The need to file copies of letters has lead to a whole range of inventions that started long before the invention of the typewriter itself. Copying letters by hand was the obvious thing to do, hand written copies were never exact, or could not be proven to be exact in case of dispute.

There were book and letter presses that were used to make mirror images of freshly written letters. And in the 19th Century writing frames appeared that allowed the writer to produce an exact copy of his letter while writing the original. Pictures 1 and 2 show patent drawings of one of these machines: the 1815 Hutchinson Polygraph.

Soon after the invention of the typewriter new duplicators appeared. Some were metal boxes that used a wet system to draw a copy from the original, others, like the Gestetner Cyclostyle and the Edison Mimeograph were early stencil duplicators.

The duplicators are mentioned here because they are so closely linked to writing and typewriters, more so than other office machines. Some of them were even produced by typewriter companies (Smith Premier, Underwood) and because the Edison Mimeograph company (A.B. Dick) produced a Mimeograph typewriter.

Pictures 3-5 show details of the 1882 Gestetner Neo-Cyclostyle that came with a special pen with a tiny writing wheel that would perforate the custom rice paper stencil sheets.

Picture 6 is an odd portable duplicator made in France, probably in the 1930s. The stencil is attached to the blotter-like stamp, that is inked with a brush from the inside. Each stamp could fill have a sheet of A4 stationary.