Next up on the ABCs of Wyck: X is for … Xerox
Before the technology of Xerox machines and photocopying, copies had to be made by hand on a copy press.
The first copy press was created and patented in 1780 by James Watt (better known as the inventor of the steam engine) as he found hand copying his countless letters, designs, and documents to be too time-consuming.
This copy press in Wyck’s collection features Watt’s patented rolling press design, which consists of two metallic rolls that are put in motion by a wooden lever the user would attach to the roller. The letter or document one wanted copied was then placed on a board, covered by a thin piece of dampened copying paper and then finally by a felt-like cloth. The board was passed through the rollers slowly one way and then rolled back through once more, allowing the ink from the original to be pressed onto the copy paper.
Wyck’s copy press (made of mahogany and brass) was owned by Reuben Haines III and dates to the early 19th century. The original user’s manual (Image 3) was kept with the object and lists the contents of the box, including pasteboard, copying paper, a dampening brush, a wetting book (seen in Image 5), and ink powders, all of which were important aspects of the copying process.
Reuben clearly made several copies with this press as examples of his copies were stored with it, including a page from his 1818 account book (Image 6) and a letter (Image 7) written in 1827 in the hall of the Academy of Natural Sciences, where he served as the Corresponding Secretary.
An impressive amount of Reuben’s accounts and correspondence exists today (now housed at ) and this copy press may be a large reason why several of these copies survived!