The stencil duplicator or mimeograph machine (often abbreviated to mimeo) is a low-cost printing press that works by forcing ink through a stencil onto paper.
Along with spirit duplicators and hectographs, mimeographs were for many decades used to print short-run office work, classroom materials, and church bulletins. They also were critical to the development of early fanzines because their low cost and availability enabled publication of amateur writings. These technologies began to be supplanted by photocopying and cheap offset printing in the late 1960s.
Although in mid-range quantities mimeographs remain more economical and energy efficient, easier-to-use photocopying and offset have replaced mimeography almost entirely in developed countries, although it continues to be a working technology in developing countries because it's a simpler, cheaper, and more robust technology, and because many mimeographs can be hand-cranked and thus require no electricity.
Thomas Edison received US patent 180,857 for "Autographic Printing" on August 8, 1876. The patent covered the electric pen, used for making the stencil, and the flatbed duplicating press. In 1880 Edison obtained a further patent, US 224,665: "Method of Preparing Autographic Stencils for Printing", which covered the making of stencils using a file plate, a grooved metal plate on which the stencil was placed which perforated the stencil when written on with a blunt metal stylus.
The word "mimeograph" was first used by Albert Blake Dick when he licensed Edison's patents in 1887.
Dick received Trademark Registration no. 0356815 for the term "Mimeograph" in the U.S. Patent Office. It is currently listed as a dead entry, but shows the A.B. Dick Company of Chicago as the owner of the name.
Over time, the term became generic and is now an example of a genericized trademark. ("Roneograph," also "Roneo machine," was another trademark used for mimeograph machines, the name being a contraction of Rotary Neostyle)
Others who worked concurrently on the development of stencil duplicating were Eugenio de Zaccato and David Gestetner, both in Britain. In Britain the machines were most often referred to as "duplicators", though the predominance of Gestetner and Roneo in the UK market meant that some people referred to the machine by one of those two manufacturers' names.
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