David Gestetner began his career as an office employee at the Vienna Stock Exchange, where he transcribed the day’s financial statements not just once, but dozens of times – carefully, accurately and by hand. To simplify this laborious work, Gestetner looked for a suitable way to duplicate documents more easily and quickly. After several failures, he succeeded with the invention of the Gestetner Automatic Cyclostyle Mimeograph. He founded the Gestetner company in London in 1881.
In 1902 Gestetner developed the world’s first rotating mimeograph. Unlike previous models, such as the flatbed design of the Gestetner Automatic Cyclostyle or Edison’s Mimeograph, the stencil of the Gestetner Model 3 was clamped onto a rotating cylinder and the printing paper was fed through the machine by means of a hand crank. The result was a faster and therefore more economical mimeograph. 1 It was an overnight success worldwide, enabling the company to rapidly expand. While developing new mimeographs, Gestetner began manufacturing supplies such as inks, stencils and chemicals, as well as peripheral equipment, such as folding machines and collators.
In 1962 the company expanded their product range to include small-format and Office Offset printing machines. The first two models were the Gestetner 201 and 200. While the 201 was more of a hybrid between a small format and an Office Offset machine, the 200 was designed as a pure Office Offset machine, sold at a price of DM 14.500 (£ 1,290) ‘The model 200 is intended for use in the field of offset duplication, whereby the print quality for line and text as well as the halftone of the model 201 is completely identical.’ 2
At the end of the 1960s the company employed a total of 6,000 people in its production plants and operated 993 sales outlets across 126 countries. Gestetner was not only the world’s largest manufacturer of stencil duplicators but also had more branches and sales organisations than any competitor. 3
Similar to Rotaprint and Geha, Gestetner launched model 209, his interpretation of an Office Offset machine as a table-top model in the early 1970s. Immediately following its release, Gestetner developed the Double Nine, which combined the Office Offset machine model 209 with the plate copying unit PM 9. It could be operated with one hand. 4
Gestetner was able to equip the press centre of the European Athletics Championships in Rome in 1974 with Gestetner 209 Office Offset machines and thus effectively advertise its model in the international press. 6
A further highlight in company’s history is the fact that Gestetner supplied the Vatican with stencil duplicators, Office Offset machines and other office products for more than 50 years. These machines were painted white and featured the Vatican logo.
The next generation of Office Offset printing machines from the Gestetner company was introduced in 1979. It included the models 318 and 319, and the motto was: ‘Away from the image of the complicated Office Offset:’
‘The new models are graduated in performance to meet different requirements. The 318 model is the least expensive. It is a machine designed for simplicity, requiring a minimum of control. Automatic pressure compensation between plate, blanket and impression cylinders, an inking unit wash system and automatic switching off of paper feed, ink and impression cylinder at counter reading “0” relieve the operator of important control functions. The printing speed depends on the paper, at 3,600 to 7,200 prints per hour. Paper between 45 and 190 gsm can be processed, with a maximum format of 395 × 297 mm. The technical characteristics of the model 319 are the same. The main difference: all functions are controlled automatically. Anyone is able to print forms, letterheads, circulars or tables.’ 7
In 1981, the 100th anniversary of the company was celebrated with a large comprehensive exhibition in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. With 15,000 employees, Gestetner was still one of the world’s largest manufacturers of duplicating machines. 8 In the meantime, Gestetner also produced copying machines and, like Roto, tried to profitably market the advantages of these technologies by combining both Office Offset and copy machines.
‘Gestetner 329, the fully automatic non-stop table-top offset duplicator plus Gestetner foil production machine. Autosystem 100 is a system that consists of two machines, replaces three devices and solves four problems: single copies, edition copies, duplications, printing.’ 9
The 329 model was then also the last Office Offset machine that Gestetner produced (1982–86), and from the 1990s onwards, the company focused increasingly more on the production of digital printers and copiers. Small-format offset printing machines were produced in limited numbers. The company was finally taken over in 1997 by Ricoh, one of the largest manufacturers of copiers and office supplies in Japan. The Gestetner brand name remained for a few more years, until 2008, when Ricoh integrated it into the Ricoh UK Ltd umbrella brand. 10