By Rich Dana
Obsolete Press, Coralville, IA, 2022
Pages: 108 pages with tipped in manilla envelope with stencil materials
Dimensions: 8 in x 10 in
Cover: cardboard
Binding: metal spiral-bound
Process: silkscreen and inkjet
Color: Multi-color
Edition size: open edition
ISBN: none

The Obsolete Press Guide to DIY Hectography, Mimeography & Spirit Duplication is a huge labor of love and a truly special publication. Rich Dana is trying to win not just our hearts, but more space in our homes. Space we might fill with old printing technologies in order to make books and zines and other printed stuff in cheap, cool, and tactile ways. Here’s some background on this book from the publisher himself:
Before Social Media, There Were Cheap Copies.
Did you ever wonder how artists and writers made zines and chapbooks before computers and photocopiers? This book is the culmination of over a decade of experiments, research, and tinkering with pre-digital duplication technology. It's a DIY guide that explains the history and how-to of the mimeograph, hectograph, and spirit duplicators that were used by the avant-garde, political radicals, wannabe publishers, low-brow artists, and—perhaps most famously—by early zine makers.

In addition to the how-to manual, the book is also a meditation on technology, highbrow vs lowbrow art,  and rediscovering freedom in the non-digital world.

This book is packed with info, instructions, illustrations, and reference material that will help you get started printing zines, posters, flyers, stickers, and more, without fancy equipment or expensive supplies. 

What the HELL are mimeos and hectos? Is a Spirit Duplicator some weird religious thing?

The printing techniques featured in the book include low-cost, common "copying" methods that require little or no specialized training or equipment. 


Hecto appeared in the 1870s and was used widely for making office or school copies. It's an amazingly simple technology, requiring no mechanical devices. By mixing gelatin and glycerin, you can make a printing pad that can produce 40 copies, be wiped clean, and be used again and again.

Spirit Duplication

An offshoot of hectography, spirit duplicator machines are a type of tabletop cylinder press.  The master sheet is wrapped around a drum, which is hand-cranked or motorized. Known as "Ditto Machines, " they make purple copies with an intoxicating smell loved by schoolkids everywhere. 


Mimeos are stencil duplicators that can still be found second-hand, or you can make your own! Similar to silkscreen or Riso printing, mimeo offers a broad range of color choices and can print many more copies than the spirit method.

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Outstanding Resource

Ada on 5th Dec 2022

This bench manual is precisely the resource I was hoping for. I am a new-to-printmaking person who recently got a Gestetner mimeograph. It contains loads of practical tips, advice, resources, and guidance for basic machine troubleshooting, etc in addition to informative history. The format is clear and accessible. HIghly recommend.