-edged margins and in wooden binding; St. Jerom's Epistles, printed at Parma, by A. de Portilia—most captivating to the eye; with a curious black-letter broadside, in Latin sapphics, pasted in the interior of the cover; the History of Bohemia, by Pope Pius II, of 1475, as fresh and crackling as if it had just come from the printer: Schuzler's edition of the Hexameron of Ambrosius, 1472: the Hungarian Chronicle of 1485.... "Ohe ...
— A Bibliographical, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour in France and Germany, Volume Three • Thomas Frognall Dibdin

... In a very rare black-letter book on hop culture, A Perfite Platforme of a Hoppe Garden, published in the year 1578 and therefore over 340 years old, the author, Reynolde Scot, has the following quaint remarks on one of the disorders to which ...
— Grain and Chaff from an English Manor • Arthur H. Savory

... suffice her: the pragmatical housekeeper and the rosy milkmaids had time to give up their hearts to Lady Betty like the rest. Master Rowland, as in courtesy bound, limped with the stranger over his helmets and gauntlets, his wooden carvings, his black-letter distich; and, although she was not overflowing in her praises, she had seen other family pictures by Greuze, and she herself possessed a fan painted by Watteau, to which he was vastly welcome if he cared for such ...
— Girlhood and Womanhood - The Story of some Fortunes and Misfortunes • Sarah Tytler

... while all the time fantastic visions rose before him. He pictured old hide-bound trunks that had been left behind by travellers who had never returned, trunks which, opened, would prove to contain priceless black-letter books: boxes, stored in attics and cellars and in concealed presses, which would contain ancient apparel with copies of the 'Pastissier' in the pockets: small travelling bags, tendered by needy scholars in lieu of payment, which he would ...
— The Book-Hunter at Home • P. B. M. Allan

... the First Twelve Centuries. Studies from the Lives of the Black-letter Saints of the English Calendar. Crown 8vo. Cloth boards. ...
— Religion in Japan • George A. Cobbold, B.A.

... to the table-phrase more than one number is placed, then expect not that the same black-letter word is always to be found in the book to the last number, as is to the first number, but it may be some other black or marked word of like meaning; as for antichrist the black-lettered word in some places is harlot, and for apostles the black-letter word sometimes ...
— The Works of John Bunyan • John Bunyan

... he had saved up, bade his master farewell and went on his way begging—a little fourteenth-century boy, with long, straight hair and a girdled tunic, as you see them," continued the priest, "in the miniatures in the black-letter missal that lies upon my desk. No doubt Heaven favored him very strongly, and the saints watched over him; still, without the boldness of his own courage and the faith in his own heart they would not have done so. I suppose, too, that when knights in ...
— Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. 26, October, 1880 • Various

... Tragedy of Thomas Merrye." The second plot was derived, I suppose, from some Italian story; and it is not improbable that the ballad of the Babes in the Wood (which was entered in the Stationers' Books in 1595, tho' the earliest printed copy extant is the black-letter broadside—circ. 1640?—in the Roxburghe Collection) was ...
— A Collection Of Old English Plays, Vol. IV. • Editor: A.H. Bullen

... and gorgeous ceremonies. But a requiem mass for one's own father must necessarily be unique in the most varied career of religious emotion. He was a little flurried, as a girl is flurried at her first ball, and felt that the eye of the black-letter ...
— The Velvet Glove • Henry Seton Merriman

... spending a delightful week-end at the ancestral castle of my dear old friend, the Duke of Weatherstonhope (pronounced Wop), I came across an old black-letter MS. It is on this that the ...
— The Man Upstairs and Other Stories • P. G. Wodehouse

... separate literature and their own literary professors, were always two or three generations in the rear of the metropolis; and thus it happened, that, about the time of Augustus, there were some grammatici in Rome, answering to our black-letter critics, who sought the material of their researches in Boulogne, (Gessoriacum,) in Arles, (Arelata,) or in Marseilles, (Massilia.) Now, the old Irish nobility—that part, I mean, which might be called the ...
— Autobiographic Sketches • Thomas de Quincey

... buildings the illustrious dead receive burial, and their names and claims on our gratitude and reverence are recorded, but in no fane in the land is there so numerous a gathering of the dead as in this place. The inscription-covered walls were like the pages of an old black-letter volume without margins. Yet when I came to think of it I could not recall any Bath celebrity or great person associated with Bath except Beau Nash, who was not perhaps a very great person. Probably Carlyle would have described him as ...
— Afoot in England • W.H. Hudson

... regained his equilibrium. "You do not mean to inherit that infamous crotchet my brother has got into his head? You do not mean to exchange Sir William de Caxton, who fought and fell at Bosworth, for the mechanic who sold black-letter pamphlets ...
— The Caxtons, Complete • Edward Bulwer-Lytton

... whispered its dark mysteries into his ear. The SPIRITS being subjects of the Great Magician, their aid would be called in when desired. Where this mode was preferred to the ordinary methods of consulting the stars, the Cabala, and black-letter volumes, these intelligences answered all questions by significant RAPS, or in writing, guiding the hand of the Wanderer, ...
— Holidays at the Grange or A Week's Delight - Games and Stories for Parlor and Fireside • Emily Mayer Higgins

... "I would know what to make of him. But he never pays away a shilling without looking anxiously after the change, makes his sixpence go farther than another lad's half-crown, and wilt ponder over an old black-letter copy of the acts of parliament for days, rather than go to the golf or the change-house; and yet he will not bestow one of these days on a little business of routine, that would put twenty shillings in his pocketa strange mixture of frugality and industry, and negligent indolenceI ...
— The Antiquary, Complete • Sir Walter Scott

... next meeting I found him chiselling an open book upon a marble headstone, and concluded that it was meant to express the erudition of some black-letter clergyman of the Cotton Mather school. It turned out, however, to be emblematical of the scriptural knowledge of an old woman who had never read anything but her Bible; and the monument was a tribute to her piety and good works, ...
— Chippings With A Chisel (From "Twice Told Tales") • Nathaniel Hawthorne

... is bucolic and breezy. The song of "Robin Hood and the Bishop", which the black-letter copy describes as "Shewing how Robin Hood went to an old woman's house, and changed cloathes with her to escape from the bishop, and how he robbed the bishop of all his gold and made him sing a mass", contains about the best specimen of this ...
— The Dukeries • R. Murray Gilchrist

... drift of which no one could well understand, except that it bore that "both the Justices and the Quarter-sessions were a set of ignoramuses who could not understand a word of Jack's contract, and knew nothing of black-letter whatever; but that, nevertheless, as they had decided against him, he, as a loyal subject, must and would submit;—not, however, that he had the least idea of taking the Squire's usher, or any other usher whatsoever, ...
— Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, No. CCCXXIX. - March, 1843, Vol. LIII. • Various

... of Shakespeare, each according to its priority in time, by proofs derived from external documents. How unsuccessful these attempts have been might easily be shewn, not only from the widely different results arrived at by men, all deeply versed in the black-letter books, old plays, pamphlets, manuscript records, and catalogues of that age, but also from the fallacious and unsatisfactory nature of the facts and assumptions on which the evidence rests. In that age, when the ...
— Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher • S. T. Coleridge

... Latin writings, the earliest of which bore the dates 1285, 1325, and 1370, written in old lettering with what was known as "monk's ink," made from vegetables. Some of the documents bore seals with rush rings attached, and there was a black-letter Bible, and a chained book dated 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada. We were also shown four pewter flagons for Communion wine, all of the time of Charles I, two churchwardens having each given one in 1633 and two other wardens one each in 1638. Asked why so many were required, we ...
— From John O'Groats to Land's End • Robert Naylor and John Naylor

... European histories, works of reference generally, a writer who lives in the country must, of course, possess a goodly number. Of rare books I do not pretend to have many. A single shelf contains a few good old works, including a fine black-letter Chaucer, the Venetian Dante of 1578, and some fine examples of the Elizabethan period. I soon found, however, that this taste was far too expensive to cultivate. Last of all, in what I may call the upper Egyptological stratum of my books, come those on Egypt and Egyptian archaeology, ...
— The Arena - Volume 4, No. 21, August, 1891 • Various

... baron who wrapped the castle of his competitor in flames, and knocked him on the head as he endeavoured to escape from the conflagration. It is from the great book of Nature, the same through a thousand editions, whether of black-letter, or wire-wove and hot-pressed, that I have venturously essayed to read a chapter to the public. Some favourable opportunities of contrast have been afforded me by the state of society in the northern part of the island at the period of my history, and may ...
— Waverley, Or 'Tis Sixty Years Hence, Complete • Sir Walter Scott

... if songs of the Troubadours, Or of Minnesingers in old black-letter, Sound in his ears more sweet than yours, And if yours are not sweeter and wilder ...
— Voices for the Speechless • Abraham Firth

... altogether less than two guineas at his sale; the biddings seem to have been by the penny; and Mr. Clarke in his Repertorium Bibliographicum observed that the penny at that time seems to have been more than the equivalent of our pound sterling in the purchase of black-letter rarities. ...
— The Great Book-Collectors • Charles Isaac Elton and Mary Augusta Elton

... bishops, robber barons and merchant guilds, and Electors and so forth, all striving and contending and counter-plotting, and interfering with each other under some vague code of loosely- applied rules. Here one sees it reproduced under one's eyes, like a musty page of black-letter come to life. Look at one little section of it, the poultry-life on the farm. Villa poultry, dull egg-machines, with records kept of how many ounces of food they eat, and how many pennyworths of eggs they ...
— The Unbearable Bassington • Saki

... is nothing more than a corruption of the French Jeu-trompe, literally, a toy trumpet. It is called jeu-trompe by Bacon, Jew-trump by Beaumont and Fletcher, and Jews-harp by Hackluyt. In a rare black-letter volume, entitled Newes from Scotland, 1591, there is a curious story of one Geilles Duncan, a noted performer on the "Jews-harp," whose performance seems not only to have met with the approval of a numerous audience of witches, but to have been ...
— Notes & Queries, No. 18. Saturday, March 2, 1850 • Various

... protohistoric[obs3]; prehistoric; antebellum, colonial, precolumbian; patriarchal, preadamite[obs3]; paleocrystic[obs3]; fossil, paleozoolical, paleozoic, preglacial[obs3], antemundane[obs3]; archaic, classic, medieval, Pre-Raphaelite, ancestral, black-letter. immemorial, traditional, prescriptive, customary, whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary; inveterate, rooted. antiquated, of other times, rococo, of the old school, after-age, obsolete; out of date, out of fashion, out of it; stale, old-fashioned, behind ...
— Roget's Thesaurus

... (1485) was a collection of stories by Sir Thomas Malory, either compiled by him in English, from various of the later French prose romances, or translated directly from an already existing French compendium. Copland reprinted the work in 1557, and in 1634 the last of the black-letter editions appeared. A reprint of Caxton's "Kynge Arthur," with an introduction and notes by Robert Southey, was issued in 1817—"The Byrth, Lyfe, and Actes of Kyng Arthur." The most complete edition is that by Thomas Wright, from the text ...
— Great Men and Famous Women. Vol. 5 of 8 • Various

... Sir Ralph said. Albert ran his eye over the crabbed black-letter writing, and gave ...
— A March on London • G. A. Henty

... up his head from the black-letter page; and, having called his witnesses, went through the requisite ceremonies; and Marion Webster became, within a short space, the lady ...
— Wilson's Tales of the Borders and of Scotland Volume 17 • Alexander Leighton

... in Italics, where Greek script, if obtainable, would obviously have been preferred. A further indication of the difficulties under which type had been procured is seen in the use of a query sign of a black-letter fount (i.e. [different question mark]) instead of the Roman fount (i.e.,?). This will be the more readily comprehended when we remember that Father Persons' books, which Brinkley had printed before, were in English, and that English prose was then still generally ...
— Ten Reasons Proposed to His Adversaries for Disputation in the Name • Edmund Campion

... conversation on the right lines by praising, however insincerely, my books, I always say, "But you have not read the best one." Nine times out of ten it is so. The tenth takes a place in the family calendar; St. Michael or St. Agatha, as the case may be, a red-letter or black-letter saint, according to whether the book was bought or borrowed. But there are few such saints, and both my publisher and I have the feeling (so common to publishers and authors) that there ought to be more. So here comes the book again, in a new dress, with new decorations, yet much, ...
— Once on a Time • A. A. Milne

... convenience allowed the installation of electric light, there was no such concession made, and sconces on the walls held dim iron lamps, so that only those of the most acute vision were able to read. Even then reading was difficult, for the book-stand on the table contained nothing but a few crabbed black-letter volumes dating from not later than the early seventeenth century, and you had to be in a frantically Elizabethan frame of mind to be at ease there. But Mrs Lucas often spent some of her rare leisure moments in the smoking-parlour, playing on the virginal that stood in the ...
— Queen Lucia • E. F. Benson

... wrote, nor of profounder learning in the orthodox doctrines of the British constitution, or in what were called English liberties. You remember also that our lawyers were then all whigs. But when his black-letter text, and uncouth but cunning learning got out of fashion, and the honied Mansfieldism of Blackstone became the students' hornbook, from that moment, that profession (the nursery of our Congress) began to slide into toryism, and nearly all the young brood of lawyers now are of that hue. ...
— Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson - Volume I • Thomas Jefferson

... middle a bird and a monkey, the lower a lion and a dog. The animals are separated from each other by a running pattern composed of branches, leaves, and flowers, and are surrounded by a frame, on which is the following in black-letter: ...
— Notes and Queries, Number 232, April 8, 1854 • Various

... The black-letter Commandments on the chancel arch were whitewashed out, and a tablet in blue with gold lettering erected in their stead on each side of the altar. The east window had either then or previously been deprived of all its tracery, and was an expanse of plain glass with only a ...
— John Keble's Parishes • Charlotte M Yonge

... the 'Boke of St. Albans,' brought the highest sum. Hence it will be seen that this was not the age of curious research into the productions of our ancestors. Shakspeare had not then appeared in a proper Variorum edition. Theobald, and Pope, and Warburton, had not investigated the black-letter lore of ancient English writers, for the illustration of their favourite author. This was reserved for Farmer, for Steevens, for Malone, for Chalmers, Reed and Douce: and it is expressly to these latter gentlemen (for Johnson and Hanmer were very sparing, or very shy, of the black letter), that ...
— Bibliomania; or Book-Madness - A Bibliographical Romance • Thomas Frognall Dibdin



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