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Synonyms: mimeo
See also: Zine Production, Gestetner, Corflu, Stencil, Hectograph
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a Gestetner 300 mimeograph machine (1960s?)
"The Enchanted Duplicator" from Boonfark #4, 1981

Mimeograph was one of the early methods of printing a fanzine. It is the second step: the first step is cutting the text into stencils. Then the stencils are placed onto the rolling drum of the mimeograph machine and ink is applied. The drum is either hand cranked or electric.

For more information regarding the history of mimeograph machines, go here. You can also watch a video of an Gestetner mimeograph machine in operation here.

In 2003, K.S. Langley wrote an essay describing the methods of early zine production.

Montgomery Ward catalog ad for a handcranked Heyer mimeograph machine (1958)
Fans at war with the machine -- an illo from Fandom is for the Young

For a debate on the merits of offset vs mimeo printing go here.

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.":Mimeo:

Mimeography, like spirit duplication, is a process where you must provide much of the labor involved in the printing. Many of the same drawbacks are also true of mimeo, although the general quality of mimeo reproduction is higher, and long runs are possible with mimeo masters. In mimeo reproduction, ink (usually black, but can be other colors) is forced through a screen which has been cut out in the area of the copy, generally by being typed on. The ribbon of your typewriter is disengaged when you cut a mimeo stencil, so that a crisp, clear image is cut into the stencil. Some schools and churches (or fans really into mimeo) own electrostencil machines. This machine will produce a mimeo stencil from black on white copy much as a Thermofax produces a ditto stencil. This allows for the use of original artwork instead of art which must be drawn directly on the masters."
sample mimeographed page, note the fading in the titles, from Fanzine Review Zine

"Mimeo machines are either hand-cranked or electric. Mimeo is also a rather messy process, and the ink has a tendency to stick to and rub off on the next sheet out of the machine. It's common practice to slipsheet, or insert a blank sheet in between mimeographed sheets to prevent this transfer of ink. A knowledgeable, careful mimeo operator can produce a fine-looking zine for the cost of the masters, paper and ink....and a lot of your time. Multiple color runs are also possible, can look very classy but add greatly to the time and mess.

One major drawback of mimeography, regardless of the way the finished pages look, is that the paper which must be used is quite heavy and porous. This makes a rather bulky zine for the page count and adds considerably to your mailing costs. Be sure you have access to the proper equipment in good working order, and know exactly how to operate it before attempting a mimeo zine. Expect to put in a great deal of time on the reproduction.

Fandom Usages

  • The CFS Review, the 1941 Denvention convention zine was an example of early mimeographed zines.
  • Reviewing the zine Never and Always :"The zine probably would have been better as a novella within another zine, since $2 for 36 offset pages is a bit steep; mimeo would have been perfect, but it is not always available."
  • In a review of Ambrov Zeor #1: "Suggestions on layout are apparently needed; blank page sections abound, and there is no reason for the cover of an offset, or very well xeroxed zine to be MIMEO."
  • Carol Lynn has, as she herself describes it "been involved in fandom for (mumblelty) years. Fandom has not yet destroyed her memory, because she clearly remembers the days when owning a mimoegraph machine was considered the apex of technology for fan publishing...she published one of the first professionally offset printed zines, Kraith Collected in 1973."
  • Ruth Berman recalls the drawbacks of ditto and mimeo while producing T-Negative, one of the earliest Star Trek: TOS anthology zines: "The drawback to Ditto is that you get only some 50-100 copies before the master is worn out. When my subscription list got too large to handle on Ditto, I switched to Mimeo, which allows many more copies, but cannot match Ditto for placement of color detail and makes even the rough kind of color that can be done much more difficult. So once I switched to Mimeo, it was all b&w (and when I reprinted the early issues in Mimeo, the result was all b&w)."

Naming the Beast

Typewriters and mimeographs were sometimes given an name by their owners.

  • "Thank you to Connie Faddis for storing our maniacal machine, Martha. We named him/her/shim/ after somebody who is consistent, reliable, and a good worker: our co-worker: Martha." [1]

External Resources


  1. ^ from Scuttlebutt #5