David Gestetner

David Gestetner
David Gestetner (eng)
Gestetner Dávid (hu)

David Gestetner outside his home at 124 Highbury New Park London circa 1905
Born March 20, 1854
Csorna, Kingdom of Hungary, Habsburg Empire
Died March 8, 1939
London, United Kingdom
Fields inventor
Known for Gestetner stencil duplicator
Notable awards John Scott Medal, Blue Plaque

David Gestetner (March 20, 1854, Csorna, Hungary – March 8, 1939, London) was the inventor of the Gestetner stencil duplicator, the first piece of office equipment that allowed production of numerous copies of documents quickly and inexpensively. He was awarded the John Scott Medal of The Franklin Institute in 1888. On March 15th 2011, he received a Blue Plaque on his home at 124 Highbury New Park.


Early life

At a young age, Gestetner began to work at the stock market in Vienna. One of his tasks was to make copies of the activity at the end of the day by repeatedly handwriting the results. He decided that there had to be a better method, and his experiments eventually led him to invent the first method of reproducing documents by use of a stencil.

The device

The stencil method used a thin sheet of paper coated with wax (originally kite paper was used), which was written upon with a special stylus that left a broken line through the stencil — breaking the paper and removing the wax covering. Ink was forced through the stencil — originally by an ink roller — and it left its impression on a white sheet of paper below. This was repeated again and again until sufficient copies were produced.

Until this time, any "short copy runs" which were needed for the conduct of a business (e.g., for the production of 10–50 copies of contracts, agreements, or letters) had to be copied by hand. (If more were needed, the document would have to go to the printers.) After the run had been copied, business partners had to read each one to ensure that they were all exactly the same, and that human error or tiredness had not introduced an error into one copy. The process was time consuming and frustrating for all. The stencil copy method meant that only one copy had to be read, as all copies were mechanically identical.

David Gestetner eventually moved to London, England and in 1881 established the Gestetner Cyclograph Company to produce stencils, styli, ink rollers, etc. He guarded his invention through patents. He also invented other notable devices such as the nail-clipper and the ball-point pen. The Gestetner works opened in 1906 at Tottenham Hale, north London, and employed several thousand people until the 1970s.[1] His invention became an overnight international success, and he soon established an international chain of branches that sold and serviced his products. During the ensuing years he further developed his invention, with the stencil eventually being placed on a screen wrapped around a pair of revolving drums, onto which ink was placed. The drums were revolved and ink, spread evenly across the surface of the screen by a pair of cloth-covered rollers, was forced through the cuts made in the stencil and transferred onto a sheet of paper which was fed through the duplicator and pressed by pressure rollers against the lower drum. Each complete rotation of the screen fed and printed one sheet. After the first typewriter was invented, a stencil was created which could be typed on, thus creating copies similar to printed newspapers and books, instead of handwritten material.

Social effects

The stencil duplicator can be looked upon as a predecessor of the Internet, in that it provided individuals with a means to produce their own uncensored and uncontrolled ideas and distribute them in public places (near factories, churches, government offices, parks etc.). Previously, producing mass numbers of copies required the cooperation of owners of printing presses, which required a large amount of capital. Owners of presses would not agree to publish opinions contrary to their own interest.[citation needed]

The Gestetner Company expanded quickly during the start and middle of the 20th century. Management was passed on to David Gestetner's son, Sigmund, and from him to his sons, David and Jonathan. Gestetner acquired other companies during the years: Nashua (later changed to Nashuatec), Rex Rotary, Hanimex and Savin. Eventually a holding company was set up called NRG (N=Nashuatec, R= Rex Rotary, G= Gestetner). In 1996 the international Gestetner Company was acquired by the Ricoh company of Japan. The company was renamed NRG Group, and markets and services Ricoh products under its three main brand names, primarily in Europe, South Africa and the Middle East, but also through dealers throughout the world.

See also

  • Spirit duplicator, a later variation on Gestetner's design using a drum filled with solvent instead of ink.


Proudfoot, W.B.: The Origin of Stencil Duplicating, Hutchinson of London, 1972.


  1. ^ T.F.T. Baker, R. B. Pugh (editors), A.P. Baggs, Diane K. Bolton, Eileen P. Scarff, G.C. Tyack, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5: Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham, pp. 333–339. Victoria County History, British History, 1976. Date accessed: 15 November 2007.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • David Gestetner — David Gestetner, né à Csorna (Hongrie) le 20 mars 1854 et mort à Londres le 18 mars 1939, est l inventeur du polycopieur ou cyclostyle qui porte son nom. Il commence sa carrière professionnelle à la Bourse de Vienne, puis… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • David Gestetner — Der Automatic Cyclostyle der britischen Firma Gestetner (Werbeanzeige, um 1900) David Gestetner (ungarisch: Gestetner Dávid; * 20. März 1854 in Csorna, Ungarn; † 18. März 1939 London) war ein ungarischer Erfinder. David Gestetner arbeitete… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gestetner — The Gestetner, named for its inventor David Gestetner, is a duplicating machine.The Gestetner brand has been owned by Ricoh since 1995.In Europe, Gestetner Group became NRG Group which as of 1st April became Ricoh Europe.In the US, the Gestetner… …   Wikipedia

  • GESTETNER, DAVID — (1854–1939), British industrialist. Born in Csorna, Hungary, he was the inventor of the cyclostyle duplicating process and was credited with being the founder of modern stencil duplicating. At 17, chafing at the monotony of clerking on the Vienna …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • David Young, Baron Young of Graffham — For other people named Lord Young, see Lord Young (disambiguation). The Right Honourable The Lord Young of Graffham PC DL Secretary of State for Tr …   Wikipedia

  • Gestetner, Sigmund — (1897–1956)    British industrialist and Zionist. Sigmund’s father David had settled in England from Hungary, and manufactured a cyclo style duplicating process he had invented. Sigmund became chairman of the company at the age of twenty three,… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Mimeograph — Illustration of a typical mimeograph machine Ja …   Wikipedia

  • Stencil duplicator — The stencil duplicator, or mimeograph machine (commonly abbreviated to mimeo), along with spirit duplicators and hectographs were for many decades used to print short run office work, classroom materials, and church bulletins. These technologies… …   Wikipedia

  • Cyclostyle (copier) — The Cyclostyle duplicating process is a form of stencil copying invented by David Gestetner in London in 1890. A stencil is cut with the help of small toothed wheels on a special paper underlaid with carbon paper which serves as a printing form.… …   Wikipedia

  • Diffusion of technology in Canada — This article outlines the history of the diffusion or spread of technology in Canada. Technologies chosen for treatment here include, in rough order, transportation, communication, energy, materials, industry, public works, public services… …   Wikipedia