In search of Ditto

When it comes to passion projects, printing budget is always an issue. Could Ditto have the answer?

By: Clare Howdle,   1 minute


I’ve been thinking a lot about grass roots publishing recently. Creative ways of printing and sharing work. From the revival of the chapbook to hyperlocal newspapers I’m obviously not the only one.

But when it comes to passion projects, printing budget is always an issue. Litho is too pricey, photocopying a little too lo-fi. Then I remembered something. Something purple. From school. Hazy recollections of the handcranking turn, the smell of the ink, the armfuls of reproduced worksheets to hurry back with and share around class.

There was a machine that we used to use to ‘print and share’. But what was it called?


I started digging around. And I found the Ditto. Invented in the 1920s this predecessor to the photocopier used duplicating ink (often in purple for maximum contrast) to provide short run reproductions for offices, communities and often schools. You could type, handwrite, or even draw on the stencils so the results were always unique.

Imagine what you could Ditto today, with a bit of creativity and a few spare hours?


(The cover of Masquerader #1, drawn by Paul Seydor)

So now I want one. Or at least to try one. They’re hard to track down online as you can’t buy them from Staples. And eBay is coming up short.

Which is why I’m putting it out there. A plea to teachers, community workers, collectors, repro fans – anyone who might have a Ditto in their possession and would be up for letting me have a crank.

Please get in touch if you think you could help get my Ditto Feed off the ground…

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