An initial or an initial ( Latin initium 'beginning', 'beginning'; plural the initial → the initials or the initial → the initial ) is a decorative initial letter that appears in an incunabula , a handwritten text or in the work set as the first letter of a chapter or sections. Smaller initials that are not decorated and used to mark new sentences or paragraphs in the running text are called Lombards . These are often contrasted in color.
Initials are also called the first letters of a name . In this context there is only the plural form. Artists, for example, use their initials to sign a work . Most of the time, the letters are also designed artistically (e.g. with Albrecht Dürer ). But also in everyday work, initials are often used as an abbreviation of one's own name in short messages or e-mails, so Angela Merkel always signs her SMS with her initials "am".
In the past, initials were richly decorated. In today's typography , capital letters from larger font sizes are usually used as initials , which can be arranged in one or more lines and should stylistically match the basic font. After their placement in the text column Forssmann / de Jong (2004) in their book differ detail Typography following types of initials: detached initials , built initials , overhanging initials , scheduled initials and cassettes initials . Furthermore, the initials are differentiated there based on their shape: initials from a typeface , decorated initials and illustrated initials .
For example, if the text begins with a quote and thus a quotation mark is the first character, this character and the next letter are used as initials. However, Forssman / de Jong formulate restrictive in detailed typography (p. 288): “If the text begins with a quotation when using built-in initials, it is omitted. Only in the case of free-standing initials, whether they begin bluntly or after indentation, can the quotation from the basic font be placed in front of the initials, as shown, in the size of the basic font. "
Historiated initial : The body of the letter serves as a frame for a representation, mostly closed letters (e.g. O, Q, D); in the picture is Pope Gregory IX. in a G.
Inhabited initial : Figures act in the initial, the initial body is often made of tendrils. Image: Initial P in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire .
Figure initial: The initial body is made up of figures. Example: The N from the figure alphabet of Master ES
Georg Kaspar Nagler : The monogramists and those known and unknown artists of all schools who use a figurative sign, the initials of the name, the abbreviation of the same to designate their works , & c. have served. Taking into account letterpress marks , the stamps of art collectors , the stamps of the old gold and silversmiths, the majolica factories , porcelain manufacturers, etc. s. w. News about painters , draughtsmen , sculptors , architects , copper engravers , form cutters , letter painters , lithographers , stamp cutters , enamellers , goldsmiths, niello , metal and ivory workers, engravers , armourers, etc. With the thrilling lists of the works of anonymous masters whose marks have been given and the reference to the products of well-known artists marked with monograms or initials ... also supplement ... to the new general artist lexicon, and supplement to the well-known works by A. Bartsch, Robert-Dumesnil, C. le Blanc, F. Brulliot, J. Heller etc
- First volume , Munich: Georg Franz, 1858 (also available as a reprint from 1991)
- Johann Christoph Weigel and Georg Heinrich Paritius: Decorative and artificially intertwined initial letters of all the names of the imperial house, of all the kings ruling at the moment, of various high status as private persons: Sam [m] t a whole alphabet of all two letter names, In addition to different trade marks, beautiful borders and similar Love trains; All sorts of artists for useful use, in particular Mahler, copper engraver, goldsmith, gold and silver piece, watchmaker, and Petschier engraver etc. / drawn by GH Paritio d. P. Joh. Christoph Weigel excudit , Nuremberg 1711; Lower Saxony State and University Library Göttingen
- Merkel's control center. In: Abendzeitung-muenchen.de. Evening newspaper , October 24, 2013, accessed on April 6, 2020 .
- Historical examples of decorative capitals as initials. In: Artistic writing: all sorts of uppercase [n] or initial letter [n] of the Teütschen, Latin and Italian scripts from different masters of the noble art of writing compiled (1655) . 
- Picture gallery: Decorative initials 
- Information from the German National Library