Object: stencil device
Duplicates for everyone: stencil copying device, the “Greif Rapid” No. 10980, Greifwerke AG, Goslar 1930. A sheet of paper coated with wax is typed on using a typewriter without a ribbon. This means that printing ink can get through the template where the paper has been made permeable thus making the text visible on absorbent paper.
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig, Photograph: Michael Setzpfandt


The copier as a cultural technology

We generally consider copies in a negative light, but could not survive without them.

Dirk von Gehlen in an interview, 2012

Hectographs (gelatin duplicator) made it possible, as the name implies, to produce hundreds of copies and thus short print runs. In addition to this, various methods were developed from the 19th century onwards, to produce print templates for lithography, stencil printing and transfer printing. These methods for duplicating made the fast dissemination of information possible within associations or in military units. For a long time, they played a great role in the internal communication of organizations, but also as a media technology used by the trade unions or the political opposition.

The techniques for copying touch on copyright issues and affect the practical availability and dissemination of contents. In the age of the digital copy of texts, images, music or software, the question of the cultural necessity of copying is a much-debated controversial issue. Dirk von Gehlen’s book Mashup – Lob der Kopie (Mashup – in Praise of the Copy; 2012) was a provocative contribution to this debate.