Modified Old English

Modified Old English

This style was popular in the US from the 1800’s to the 1950’s. When I started to work with Stephen Ziller, one of the first lettering styles I learned was Modified Old English – also called Rapid Old English. This is a blackletter style of lettering that is not retouched. The fine hairlines in the capital letters can be added if desired. Stephen learned this style at the Zanerian College from Earl Lupfer.

When I learned Modified Old English, the first thing to learn was how to pencil the letter shapes. When I could draw the letters without looking at the exemplar, I started practicing the letters with a pen nib 3mm wide.

Modified Old English is good for lettering names on diplomas and awards. This name is lettered in Ziller’s Midnight Blue ink and shaded with a mixture of Ziller Soot ink and water.

“Imagination rules the world” was lettered in Ziller Soot Black ink and the word Imagination was shaded with a very small amount of the Soot Black in water (rinse water for my pens). A grey marker can also be used. I will cover how to shade letters in an upcoming blog.


In the learning section of our website, you will find the complete alphabet and step by step worksheets for each letter. These worksheets are based on Steve Ziller’s Modified Old English lettering in “At Home with Artistic Penwork, Book 4, Engrossing Alphabets