When we see letters appear on our computer screens, we usually give them little thought. We might have a favorite font – such as Garamond or Helvetica – but we seldom consider that someone designed every letter.
Paul Hayden Duensing, however, cared deeply about the “look of letters.” Although employed as an exhibits manager from 1962 to 1992 at Kalamazoo’s Upjohn Pharmaceuticals, his passion was designing and casting metal type. He designed full alphabets of letters and ornaments. He then cut the metal matrices from which he, and others, could cast metal type used for letterpress printing. This process of casting type in metal is known as type founding.
Duensing sold his type and also developed a private printing press. He called his avocation “The Private Press and Typefoundry of Paul Hayden Duensing.” Through his press, he printed many volumes dedicated to the art of type and printing. Duensing wrote many of these himself and translated some others from significant European documents. In Type II: A Leisurely Showing of Typefaces and Ornaments Available in Limited Castings, he noted that he “actively and enthusiastically supports the thesis that there exists a need for certain scholarly, historical and esoteric typefaces beyond those whose widespread commercial use and traditional acceptance make them economically viable.”
Duensing died of Parkinson’s disease on November 10, 2006. He was a warm and generous man who welcomed and assisted those interested in typecraft. He corresponded with many such people and took some as apprentices. The letterpress studio at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina was named in his honor. (Click Penland School of Crafts to access the School’s Web site.)