I had the unbelievable good fortune today to attend the fifth annual Sea Change conference at the University of Minnesota. I’ll write (much!) more about this inspiring event when I get permission to share some PowerPoint slides and republish a few photos.
In the meantime, the story I can share pertains to one of the attendees, designer Carolyn Porter, who years ago happened across five beautiful handwritten letters at an antiques market in Stillwater, Minnesota. They were in French, so she didn’t know what they said.
“I was drawn to the handwriting and the shapes of individual characters. And even without being able to read them, it was clear that these letters were special.”
The letters, stained and scarred with censor marks, included rare first-person testimony of survival inside a labor camp. One of the letters, written to his wife and three young daughters back home in rural France, began, “Now I can give you details about my life as a prisoner.” He described the clothes he had been given to wear, how hungry he was, a schedule of his daily work life, and how he and his fellow prisoners sought shelter while the factory was bombed.
Carolyn was so moved by the beauty of Marcel’s letterforms — and the power of his writing — that she embarked on a year-long search to learn his fate. The outcome of her search culminated in a trip to Paris, with an extraordinary meeting at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
It also resulted in a new font, based on the original letters, complete with their stains and censor marks.
The result of years of research and design work, … the font is a highly readable running script that includes textural details that capture the look of ink on paper. The fonts … Marcel EuroPost One and Two each feature more than 200 postmarks, cancellation and censor marks, and other embellishments found on historical letters and documents.
But I was so moved by the whole affair that I rushed home and purchased the Marcel font this evening.
I found it heartbreaking to set the words of one survivor of the Nazi’s barbarism in the hand of another … but wonderful to know they survived.