OCT 19, 2014  

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the printed word, hard way

Nowadays, pampered by all those multiplication technics and enormous book publishing industries, I look with nostalgia and sorrow at heroic times in nineteen fifties and sixties in Croatia when the main printed sources in higher education were so called skripta - a bunch of pages printed by mimeograph or hectograph, usually on cheap paper, often with smeared ink, not always bound. As an illustration, on the right is a scan of a page from the skripta on Hegel’s philosophy (Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right by Karl Marx); in 1957 I was lucky to get my own copy. All my thesis, up to Ph.D., were printed by mimeograph.

Mimeograph (ciklostil in Croatian; the term reflects the rotary motion of the device) is the stencil duplicator that works by forcing ink through a stencil onto paper. The image transfer medium is a flexible waxed or coated sheet backed by stiff card stock. For text, stencil is prepared by a typewriter (typewriter ribbon disabled), and a variety of specialized styluses are used to render illustrations. Once prepared, the stencil is wrapped around the ink-filled drum of the rotary machine. When a blank sheet of paper is drawn between the rotating drum and a pressure roller, ink is forced through the holes on the stencil onto the paper.

Good drawings are notoriously hard to accomplish by a mimeograph. It’s easier by a hectograph or jellygraph (šapirograf in Croatian, after A. Schapiro, an early successful manufacturer of the device), a gelatin duplicator which involves transfer of an original, prepared with special inks, to a pan of gelatin. After the ink transfer from the master to the gelatin surface, copies are made by pressing paper against it. In early nineteen fifties I was editor of the boy scout journal Izviđač na tragu, which was primarily printed by ciklostil but included some pages with illustrations printed by šapirograf.




Krešimir J. Adamić