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Reflections in Time: Interview with Harry Duncan

UNO Libraries - Oral History Projects
Paul Borge, Interviewer |
Reflections in Time |

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0:00No transcript.

0:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: PB:It's the summer of 1986, and we are preparing to do another, what we come to know, as "Reflections in Time."

Segment Synopsis: Paul Borge introduces Harry Duncan, a professor of fine arts.

Keywords: University of Nebraska Omaha; UNO

Subjects: Duncan, Harry University of Nebraska at Omaha University of Nebraska at Omaha. Fine Arts Press

1:39 - Family history and early education

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Partial Transcript: HD:I came to the University in the fall of 1972.
PB: Okay, that's great Harry, but I want to loop back in time now and pick your memory...

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses his family history and early education that lead to his interest in printing.

Keywords: birthplace; Education; Iowa; Keuk

Subjects: Duke University Duncan, Harry Grinnell College Iowa University of Nebraska at Omaha University of Nebraska at Omaha. Fine Arts Press

2:58 - Early experience with hand printing

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Partial Transcript: HD: Well in that school they had a Washington Type Press, like these, and the little type, and nobody was paying much attention to them, but I got interested and started to fool around.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses his introduction into printing while working with other students to print booklets and poems.Duncan became intrigued by the art of hand printing rather than commercial printing.

Keywords: electronic revolution: Johannes Gutenberg

Subjects: Cummington (Mass.) Duncan, Harry Gutenberg, Johann, 1397?-1468 Hand presses Printers Printing presses

7:03 - Studied for a master’s degree but did not complete

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Partial Transcript: HD: I had finished my Master's [inaudible] I wrote a thesis on [inaudible] and passed my examinations, all except one. I overslept on the exam in [inaudible] French.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses his time as a Graduate Assistant earning his Master's degree. He did not enjoy teaching remedial English, and wished to be a printer.

Keywords: Advanced degree; Master's; Masters

Subjects: Duncan, Harry Education Master of arts degree Teaching

9:43 - First hand pressed book Whaling Letters of 1860 for Cummington Press

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Partial Transcript: HD: We did a book, a book of Whaling Letter. [inaudible] We printed a book, it was of Whaling letters, which the ancestors of one of our students had found in the attic.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses his first hand pressed book with Cummington Press. Thanks to katharine frazier he was able to purchase a small cutting press, which he eventually broke.

Keywords: Cutting press; Katharine Frazier; Whaling letters

Subjects: Cummington Press Duncan, Harry Hand presses Printers Printing presses

12:19 - Drama teacher for Cummington School

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Partial Transcript: HD: One winter I went to the neighborhood playhouse, shcool of theater in New York because Katharine Frazier had appointed me drama in the Cummington School.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan talks about being appointed the drama teacher at Cummington School.

Keywords: Cummington School, Katharine Frazier

Subjects: Duncan, Harry Teachers Teaching

13:10 - Internship with Professor Edwin B Thompson at Hawthorne Press

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Partial Transcript: HD: Then the next winter I taught at an experimental progressive school, called [inaudible] school. [inaudible] and I had six weeks, an apprenticeship with a man called Edwin B. Thompson.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses his short-lived internship with Hawthorne Press.

Keywords: Edwin B. Thompson; Hawthorne Press

Subjects: Duncan, Harry Hand presses Internship programs Printers Printing presses

14:15 - Self-taught hand printing

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Partial Transcript: PB: Were you just self taught? Did anyone show you how to do it, or what?

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses how he learned to print on his own through trial and error.

Keywords: Self-taught; trial and error

Subjects: Duncan, Harry Hand presses Printers Printing presses

16:19 - Universities that offer hand printing

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Partial Transcript: HD: There are now many Universities that have hand presses, [inaudible] presses. And two places, the University of Alabama, and Mills College in California have Graduate programs.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan mentions schools that offer courses on hand printing.

Keywords: Graduate printing programs; Printing programs

Subjects: Cummington Press Duncan, Harry Hand presses Mills College Printers Printing presses University of Alabama

17:05 - Printing new literature

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Partial Transcript: HD: At Cummington, we were really about the only place at the time doing it, and attaching it to new literature.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses the move from printing Americana to printing new literature, and the push to publish manuscripts from authors associated with the school's writer's conference.

Keywords: "Allen Moore"; "Darnell Schwartz"; Americana; New literature; Printing directions; Printing poems

Subjects: Blackmur, R. P. (Richard P.), 1904-1965 Cummington Press Duncan, Harry Hand presses Printers Printing presses Stevens, Wallace, 1879-1955 Tate, Allen, 1899-1979

20:28 - Mechanics and meditative aspects of hand printing

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Partial Transcript: HD: To work on a new poem, filling it up slowly letter by letter in the [inaudible], and then taking a proof of it, is the most exacting and deep kind of reading.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses the mechanics of printing, and the art of working with his hands.

Keywords: artistry; hand printing; reading experience; working with hands

Subjects: Cummington (Mass.) Duncan, Harry Hand presses Manual work Printers Printing presses

21:54 - Working with Gustav Wolf

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Partial Transcript: HD: The next year, we discovered that was, living in the Cummington village, where there was a hostel for German refugees, a man named Gustav Wolf...

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan reflects on his time working with with Gustav Wolf, a German immigrant, and the controversy surrounding Wolf's acceptance as an artist in the United States.

Keywords: Alfred Young Fischer; Gustav Wolf; johnathan frazier; Lola Wolf; The Book of Job; The Cummington Story

Subjects: Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990 Cummington (Mass.) Duncan, Harry Hand presses Printers Printing presses Propaganda Wolf, Gustav, 1863-1949 Wood-engraving

26:08 - Paul Williams and the winter of printing

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Partial Transcript: HD: During that winter, when we were so cold in the house, a young G.I. named Paul Williams, came up and knocked on the door one winter's night.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses his apprentice, Paul Williams, and the blizzard that left him stranded him at the printing press.

Keywords: Paul Williams; The Book of Job; The Land of Unlikeness

Subjects: American Institute of Graphic Arts Blizzards Cumington (Mass.) Duncan, Harry Hand presses Lowell, Robert, 1917-1977 Manuscripts Printers Printing presses Stevens, Wallace, 1879-1955 Tate, Allen, 1899-1979 Williams, Wightman Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963 Wolf, Gustav, 1863-1949

30:18 - Leaving Cummington

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Partial Transcript: HD: Paul Williams stayed, and we kept going until 1952, about.
PB: So this went on for a couple of years then?
HD:Yes, The school was reopened. Katharine Frazier had died of her cancer.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan reflects on leaving Cummington School after it became more of an artist's colony.

Keywords: Cummington community of the arts; Katharine Frazier; Paul Williams

Subjects: Artist colonies Cummington School of the Arts Duncan, Harry

31:26 - Travel to Italy

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Partial Transcript: HD: This was a major break in my life. And, so my father had died, and left me a small legacy; and I used it up to go live in Italy for 9 months.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan mentions traveling to Italy after the death of his father, and needing a break from printing.

Keywords: Break from printing

Subjects: Duncan, Harry Rome Tate, Allen, 1899-1979 Travel

32:51 - Relocation to Massachusetts and Iowa

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Partial Transcript: HD: After I got back, we decided to set up the press in... still in Massachusetts... because that's where we were oriented. And we didn't want to move to New York.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses relocating the printing press to Massachusetts, and accepting a Job at the University of Iowa after the death of his friend Paul.

Keywords: Paul Williams; Rowe, Massachusetts; Town Report

Subjects: Coleman, Carroll Duncan, Harry Hand presses Printers Printing presses Printing, Public University of Iowa. School of Journalism

36:17 - Teaching at the University of Iowa

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Partial Transcript: HD: At Iowa...I taught courses in... well the... courses there were geared to the communications industry. The state, more or less. So I had to teach magazine production, and advertising typography, and a lot of things that didn't have to do with my chief interest, which was book typography by hand.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses teaching at the University of Iowa, and trying to find time for hand printing while working there.

Keywords: Ashley Bullet; Juan Pasco

Subjects: Duncan, Harry Hand presses Printers Printing presses Teachers Teaching University of Iowa. School of Journalism

39:01 - Starting a fine arts press imprint at UNO

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Partial Transcript: HD: Then in 1972...Um...As I discovered only the other day, really, from Neal Schaefer...um...Vic Blackwell was then interim Chancellor, and he was at some kind of lunch meeting with Neal, and they had managed to sit next to one another.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan reflects on attending a fine arts printing exhibit at the University of Nebraska Omaha, and soon after accepting a position to teach and run a fine arts press.; Teaching; Teachers; Printing presses; Hand presses; Printers; Duncan, Harry;

Keywords: Bill Gaines; Karl Kimber Merker; Kim Merker; Neal Schaefer; Neil Schaefer; Peter Heal; Peter Heel

Subjects: Abattoir Editions Gaines, William M. Merker, K. K., 1932-2013 Moore, A. Doyle (Alvin Doyle), 1931- University of Nebraska at Omaha University of Nebraska at Omaha. Fine Arts Press

44:00 - Creating a hand printing curriculum

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Partial Transcript: PB: In the course of a student's life here on campus, that's interested in the work that's consumed much of your life...uh...how many things do they, how many courses, you began though, offering as far as courses go, didn't you I suppose?

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan reflects on establishing curriculum at UNO, related to publishing and hand printing.

Keywords: History manuscript books; History of printing; The hand produced book

Subjects: Curriculum planning Duncan, Harry Hand presses Printers Printing presses Publishers and publishing Teachers Teaching University of Nebraska at Omaha

46:51 - Duncan's students

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Partial Transcript: HD: Some of my students have gone on to better things.
PB: What sort of things have they gone on to?

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan reminisces about the success of his students.

Keywords: Don Keneckler; Don Kenexler; Neal Schaefer; Neil Schaefer

Subjects: Duncan, Harry Hand presses Printers Printing presses Teachers Teaching Yellow Barn Press

47:51 - Printing process and attention to detail

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Partial Transcript: PB: Now, that's what I want to get to next, what you've been doing. Very simply put, the tape for the archives, for memory; just talk us through the very laborious process of this art form as you put a piece work, a small book, anything together.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses the process of hand printing, and the attention to detail required to master the art.

Keywords: Attention to detail; Cylinder press; Flatbed press; handmade paper; machine made paper; Text; Typeface; Vandercook Universal Press

Subjects: Duncan, Harry Hand presses Paper Paper, Handmade Printers Printing presses Type and type-founding

55:39 - Memorable events and people from UNO

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Partial Transcript: PB: Another thing I wanted to spend a little time with you on, 'cuz you spent the years since 1972 to '86 as a hard working member of our faculty and staff, with the two jobs that you've been really working at; and I should imagine often night and day.

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan discusses his time at UNO, as well as memorable people.

Keywords: Dean Newton; Dean Wardle; John Newton

Subjects: University of Nebraska at Omaha Wardle, Ralph Martin, 1909-1988

59:32 - Greatest satisfaction in hand printing

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Partial Transcript: PB: What has been the greatest source of personal satisfaction in these many years you have devoted to hard laborious work in this art form?

Segment Synopsis: Harry Duncan's favorite part of working in the hand printing industry.

Keywords: artistry

Subjects: Duncan, Harry Hand presses Printers Printing presses

60:58 - Video montage of Harry Duncan

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Partial Transcript: [music]

Segment Synopsis: Video montage of Harry Duncan using a printing press

Keywords:

Subjects: Duncan, Harry Hand presses Printers Printing presses

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