Spirit Duplicator

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Spirit Duplicator is commonly referred to as the "direct, or fluid, process" (Encyclopedia Britannica). Hectographs are divided mainly into the processes involving gelatin (see image to the right) or direct spirit. Essentially a spirit duplicator is a form of hectography which uses spirits, or alcohol, to make its duplications.

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Process of Duplication

Unlike the gelatin hectograph, the "fluid or "spirit" process of duplicating omits use of the gelatin blanket. Copy is typed with the hectograph carbon sheet behind the master, and the anuline dye-treated cardbon appears in mirror image on the reverse side of the master. This master is placed on a drum of the rotary duplicating machine. The blank copy paper is slightly moistened by spirit solvent as it is fed through the machine and picks up enough of the aniline dye as it presses against the revolving master to form a sharp image of the typed characters." (Fisher 33-34).

"instead of water to dissolve a small part of the ink, a special "spirit" solvent is iused to accomplish the transfer of an aniline dye" (Fisher 33).

"In principle spirit duplicating (or hectography) is a process whereby the text is typed or written with the aid of an alcohol soluble dye-carbon which is transferred to the paper in a number of copies" (Gardiner 77). In order to duplicate documents, it was necessary to first copy them onto the appropriate spirit master.

Spirit Masters

"A master is any original from which copies may be phsyically duplicated" (Fisher 33). Masters can be made by typing, printing, writing, drawing, or stamping" (Fisher 33).

"This machine printed from a "master" created in the same manner in which hectographic master sheets for spirit duplicators were made, but considerably before their introduction" (Rhodes and Streeter 109).

Machine Types

The spirit duplicator is essentially divided into three types:

  • hand operated portable machines
  • electrically operated machines
  • electrically operated systems or line selecting machines




Relation to Other Copying Processes




Ink Stains


In the Office

In the Classroom

Notion of Spirit


Works Cited

  • Curwen, Harold. Processes of Graphic Reproduction in Printing. London: Faber and Faber, 1963.
  • Doss, Milburn P. (Ed). Information Processing Equipment. New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1955.
  • Fisher, Harrison M. Today's Business Machines. Chicago: American Technical Society, 1959
  • Gardiner, A. W. Typewriting and Office Duplicating Processes. New York: Focal Press, 1968.
  • Owen, David. Copies in seconds : how a lone inventor and an unknown company created the biggest communication breakthrough since Gutenberg : Chester Carlson and the birth of the Xerox machine. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
  • Rhodes, Barbara J. and Streeter, William W. Before Photocopying: The Art and History of Mechanical Copying, 1780-1938: A book in two parts. New Castle and Northampton: Oak Knoll Press and Heraldry Bindery, 1999.
  • Schwartz, Hillel. The Culture of the Copy: Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable Facsimiles. New York: Zone Books, 1996.