Sunday, 18 December 2011


I've written about Karl Moritz in an earlier post. He was a young Prussian clergyman who in 1782, during the reign of Frederick II, spent seven weeks travelling in England, much of the time on foot because of limited finances. He wrote an account of his travels in letters which were translated into English and first published in 1795. An online version can be found here and a free Kindle version here.

I find the quote below interesting, because it describes a very early copying machine. These machines were basically presses which relied on the original document being written in a special slow-drying ink. An image of the document could be pressed onto damp tissue-paper which would of course give a mirror-image of the original. The tissue-paper copy had to be read through the back.

I've never seen one of these devices though and can't even find a proper image of one (although the picture I've used may give the general idea) so I'm not sure if any survived.

I saw, for the first time, at Mr. Wendeborn's, a very useful machine, which is little known in Germany, or at least not much used. This is a press in which, by means of very strong iron springs, a written paper may be printed on another blank paper, and you thus save yourself the trouble of copying; and at the same time multiply your own handwriting. Mr. Wendeborn makes use of this machine every time he sends manuscripts abroad, of which he wishes to keep a copy. This machine was of mahogany, and cost pretty high.

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