Who invented the duplicating machine?
The first DUPLICATING MACHINE was invented by James Watt in order to expedite the large amount of copying involved in running his steam-engine business at Soho, Birmingham. It was first described in a letter he wrote to Dr Black on 24 July 1778: ‘I have lately discovered a method o1 copying writing instantaneously, providing it has been written the same day, or within twenty-four hours. It enables me to copy all my business letters.’ The apparatus consisted of a flat-bed press with either a side-arm lever or screw and horizontal bar. The manuscript or drawing to be copied was placed in the press against a piece of transparent tracing-paper or unsized drawing-paper which had first been moistened with a fixative of vinegar, borax, oyster shells, bruised Aleppo galls and distilled water. The formula for this astringent was included in Watt’s patent for ‘a new method of copying letters’ taken out on 14 February 1780. As the ink penetrated right through the unsized copying-paper, the reverse impression of the text on the topside could be employed as a master for reproducing a number of duplicates on ordinary sized paper. Thus Watt’s apparatus can also he regarded as the first offset-printing press.
Circulars were distributed to Members of the Houses of Parliament, and there were practical demonstrations which attracted so much attention at Westminster that ‘the Speaker… was often obliged to send his proper officer to fetch away from me the members to vote and sometimes to make a House’. Specimens of every kind of writing were displayed in all the principal coffee-houses together with their duplicates. An attempt was also made to secure Royal patronage, Boulton having heard that the King was a great letter-writer, a demonstration was given at Court.