Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Design 1900 to Now, Room 74

Gestetner Duplicator

Duplicator
1929 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This machine is an example of an early photocopier. In 1929 Gestetner, the leading manufacturer of duplicators approached the American designer Raymond Loewy. They asked him to improve the appearance of their machines, which were quite complicated assemblages of steel, gears, levers and knobs. The sleek black case Loewy designed was his first industrial commission, and the first example of the "streamlining" technique he is credited with inventing. Loewy went on to become a very successful industrial designer who applied streamlining to a wide range of industrial goods, including the classic Coca-Cola bottle, refrigerators, and the interior of the Skylab space station.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
metal, wood, rubber
Brief Description
British 1929 des. Raymond Loewy man. Gestetner
Physical Description
Duplicating machine mounted on a wooden cabinet, the mechanism of metal with rubber elements
Dimensions
  • Mechanism height: 34cm (Note: Dimensions from original record of acquisition, entered as mm, but 34 x 61 x 38 cm is more realistic than the millimetre equivalent.)
  • Width: 61cm
  • Depth: 38cm
  • Approximate, including cabinet height: 134cm
Foot-print in cm: D. 65 x H. 123 x W. 43 (with flap up) The dimensions in the acquisition record presumably refer to the machinery and do not include the wooden cabinet upon which it sits. (approximate measurement taken through glass display case, 18/5/2010)
Production typeMass produced
Gallery Label
Mechanising office work The typewriter and duplicator were both designed to improve standardisation in the workplace. In 1929, the British manufacturer Gestetner approached American designer Raymond Loewy to enhance the appearance of their duplicator, a machine similar to a photocopier and printer. He streamlined the bulky machine, making it less cumbersome and more appealing to use. The Double Pigeon typewriter was designed to mechanise the writing of the Chinese language. To overcome the complexity of Chinese script, it features over 2000 loose characters which typists could easily rearrange to speed up their work. Hand-operated copying machine Duplicator, Model 66, 1929 Designed by Raymond Loewy Manufactured by Gestetner, UK Metal mechanism with rubber elements, wooden cabinet Given by Gestetner International Ltd Museum no. W.47-1981 Chinese typewriter with loose characters Double Pigeon, DHY-d series, 1980 (manufactured 1984) Manufactured by Shanghai Typewriter Factory, China Steel and plastic Museum no. FE.186-2011 The object fit in the 'Automation and Labour' section of the Design 1900-Now gallery opened in June 2021.(2021)
Credit line
Given by Gestetner International Ltd.
Object history
In 1929, Gestetner asked Raymond Loewy to improve the appearance of their machines. Lowey designed a sleek black shell for the duplicator. This was the first example of the "streamlining" technique, which is credited to Loewy. For the next fifty years Loewy would apply the method to a wide range of industrial goods and designs, including the slender Coca-Cola bottle, Frigidaire refrigerators, the Greyhound bus, the John F. Kennedy memorial postage stamp, and the interiors of spaceships including the Skylab space station and Saturn V.



A modern duplicator by Gestetner was acquired at the same time as this, to serve for comparison. Its number is W.64-1981
Historical context
This machine is an example of an early photocopier. Gestetner first invented the duplicating machine (also called Gestetners, Cyclostyles, Cyclographs or mimetographs) in the 1870s. He founded the Gestetner Cyclograph Company in London in 1881. The original Gestetner duplicating machine, or mimetograph, was called the Gestetner Cyclostyle and was made in the late 19th century, about 1890. It was a complicated assemblage of open steel with many gears, levers and knobs. They were the forerunners of the office printer and photocopier, enabling documents to be reproduced using a stencil. Ink was pressed through a sheet of waxed paper which had been written upon beforehand with a stylus. The stylus broke the paper surface and removed the wax coating, creating a stencil which could be used again and again until sufficient copies of the document were created. With the invention of the typewriter, it was possible to create stencils that produced copies resembling proper print.
Summary
This machine is an example of an early photocopier. In 1929 Gestetner, the leading manufacturer of duplicators approached the American designer Raymond Loewy. They asked him to improve the appearance of their machines, which were quite complicated assemblages of steel, gears, levers and knobs. The sleek black case Loewy designed was his first industrial commission, and the first example of the "streamlining" technique he is credited with inventing. Loewy went on to become a very successful industrial designer who applied streamlining to a wide range of industrial goods, including the classic Coca-Cola bottle, refrigerators, and the interior of the Skylab space station.
Collection
Accession Number
W.47-1981

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record createdJune 24, 2009
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