Collection insights: Gestetner conservation


1980.1662 Gestetner cyclostyle duplicator, Hurstville Museum & Gallery collection.

An improved copy!

Our Gestetner copying machine has recently come back to us after receiving conservation treatment in a glorious, shiny state!

This copying machine is a Gestetner Cyclostyle Durotype, of the style first created in 1881 by David Gestetner. Before this time, all official correspondence and documentation was handwritten with pen and ink. Despite the first personal typewriter being marketed by Remington in 1874, calligraphy was still a required skill by office clerks. Employees were tasked with writing out copies of letters by hand and were known as copyists, scribes, and scriveners.

In comparison, The Gestetner was capable of producing a copy in ten seconds. A stencil of the document to be copied was first made using a tiny sharp-toothed ‘cyclostyle’ stylus pen on thin wax-coated paper. This stencil was then placed on the pair of rotating drums, ink applied evenly onto the cloth covered rollers, and a piece of paper could be fed between the rollers and the stencil to make a print. Each complete revolution of the stencilled drums would feed and print one sheet.


‘Advertising’, The Daily Telegraph, 24 May 1929, p. 23, viewed 1 Feb 2019,

Gestetner’s invention of office copying machinery was immediately successful, allowing him to create an international business. This item could be quickly installed in offices, schools, churches, theatres, factories, and many other businesses and institutions that required a printing machine.  Gestetners were sold in New South Wales through agents from 1922–1927, until Gestetner opened its own office in Sydney in 1927. Based on both the make of the machine and comparisons with other models in public collections, it seems likely that Hurstville Museum & Gallery’s machine was manufactured between 1927–1929.

Before and after

When the Gestetner was rediscovered in the Hurstville Museum & Gallery collection it was in poor condition. The outside carrier case was actively rusting, was dented, faded and covered in dust. The machine itself had significant signs of corrosion, with additional paint and metal flaking off the machine. The upward facing surfaces of the duplicator were caked in dust and debris. The poor condition of the machine was exacerbated by an ink leak, which appeared to have coated the entire base of the machine, collecting more dust and debris.


The Gestetner machine and cover at the beginning of 2019, before conservation treatment.

Now, after significant treatment by Art and Archival conservators, the Gestetner duplicator looks near brand new!


Conservation of objects where possible is an ongoing project for Hurstville Museum & Gallery, as part of our commitment to care for items that exemplify the history of the St George region.


‘Advertising’, The Daily Telegraph, 24 May 1929, p. 23, viewed 1 Feb 2019,

‘Advertising’, The Propeller, 4 March 1927, p. 5, viewed 1 Feb 2019,

‘Antique copying machines’, Early Office Museum, viewed 12 August 2018,

‘Cranking it out, old-school style: Art of the Gestetner’, AIGA – The Professional Association for Design, accessed 11 August 2018,

‘Duplicator – Gestetner, Double Drum Rotary Stencil’, Museums Victoria Collections, viewed 12 August 2018,

‘Duplicator – Model 26’, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, viewed 12 August 2018,

Elgot, Jessica. ‘The real star of the office gets a blue plaque’, The Jewish Chronicle, viewed 8 August 2018,

‘Gestetner, David (1854 – 1939)’, English Heritage: Blue Plaques, viewed 11 August 2018,

‘Gestetner – Duplicator’, Museums Victoria Collections, viewed 12 August 2018,

‘Gestetner: Focus on the Factory’, Tottenham-Summerhill Road, viewed 11 August 2018,

‘Gestetner Machine’, Victorian Collections, viewed 11 August 2018,

‘The Gestetner’, Albury City Collections, accessed 12 August 2018,

‘The history of Gestetner’, Gestetner, viewed 8 August 2018,

‘Hurstville Council.’, The Propeller, 3 Sep 1926, p. 3, viewed 1 Feb 2019,





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