Fox Cities Book Festival: Carolyn Porter

A Cache of Letters, a Font, and the Mystery of One Man’s Fate

Seeking inspiration for a new font design in an antique store in Stillwater, Minnesota, graphic designer Carolyn Porter stumbled across some old letters and was immediately drawn to the expressive pen-and-ink handwriting. She could not read the letters—they had been written in French—but she noticed they had been signed by a man named Marcel and mailed from Berlin to France during the middle of World War II.

As Carolyn grappled with designing the font, she had Marcel’s letters translated. Reading words of love combined with testimony of survival inside a German labor camp transformed Carolyn’s curiosity into an obsession, and she sought to discover why the letter writer, Marcel Heuzé, had been in Berlin, how his letters came to be for sale in a store in Minnesota, and most importantly, whether he was reunited with his beloved wife and daughters after the war.

“Marcel’s Letters” is the story of Carolyn’s obsessive search for answers—answers that would come from Germany, France, and across the United States. Simultaneously, she continued to work on what would become the acclaimed font P22 Marcel Script, immortalizing the man and letters that waited years to be reunited with his family.