Nebraska Authors

Harry Duncan

AKA: Harry Alvin Duncan

Born 1916-04-19 Keokuk, IA (USA)

Died 1997-04-18
Omaha, NE (USA)

An important hand letterpress printer of literature, especially poetry, Duncan lived in Omaha from 1972 until his death in 1997. His career as a hand printer began in 1939 at the Cummington School of Arts in Cummington, Massachusetts. He would print Robert Lowell's first volume of poetry, and works by many famous authors, including William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Tennessee Williams. He was considered the founder of the post-World War II "private," or small craft-based (as opposed to commercial) press movement, reviving a tradition that goes back to William Morris and the Kelmscott Press. His book, Doors of Perception, is about the lessons he learned about typography and design as he mastered his craft.

He accepted the University of Nebraska at Omaha's offer in 1972 because it would allow him to print full time. He published under both Cummington Press and Abbatoir imprints. His spouse was Omaha actress and theatrical director Nancy Duncan.

See also (typography and design related author) Rob Roy Kelly.


Places Lived

Keokuk, IA
Grinnell, IA
Cummington, MA
Rowe, MA
Iowa City, IA
Omaha, NE

Author Of

  • Poetry


Book Printing; Poetry; Typography


Bachelor Degree in English, 1938, Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA
Cummington School of the Arts, Cummington, MA


Book Publisher
School Bus Driver
Director of Typography, School of Journalism, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Press Director, University of Omaha-NE, Omaha, NE

Places Worked

Cummington Press, Cummington School of the Arts, Cummington, MA
School of Journalism, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Abottair Editions, University of NE-Omaha, Omaha, NE


Responsible for printing Robert Lowell's first volume of poetry
Named "the father of the post-World War II private-press movement" by Newsweek Magazine
Jane Geske Award for the Cummington Press, Nebraska Center for the Book, 1994
A Garland for Harry Duncan: Minister Erato Ministrorum , 1989, a tribute by 58 poets whose work Duncan published, including Nebraska poets J.V. Brummels and Greg Kuzma.


Doors of Perception: Essays in Book Typography. 1987.
Also published his own poetry in various compilations such as Poets of Today. 1954.

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Harry Duncan

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