The hectograph, an obsolete means of text and illustrative reproduction, was not much used after the 1940s, although it has seen a resurgence in some mundane art circles, and hecto pencils are widely used by tattoo artists. Hectography involves making a bed of gelatin, transferring a special carbon ink to the gelatin and then laying on and picking up pieces of paper.
Both hekto and hecto were in use as spellings.
"Hecto" means 100 in Latin — a bit of an over assessment of the number of copies that can generally be made with the process. As a general rule, upwards of 50 copies might be made in this fashion, of which perhaps 15 or 25 were at least borderline legible. In a few individual cases, this is hyperbole; Terry and Miri Carr used hecto on one of their FAPAzines when the copy count for FAPA was 68 and managed to get clear copies throughout by using yellow second sheets instead of the usual slick white ditto paper, while Erik Biever once produced a hecto'd MINNEAPA zine that was a masterpiece of clarity and readability without resorting to that legerdemain.
Mae Strelkov, Stony Brook Barnes and Eric Mayer were latter-day fans who developed the knack as well. Mae was known for her hecto paintings — and once boiled bones to make the gelatin. Dick and Leah Smith have frequently given hecto demonstrations at cons, using a homemade hectograph made from antifreeze, and used hecto paintings as tip-ins in STET. Steve and Jenny Glover used an edible recipe and even researched homemade ink (not edible). Bob Stein was famed for his hectopix.
Not to be confused with ditto, although both use the same type of carbon inks. (Hecto used special paints and pencils as well as the masters used with spirit duplicators.)
Hektographer's Hands is an ailment that afflicts users of this method.
In The Enchanted Duplicator, Jophan witnesses many unfortunate wretches sucked down into the dreaded "Hekto Swamp."
When Jophan saw the horrible purple stains that spread from underneath to clog the victims" mouths and nostrils he realised that they had blundered into the dreaded Hekto Swamp, and that there was no help for them. With a last pitying look he bore to the right onto ground which had at first seemed uninviting because of its slightly stony appearance, but which bore up underfoot, unlike the seductive smoothness of the Hekto Swamp.
In Fantasy-Scope 2 (April 1992), Roger Sims recalled hectoing with Arnim Seielstad:
One evening several fans including myself went to his house to do some fan pubbing using the hectograph method of reproduction. After reproducing the first page we took the pan down to the kitchen, melted it and poured it back into the pan. We then went back to Arnim's bedroom to talk up and work on the second page. After some time, enough time for the material in the pan to harden so that page two could be reproduced, we went back to the kitchen to retrieve the pan. Someone had taken a knife and had cut it into a number of equal squares. I should tell the reader at this point that at the same time that we were creating deathless prose, Arnim's parents were hosting a party! One of the guests, seeing the pan filled with some kind of substance and wanting to be helpful, had cut the "fudge" into squares, and was waiting for it to cool before sampling. Good thing we went to retrieve the pan when we did!
|From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959|
|A means, more or less, of reproduction. The basic hekto is a pan of rather firm gelatin; a master copy prepared with special hekto carbons or hekto ink is placed on this, and much of the pigment on the latter is deposited on the former. Sheets for copy are placed face down on this, smoothed out, and then removed; on each one some of the ink comes off -- enough, you hope, to make a legible copy. As the Greek root 'ekatos suggests 100 copies may be obtained in theory; but experience warns that after about 70, "copies" begin to resemble paper with an unusually large water-mark. Legible limit is about 50 (the original FAPA membership limit was determined thusly), best color for long runs being the well-known purple [methyl violet]. All the colors of ditto can be used by hekto, plus some delicate shades available in hekto pencil form which don't hold up for the spirit process. Besides the primitive pan hekto, various film (gelatin on stiff paper) devices and mechanical gadgets for applying the paper smoothly to the jelly are available, but hardly worth it; they don't increase the length of the run.|
|From Fancyclopedia 1, ca. 1944|
|Hektoing The basic hecktograf is a pan of evil-smelling, rather firm gelatin, which has glycerin in it. The master sheet is drawn with special hekto pencil or ink or carbon paper, or typed with special ribbon or carbon paper, so that the original has a great deal of pigment in it. It has to, because all the pigment in all the copies must be on the master sheet, and then some. The master is placed face down on the gelaton (which Dollens says should not be moistened), and much of the pigment comes off on the latter, following the lines of the original. After a couple of minutes the master is removed, and the copy sheets are placed on the gelatin, smoothed, down, and removed. On each one some of the ink comes off; enuf (you hope) to make a legible copy. After the copies are made, the remaining pigment sinks in and is diffused thru the gelatin, so that it can be used again in a day or so. After many uses the gelatin becomes saturated with left-over ink (it is not good for the surface to wash this off), if it doesn't develop bubbles and other flaw-breaks first, in which latter case all you can do is melt it down again. The purple pigment is most common, but there are now several other brite colors available, which can be used very effectively -- an advantage of hekto over monocolorproduction methods. As indicated by it root -- 'εκατος -- the theoretical number of copies from Hekto is around 100. More usually it is 50 (the original FAPA membership limit), tho in the hands of various expertness, it may vary from 20 to 100, not considering Dittoing. Besides the primitive pan hekto, the Ditto Company (no, they aren't paying a cent for this!) has developed a number of other forms, such as a "film", a sheet of strong paper with gelatin spread on it, or a long roll of filmed paper, as well as complicated machines for doing the mechanics of duplication.|