Spirit Duplication

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Synonyms: ditto, ditto machine
See also: Zine Production, Hectograph
ad for a ditto machine, 1960s
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Spirit Duplication was a method of printing fanzines. It was a popular among in schools the 1960s and 1970s but fell out of favor as mimeograph machines became more affordable. The 'spirit' refers to the solvent (methyl alcohol) used to impregnate the paper and it had a unique smell, unlike mimeograph machines which use regular ink. The solvents were most often a pale purple, although blue, green and red were also popular.

The paper consisted of two layers - the first layer could be written or typed on. The second layer was made of wax which was coated with the solvent and created a copy when pressed or typed upon. No ink is used. Text and images on the master page are mirror-reversed when printed; for this reason stencils were typed or drawn with a special aniline-based carbon paper under the page (with the ink side upwards) and touching the waxed side of the master page.

A Contemporaneous Description

In 1982, in issue 33/34 of the S&H letterzine, Barbara Green Deer described the various printing methods in her article: "Zine Publishing: Choice of Medium." Spirit Duplication - Two Methods

  • Basic Spirit. "If we were talking only about reproducing words, without any fancy frills, any zine could be printed using purple ditto,- or spirit duplication, in this process, an image (words or simple line drawings) is imprinted on a ditto master. The master can be typed on, written on, or drawn on directly. The color of the roaster is the color of the image which will show up on the paper. Spirit masters come in many different colors, and the different colored carbons can be combined on one master or a multi-colored printing, completed in one pass through the duplicator. The fluid in the machine dissolves a little bit of the colored carbon from the master and deposits it on each sheet of paper run through the machine. The sheets come out of the machine slightly damp and should be left to dry thoroughly before printing is attempted on the reverse side."
example of Interphase, a Star Trek newsletter printed on a ditto machine, click to read
  • Thermal Master. "There is a second type of spirit master which is heat sensitive, called a thermal master. Copy typed, written, drawn, or pasted up on plain white paper is put through a thermal copier (Thermofax, the machine schools also use for making overhead transparencies) and a spirit master is produced. This means you can correct your copy of plain paper, using correction fluid, etc., and avoid the messy job of correcting the ditto carbon directly. ' You can also xerox-reduce your copy first, then make a thermal ditto master. If you have access to a thermal copier (not a regular xerox-type copier), this is infinitely preferable to typing on the masters. The two drawbacks of the thermal masters are: their maximum run per—master is 100 copies, and thermal masters are available in purple only, while type-on masters come in black, which can approximate mimeo graphed printing. Short newsletters can be produced very efficiently and cheaply by means of spirit duplication, but it is unsuitable for a 200 page fanzine."

Fandom Usage

External References