The Tin-Can Wonder – a low-tech, DIY mimeograph machine

Thanks to a lucky find — a stash of 1940s and 50s fanzines hidden in a trunk for safekeeping in a Riverside attic — donated to the University of Iowa library, instructions for making mimeography’s most stripped-down variation are now available. Rich Dana (UI graduate), prompted by Pete Balestrieri’s (Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections at UI) discovery and mention of the information he found in a supplement to Science Fiction World, scanned the instructions for making a DIY mimeograph machine and they’re now available to all.

Here, Rich and Pete talk about the history of the main collection that yielded this gem, the fanzine-world in general, and the Tin-Can Wonder specifically. Rich also heads to his secret workshop to make and use the simple “machine” to print a version of the original instructions (digital copy of the original available below the video). Please download and distribute freely.

Yes, the elusive stencil is still required. In later posts I’ll continue discussing the options available to mimeographers (including making your own).


International Duplicators Guild Meeting: October 7th, 2021

4PM GMT–9AM L.A.– 11AM Chicago –  12PM NYC –  5PM London –  6PM Amsterdam–  1AM(Fri.) Tokyo

90 Minutes

Zoom Link:

Hello duplicators!!

This week we will hold our 3rd online meeting –  I hope you will join us!

If you have a technical (or other) question,  information to share or a project to showcase, please let us know asap. The agenda for this meeting will be flexible and focused on asking questions and working together to find answers. 

A couple of items on the agenda so far:

A video report from Chisinau, Moldova — interview by Kalmia Strong with KOLXOZ, a Tiraspol-Prague samizdat (self-publishing) collective that uses thermal printing and other outdated technologies and creates autonomous self-production and community/social spaces.

Technical troubleshooting Q & A: Send questions or post them in the chat for Erwin and others to help.

Do you have questions? Feel free to email us!

See you on Thursday…

Rich & JS

This live, online forum will serve as part of the ongoing effort to raise awareness of the mimeograph and other pre-digital duplicators and their use in creating zines, prints, posters, chapbooks and other types of art. The name, “Duplicators Guild,” is a playful nod to the confraternal printer’s trade organizations of old, but is not meant to imply any official membership –  only a willingness to engage in friendly conversation over our shared interests. We assert that while our cottage industry may be hyper-local, our networked community is increasingly global.


Rich Dana, Publisher, OBSOLETE! Press, Adjunct Instructor, University of Iowa Center for the Book

JS Makkos, Founder, Intelligent Archives, Doctoral Candidate, Louisiana State University School of Art & Design


Stencil Paper

Patents for mimeograph stencils frequently describe the paper used and the qualities that made it ideal for the duplicating process: it had to be strong enough to handle repetitive stresses, have fibers that allowed an even coating of an ink-proof material to be applied, and tolerate precise perforations or disruptions in that coating for the ink to seep through only in a specified area and at a rate conducive to ongoing printmaking.

“I then take sheets of an open lace like material, such as Japanese Yoshino paper, for example….”

“This invention relates generally to type impressible stencil sheets suitable for use on the mimeograph… in which is employed an open porous base, such as yoshino, provided with a normally impervious coating….”

In carrying out the invention, I employ a base of open, porous material, such as the bibulous* Japanese paper commonly known as “yoshino.”

My invention relates to stencil-sheets of the type commonly used for autographic and typewriting duplication and particularly to stencil-sheets consisting of a fibrous and porous base (such as Japanese paper)….

Beginning with David Gestetner’s 1885 patent that utilized Japanese paper made from bamboo or gampi (Diplomorpha sikokiana, a shrub endemic to mountainous regions of Japan that is resistant to cultivation), mimeograph stencil-sheet patents frequently mention using Japanese paper as a base. Gampi is less frequently used because of its relative scarcity, while another plant intimately tied to Japanese papermaking, mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha, also alternative spelling mitzumata) saw its use limited to banknote-paper and, nowadays, to document conservation. Still, gampi’s and mitsumata’s use is of interest and so some details are provided below.

Kozo (Broussonetia papyrifera or, in some resources B. kazinoki Siebold) will be the focus of discussion here, though the others have some relevance. for example, Gampi, mitsumata, and kozo are mentioned in patents filed by the Ricoh Corporation for the creation of heat-sensitive stencils used in the electronic stencil duplicating processes of Ricoh and quite possibly Risograph machines, though the latter, along with tattoo-stencil paper might be synthetic. As stencils coated in thermoplastic resin are not the focus of this post, I will not consider them beyond this brief mention. The patents are available here, here, and here (may be duplicates presented in different countries).Back to the plant-fiber papers of relevance here.

Below are some documents that introduce them in a basic way and in the context of papermaking. [Note that the first document attached below has two misspellings: Diplomorphs should be Diplomorpha, and Wikstreomia should be Wikstroemia. All three documents from this set included here were not well edited and contain typos and wording errors. I still leave them here in case they are of use in any way.]

W. B. Proudfoot (1972, 57) reports that Gestetner learned of Japanese paper some years prior to the date of his patent application when he was employed selling Japanese kites that were made with traditional paper, and indicates what made these papers suitable for Gestetner’s forays into stencil-making:

Its special characteristics as a stencil base were the long, fine but strong fibres forming a sheet of relatively open texture. It was thus that the teeth of the wheel pen after piercing the wax could easily perforate this special tissue without breaking any of the fibres. (57)

Paper made from kozo fibers is by far the most common type of what the patents frequently referred to as “Japanese paper.”

Now known by the general term washi, the types of kozo, gampi, and mitsumata-fiber papers that are of concern to mimeograph enthusiasts were traditionally products of cottage industries by which craftsmen developed much sought-after and extremely versatile products. A perfectly acceptable series of Wikipedia entries provide information on the types of products for which paper-mulberry-derived washi is traditionally manufactured and well-suited. More is available under the term “Japanese tissue,” and this page lists the more than eighty varieties or classifications of washi paper as found in Japan today.

Meanwhile, it is the “cottage industry” detail that will be supremely important in years to come.

From here on out, I’ll be talking about and featuring the production of solely kozo paper for two reasons. First, it’s the only fiber that was ultimately widely used in the production of mimeograph stencils; second, kozo is found growing “feral” in parts of the world it’s not endemic to and is a prolific self-propagator (clonally and by seed), making it a prime candidate for local community use in many parts of the world.

Broussonetia papyrifera, commonly known as paper mulberry, is native to Asia. The website (Flora of China) lists its range as the following Chinese provinces and other countries. China: Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, SE Xizang (Tibet Autonomous Prefecture), Yunnan, and Zhejiang. Other countries: Cambodia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sikkim, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam; various Pacific Islands. A history of the plant’s introduction to Europe and subsequent taxonomic debates/decisions can be found here. The full text is unavailable, but perhaps it explains why the plant is no longer considered a true mulberry (genus Morus). Other scholars have studied the plant’s translocation out of Asia to greater Oceania where it found use in the making of tapa cloth (see bottom of article for more information).

Paper mulberry (kozo) in the US

According to many, many sources, paper mulberry is quite invasive – it favors disturbed soil and is capable of reproducing quickly. While early plants that were brought over to the US for horticultural uses were all male, eventually female plants made it here, with concomitant issues: the pollen is incredibly allergenic (Islamabad, Pakistan seems to consider it an allergenic scourge), and the results of sexual reproduction are easily spread even more widely than the clonally-reproduced versions.

If you don’t live in the US and are thinking of bringing paper mulberry to your region, it’s highly suggested that you only use rooted cuttings from male plants to avoid the “problem” being faced in some parts of the southeastern United States. I put “problem” in quotes because 1) I’m not a plant-purist, but most importantly, 2) this is an opportunity masquerading as a problem though I urge folks to not be cause a problem while searching for opportunity.

A quick look at the maps below will reveal to you the distinct opportunity presented by the free-for-the-harvesting papermaking-cornucopia that now exists in the US. Each of these shows some version of the supposed distribution of paper mulberry (see later in this post for information on another washi raw-material, tororo aoi or sunset muskmallow). With careful attention, paper mulberry can be found and cultivated by coppicing to allow for the more favorably-sized shoots to take precedence.

The process of using paper mulberry to make washi

The making of paper-mulberry paper (an awkwardly worded phrase if ever there was one, so henceforth to be referred to as simply washi paper) was developed in China and reached a high degree of sophistication there, as well as in Korea and Japan. While most of the video sources provided here have a focus on the Japanese tradition, Korean papermaking techniques and products, though less widely known, are of value.

Aimee Lee offers this beautiful write-up of the work of Jang Seong Woo, featured in the video above, who continues the traditional art of Korean papermaking. She details the process’s basic steps in a video here, and several more videos are linked from her website.

Making washi

What follows is a series of videos that explain or explore the washi-making process. A written extrapolation will be provided below all the embedded videos in this section.

The first video is a brief walk through the Japanese process that provides no explanation but that will give you an understanding of what’s entailed.

This next video provides a few more details about a specific company’s process for making extremely thin paper that is used by artifact conservators worldwide.

For an embedded video that shows the Hidakawashi company’s process in more detail (including the automated portions), see their site here. Also, see their facebook page for updated videos and information.

The most extensive and detailed video in this post shows the majority of the steps required, all undertaken in the traditional way.

Here we are shown the steps:

  1. Harvest kozo when stalks are about the thickness of one’s forefinger in December/January, when the plant is dormant and all the leaves have been shed. Wikipedia asserts (without citation) that washi-making “is often undertaken in the cold weather of winter, as pure, cold running water is essential to the production of washi. Cold inhibits bacteria, preventing the decomposition of the fibres. Cold also makes the fibres contract, producing a crisp feel to the paper. It is traditionally the winter work of farmers, a task that supplemented a farmer’s income.”
    As you can see, these plants are coppiced, meaning that they are completely pruned every year so that no dominant leader overshadows the rest. Cut to the ground (or rather, leave a “knob” of the parent plant just above ground level), the plants are long-lived and able to regenerate each spring. Cutting the stalks when they are this size and not much thicker results in fibers of higher quality and cutting on the diagonal makes peeling easier.
  2. Trim the switches to fit the inner dimensions of the steamer (1 meter/ 1 yard). This allows for even stacking and easy peeling.
  3. Steam the switches. Some sources suggest they should be steamed for 30 minutes, and others say 3 hours. Steaming facilitates peeling, however Chinese traditional-lifeways YouTuber Li Ziqi’s method has her peeling the bark (from significantly more mature saplings) without steaming it, then soaking or retting it in a pond.
  4. Pound the thicker ends of the switches to loosen the bark.
  5. Strip the bark from the wood. Once started, one’s foot may be used as leverage to complete the stripping process.
  6. Bundle the strips together and then hang them up to air dry. When dried, they can be stored until a sufficient quantity has been gathered to begin the next step in the process. An Israeli papermaker skips ahead to step 8 without drying the strips.
  7. Soak the dried strips for at least 12 hours to soften them.
  8. Using a knife as a scraper (or, as Aimee Lee suggests, an oyster shucking knife), scrape the dark outer bark (the epidermis) from the softer, pale inner bark (the cambium). I’m uncertain if the “endocarp” the narrator refers to is still part of the cambium. Essentially, you remove the dark bark, and keep intact the soft inner layer and the next, slightly more fibrous layer that’s attached to it. In the video above, these are cut to half their original length.
  9. Boil the bundles of pale inner bark in a 12% alkali solution, according to the video above that does not indicate what is used to achieve that exact percentage of alkalinity. Wood ash or soda ash (sodium carbonate – a product generated when baking soda [sodium bicarbonate] is heated to release carbon dioxide – tutorials are to be found online) are two possible options. Other sources do not give specific chemicals or measurements and Li Ziqi shows only that handfuls of ash are added to the cauldron.
  10. Boil the bark in the solution for two hours, turning the mass every 30 minutes to allow for even immersion.
  11. Remove the boiled bark to a container of water and inspect for impurities when it is cool enough to handle.
  12. Beat the fibers with a squared-off hardwood stick or wooden mallets to loosen and separate them. The video above states that the fibers are beaten in passes to the left and right, six times each, then top to bottom, six times each. It seems that between each pass, the lump is recombined after it’s been flattened.
  13. In a vat, add the pulp to a water and neri mixture. Neri is made from a plant called tararo-aoi or sunset (musk)mallow in English (Latin: Abelmoschus manihot). Abelmoschus manihot is in the marshmallow family and is in the same genus a okra, which is sometimes substituted for it. The neri acts as an antiflocculant or dispersant (Aimee Lee calls it a formation aid in the video posted above in the “hanji section”) and as such, it discourages the formation of lumps and assists in the even distribution of the kozo fibers in the water. See the section below for information on neri.
  14. Stir the mixture then prepare the screen that will be used to mold the sheets of paper. In Japan and Korea, these screens are mats made of thin bamboo splints that are woven together. Hanji-maker Aimee Lee, who oversaw the construction of the first hanji-papermaking-studio in the US shows, in this video, the process by which she and several interns designed long-lasting screens made with metal rods woven together in the traditional way. Korea’s last screenmaker demonstrates his process in Lee’s short video, here.
  15. Use the screen to swish the solution (there are specific techniques and of course terms relative to each phase of swishing), gathering up the desired amount of fiber to make paper of the desired thickness
  16. Drain the water and lift the screen off its rack. The paper is then couched (pronounced “cooched”) which entails aligning it very precisely and releasing the fibers onto the stack of already released sheets.
  17. Leave the stack of sheets overnight, then press them to remove excess water.
  18. After pressing, each sheet is peeled off the stack, then laid on a board and brushed to smooth out bubbles and wrinkles.
  19. Take the boards outdoors to sun-dry, or, alternatively, a “drying wall” is used, as in the case of the hanji-making process..
  20. Inspect all sheets for discoloration, holes, or uneven thickness and discard any that have such imperfections.

Coppiced paper mulberry for use in papermaking.,_forestry,_arts,_and_commerce._From_travels_and_researches_undertaken_at_the_cost_of_the_Prussian_government(1889)_(14598161510).jpg


To understand more about neri, the additive in the washi-making process that assures uniform fiber dispersion and therefore allows for a more refined end-product (and one that can be made consistently), I cannot recommend Paul Denhoed’s explanation highly enough.

See Neri (part 1) and Neri (part 2). Additionally, Aimee Lee’s video on the winter hanji-making apprenticeship has a brief description of its preparation.

Produced by pounding and soaking the roots of Abelmoschus manihot, also known by its English common names, sunset hibiscus (no longer classified as a hibiscus, but the name remains) or muskmallow. This plant is in the same family as hollyhocks and marshmallow, though it’s more closely related to okra. Like okra, it produces a mucilaginous ooze. Its roots are pulverized and the mucilage is collected, mixed in water. Reportedly, the winter-harvested roots contain more effective neri.
By © Derek Ramsey /, CC BY-SA 4.0,

This perennial, with its big showy flowers seems to be available commercially and is known to be adapted to the southeast (as is the paper mulberry, so all your raw materials are available and waiting for any of you who live there and want to start making washi!).

In fact, here’s someone in South Carolina doing exactly that (though she’s not using neri and so has to rely on a commercial product).

Additional uses for paper mulberry

Other uses for the very useful and versatile paper mulberry include tapa cloth (used extensively in Polynesia)

As cordage

As food

As a fire-starter

*bibulous adj. 1: highly absorbent 2a: fond of alcoholic beverages 2b: of, relating to, or marked by the consumption of alcoholic beverages. [we can safely assume that the patent above is using the term in its first definition].

Proudfoot, W. B. 1972. The Origin of Stencil Duplicating. London: Hutchinson & Co. To locate a library copy, see

See also Hughes, Sukey. 1978. Washi: The World of Japanese Paper. Tokyo: Kodansha. To locate a library copy, see

For additional information and images of paper mulberry, see the Royal Botanic Garden/Kew’s Plants of the World site, here:

For a one-page write-up on the main raw materials used in washi making, see this document:


July to mid-August update

I’ve been absent for a bit but am hoping to be a bit more present as I wrap up a few large work projects. For recent changes and additions to the M. R. library, check out the Personal Narratives page for Jeff Schalles’ take on how the Beats came to use mimeographs, some newly updated stencil duplication images from Jonathan Zeitlyn’s 1992 Print book (the same volume that brought you “We No Longer Just Have to Consume”, and a new addition to the Resources page.

I’ve also cleaned up my postcard printer and bought some ink. Now I just need to make a new ink pad and get the first of the things I want to print ready for stencil-making.


We No Longer Just Have to Consume

What are you going to create?

from Jonathan Zeitlyn’s Print: How You Can Do It Yourself. Journeyman Press. London. 1992.

Zeitlyn’s work fits quite well with Mimeograph Revival’s ethos. He wrote and published on printing and printmaking from a DIY angle. There’s a summary of some of his work here, and you can look here to see if there’s a library copy available near you. I’d be interested to get my hands on both Print and Low Cost Printing for Development: A Printing Handbook for Third World Development and Education now that it’s becoming clearer that my part of the world is quickly heading into a less-developed future.


Where it all started (and where to learn more)

I’ve not written much on the history of mimeographs and other duplicating techniques, so you may or may not know the progression of inventions.

The prolific inventor Thomas Edison is to be credited for one of the first machines to allow a writer to make multiple copies of a document and the first electrically-powered (and battery-supplied) appliances with his “Electric Pen.”

The well-researched site Edison’s Electric Pen, created by Bill Burns — a duplicator aficionado from the UK who became active in the fanzine scene in 1964 and who went on to collaborate and create with a wide array of writers and artists (as evidenced by some of what’s to be found at his other site, — is a fantastic resource for information on Edison’s invention. Bill has based the site’s information on primary material from The Thomas A. Edison Papers Digital Edition as well as other sources, and Edison’s Electric Pen includes schematics, samples of duplicated documents, a timeline, and data about the production and distribution of the machines. Of particular interest is the registry of all known surviving electric pens (currently forty-eight machines).

If you’re at all historically-inclined, do swing by Bill’s site and take a look. I’m particularly grateful for and heartened by others’ efforts to keep such historical information available.


Cheap Copies!

Rich Dana, who’s already been featured here at Mimeograph Revival for his exhibit at the University of Iowa’s library, is putting out a new book called Cheap Copies. He’s crowdfunding the initial costs and offering some great premiums in return for backing.

It’s happening, folks – an honest-to-goodness revival of a (formerly) obsolete technology. We can bring back the joy of cheap copies and homespun publications one production, one repaired machine, one DIY tweak, one willing experimenter at a time.

How about you? Got things you want to duplicate and ways you’re playing with the techniques? Let me know and I’ll post about it here!


“Lovesong for a duplicating device”

Sal Nunkachov, multi-media printmaker from Portugal, created the video below in homage to stencil duplicating. Enjoy this rich, evocative, and immersive film!


Univ. of Iowa Exhibit

Rich Dana, founder of Obsolete Press, MFA candidate at the University of Iowa, and co-instigator of the International Duplicators Guild meetings has put together an exhibition of some of the University of Iowa Library’s holdings along with items from his personal collection that feature hectograph, mimeograph, and spirit duplicating processes. With his kind permission, the majority of the exhibit is presented here. If you’re in the area in July, it’ll be open to in-person viewing.

(Text and photos copyright Rich Dana.)

French symbolist Alfred Jarry was the first to influence both the development of science fiction (SF) and the avant-garde. He wrote time-travel stories alongside his friend H.G. Wells and set the stage for Dada with the production of his revolutionary play, Ubu Roi.

The turn of the century marked a new obsession with technological development. The newly-built Eifel Tower stood as a monument to the modernist ideal, while Thomas Edison introduced the first mimeograph at the World’s Fair.

The Futurist art movement rejected the past in favor of techno-utopianism. Early SF fans like Myrtle Douglas (Morojo) embraced these radical ideas, as reflected in the design of her Esperanto fanzine Guteto (Droplet.) WWII and the rise of technocracy brought much of this idealism to an end.

The avant-garde primarily used duplicators like the hectograph and the mimeograph as a cheap alternative to “better” printing methods like lithography. The true innovators in the use of copiers were an unlikely cohort; science fiction(SF) fandom. Young fans were creating amateur magazines (“fanzines”) imitating the cheaply printed “pulp” magazines like “Amazing Stories” and “Weird Tales.”

The fanzines also featured cover art influenced by the graphic style of the avant-garde. For most fans, litho and letterpress printing were out of reach. For them, copiers like home made hecto gelatin pads were the only option. Hectograph and later “ditto” machines produced the distinctive purple copies using aniline dye inks.

Many fanzine publishers went on to notable careers, while many continued to produce zines for niche audiences.

Damon Knight sold his first sf story when he was a teen. He attended a WPA art program in Oregon and later moved to New York, where he became a successful writer and teacher.

Edythe Eyde aka Tigrina was a Los Angeles SF fanzine creator who went on to produce Vice Versa, America’s first Lesbian publication, under the name Lisa Ben.

James Blish, like Damon Knight was a member of the NYC fan group, The Futurians. In addition to writing SF, Blish wrote ad copy for the American Tobacco Institute. Ironically, he died of lung cancer at 54. 

The Russian avant-garde in particular embraced many of the same aesthetic and graphic techniques as the early science fiction fanzine publishers. The use of DIY techniques like hectography and “kitchen” lithography add a crude and spontaneous energy to the Cubo-Futurist imagery.

Russian poets and artists often teamed up to create extremely limited edition pamphlets filled with hand-lettered word-art, printed from hecto jellies using copy-pencils, or plate glass using litho crayons or tallow.

The influence of the avant-garde and their revolutionary use of typography can still be seen across the world of graphic design today.

Marcel Duchamp and other avant-garde artists caused a furor at the 1913 Armory Show in New York, and almost overnight the city became a hotbed experimental artwork. Duchamp and Man Ray would come to represent “New York Dada,” the American contingent of the anti-bourgeois and anti-war Dada movement which started in Zurich.

Dada publications featuring the work of Duchamp and Man Ray took advantage of innovations in cheap printing and duplicating technology and laid the groundwork for countless artist-produced publications to come.

The influence of Dada on graphic design and typography can be seen in SF fanzines of the 1930s, punk rock fanzines of the 1970s and many zines today. 

The cross-over between SF fandom, artist books and poetry took place after WWII. Many SF fans returned from the war and attended college, thanks to the G.I. Bill.

The university culture of Wichita, Kansas made it a key stop on the cross-country drives of beats like Allen Ginsberg, who titled a poem after a legend he picked up from the Wichita beatniks.

The legend of Vortex originated with local beatnik poet (and SF fan) Lee “Tellis” Streiff in the pages of his Martian Newsletter.
Unlike other Wichita beat poets and artists, Lee Streiff never escaped the Wichita Vortex, where he taught English and continued to participate in fandom.

The “Summer of Love” marked the end of the beat era and the rise of hippie culture. Fueled by mind-altering drugs and a mash-up of mysticism, psychedelia drew on the utopian dreams and pop-culture aesthetics of science fiction and the lush and biomorphic design style of Art Nouveau.

The “Human Be-in,” held in San Francisco in January of 1967 is considered to be the prelude to The Summer of Love, and the event poster by Stanley Mouse inspired countless designers to push typography past the limits of readability.

An impulse to exoticize eastern cultures can be traced back as far as classical antiquity. Such caricatures can be perceived as ranging from naive to racist, but the exoticism of the psychedelic era contributed to many young, white Americans recognizing cultures other than their own and embracing the cause of global human rights.

Transgressive ideas were embraced by sectors within both the avant-garde and science fiction fandom. Duchamp’s “Fountain” outraged many in the art world. Beat poets Allen Ginsberg, da levy, Ed Sanders, Leroi Jones and Diane DiPrima all faced obscenity charges for their work. As far back as the 1940s, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society was criticized for it’s tolerance of openly homosexual members.

Perhaps no writer embodied the controversial more than William Burroughs. Considered both a beat and a science fiction author, Burroughs work and life transgressed every social norm. Loved by some, hated by many, Burroughs and his work influenced literary SF writers like Kathy Acker and William Gibson.

Hectography uses aniline dye transferred to paper via a pad made of gelatin. “Hecto” was the precursor to the spirit duplicator remembered for its purple text and alcohol smell. Hecto became obsolete after WWII, making the visionary artist Mae Strelkov one of a handful still using hectography in the 1970s.

Mae Strelkov, was born and raised in China, the child of English missionaries. As a teenager she met Vadim Strelkov, They married and were forced to flee to South America to escape the Japanese invasion in 1937.

Living in the mountains of Argentina, Mae became an amateur publisher. She boiled cow bones to produce the gelatin for her hecto pads. trading her zines by mail with other fans around the world.

Nowhere is the intersection of politics and art more obvious than in the realm of publishing. Cheap duplication technology gave voice to those who would otherwise have been silenced by the editors of governments and corporate media.

During WWII, in a conscientious objector work camp in Waldport, Oregon, William Everson published several chapbooks of poetry using the camp’s mimeograph machine. Everson’s “War Elegies” is considered the first publication of “The mimeograph Revolution.”

SF fans also expressed their opinions on the war. On the cover of “The Damn Thing” 20 year-old Bruce Yerke depicts himself and his friend, 22 year-old Ray Bradbury being marched off to a work camp.

Every social justice movement of the 20th century relied on cheap copying technology, coupled with bold (and often crude) graphics to spread their message.

Spirit duplicators, often called ditto machines, used a paper master sheet similar to carbon paper to print up to 40 purple or green copies before the master was depleted.

The mimeograph, or stencil duplicator, also used a paper master sheet, but allowed the user to make more copies in a wide range of colors.

The offset press, used to produce larger runs, is an offshoot of lithography and uses a flexible printing plate. This process is still used on a large scale for newspaper printing.

In the 1980s and 90s, the lines continued to blur between fanzines and fine art. Now using photocopiers instead of mimeo and ditto machines, Dada style collage could mix with the aesthetics of Graffiti and Agit-prop in what now cbecame known as just…zines.

As Alex Wrekk wrote in Stolen Sharpie Revolution: A DIY Zine Resource: a zine is:
“An independently produced publication containing anything you want; personal experiences and stories, political ideologies, music related writing, gardening tips, fiction, travel stories, comics, photography, or anything you like. Zines can be put together by one person or a group of people and they are usually photocopied, but can also be printed offset, letter press, or mimeographed.”

Want more? The University of Iowa Libraries website also contains this 2013 gem, “What the Hectograph?”, with a recipe to make your own hectograph gelatin plate.


New Additions – June 2021 edition


1972 Master catalog of mimeo supplies, includes stencils, stationery and postcard blanks, and lettering guides; and operating manuals for the Gestetner 260 and the electronic stencil imager, Model 1120 added to the digital library, here and here, under their respective brand names.


Eight new documents related to the Speed-O-Print line of duplicators are now available here: Digital Collection – service/instruction manuals – Mimeograph Revival (just scroll down to “Speed-O-Print”). One of the documents is related to a photo copier the company made – maybe in the 70s? I can’t imagine there are any of those machines still available, but the manual was part of a collection I received from typewriter and mimeo enthusiast, Theodore Munk. I figure it can’t hurt to include it here, on the off chance it’s useful.

I’m considering adding a page just for videos, maybe under the Resources heading, will be posting about a mimeo-related exhibit that’s on display in Iowa, and am transcribing an interview with Sam Keller. Also, I’m taking the first steps with my Heyer Model 60 and will report back on how the cleaning progresses. Stay tuned!