About Author: Andrea Kohashi

Posts by Andrea Kohashi


What the Hectograph?!?!


This past weekend, the Zine Librarian (un)Conference happened here in Iowa City!  Amongst the lively discussions and seminars was a Historical Zine Making Technologies Workshop demonstrating and using obsolescent printing techniques including hectography, spirit duplication, and mimeography. You may be asking yourself, at this point, what the heck a hectograph is…and we’re here to show you.  By the end of this post, you too, could be on your way to zine making madness!

First, a hectograph a.ka. a gelatin duplicator or jellygraph, is a smooth piece of gelatin used to make multiple prints off a single master sheet.  We’ve got great examples in many of our zine collections, including, but not limited to the Hevelin collection.

Second, making and using is a hectograph is incredibly simple.  The only difficulties I had in using this out-moded technology was locating a couple of the supplies.  I recommend using internet shopping sites to track down the harder to find materials.




  • 1 oz unflavored gelatin
  • 6 oz liquid glycerin (sometimes in the first aid aisle of the drugstore or supermarket…most easily obtained online)
  • about 1.5 cups of water
  • a pan slightly larger than 8.5″ x 11″ – I used an aluminum disposable pan
  • non-thermal transfer sheets (can be obtained from a tattoo supplier online, also referred to as Spirit transfer sheets)
  • paper (of the plain white copier variety, but I encourage experimenting with other types of paper)
  • optional:  transfer stencil pencils (also purchased from a tattoo supplier online)

I got the recipe for the gelatin here.





  1. Prior to beginning, pour the water over the gelatin and let it sit for a few hours (overnight is best)
  2. Heat the glycerin over medium/low heat – it just needs to be hot enough to melt the soaked gelatin
  3. Add the gelatin to the glycerin and gently stir until the gelatin is completely melted
  4. The mixture you end up with should be transparent and slightly yellow in color.
  5. Pour this mixture into the pan you want to print from – pour gently as to avoid making bubbles in the surface
  6. Let the pan sit and cool for a couple of hours until the gelatin has solidified…I got antsy and put the pan in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, which did the trick…

hectosteps copy


  1. Take your transfer paper and draw whatever you want to print on it with a firm hand and a hard stylus (a pen usually works).  Make sure that your lines are being transferred to your master sheet.  You can also use the transfer pencils to add designs directly to the master sheet.
  2. Take your master sheet and place it FACE down on the solidified gelatin surface, making sure there are no bubbles and that there’s good contact between the gelatin and the master.  Let the master sit for awhile – I read somewhere that 1 second of sitting for every copy you want to make is a good rule of thumb.
  3. Pull up your master sheet slowly – sometimes it helps to fold up a corner when placing it down so you have a tab to pull it up from
  4. You’re ready to print!  Place your paper on the gelatin surface and rub the back, much like the master sheet. Pull the sheet up and voila – you should have a duplicate of your master!
  5. Keep going until the prints get too light to read.

The master copy on transfer paper getting placed face down onto the gelatin surface.


Pulling off a print

Look at this awesome gif that Colleen made of pulling up a print off the hectograph here.


Here’s a sweet pile of prints we pulled from the hectograph!





A Miniature Menagerie

Miniature metal book with hinges and pages that turn.

Do you remember the Sesame Street song lyrics “One of these things is not like the other one of these things just doesn’t belong”?  Today’s post was inspired by the song, though I’m inclined to agree with the first part of the statement and disagree with the latter.  Yes, these things are not like the others, but they certainly belong!  They were all found in the stacks of Special Collections and University Archives.  While most of our collections are comprised of printed books, images, papers, and ephemera, there’s an occasional surprise tucked away in a box or file folder.

I’ve selected a few items that struck my fancy.  They all happen to be miniature versions of something:  dining furniture, books, paper mills, for example.  Some of the objects are considered artist’s books, some are parts of books, and some are just objects.

Miniature Dard Hunter Paper Mill

Dard Hunter:  Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections, text by Dard Hunter, case and books by Robert E. Massmann.  The paper used to construct the mill-shaped case and the small books came from Hunter’s handmade paper mill in Connecticut.  The case is a replica of the mill which remained in use from 1928 till 1931, and the two small books (volumes I and II) document thoughts, quotations, and paper samples from Hunter.  The books themselves are miniature artifacts that fit below the three dimensional model of the mill.    For more information on Dard Hunter visit http://www.dardhunter.com/.

x-Collection – TS1098.H8 A25 1984



Miniature dining table set - University of Iowa Special CollectionsButter Knives and Fish Forks: With Guidance From “The New Setting Your Table” by Annie Tremmel Wilcox.  This artist book is a true surprise.  The dining room set, with a perfect table setting replete with candles and flowers, is housed inside what looks like a relatively traditional book box.  Along with the dining room set, a small accordion structure includes a narrative reflecting on table-settings, traditions, and growing up.  There are also small cards which show exemplary place-set tables.

From the Szathmary Collection – N7433.4.W52



Miniature set of pots and pans made from pennies - University of Iowa Special CollectionsJudge James Willis Bollinger collected as many Lincoln related items as he could.  Lincoln was a passion of his, and though his collection focused on books and pamphlets, he also managed to collect a wide array of objects relating to Lincoln.  Included in his non-print materials are small penny sculptures.  There is one in particular that would fit right in on the dining table from above:  a tea and food service tray.  Also of interest are the miniature books with Lincoln penny head bookends.

From the James Wills Bollinger Papers – MsC0036



Miniature keychain book - University of Iowa Special Collections

And finally, since this post features miniature, I can’t leave out items from the Charlotte M. Smith collection of Miniature Books.  Many of the diminutive books in the Smith Collection are lengthy and readable works, but the ones selected for today were meant as charms and key chains.  There are several souvenir metal book-shaped key chains that house small accordion images from international cities.  Come check them all out!  The book charms with metal hinged “pages” are of particular interest as well (first image above).

From the Charlotte M. Smith Papers [Charlotte M. Smith Collection of Miniature Books] – MsC457


Though not featured today, we also have objects of the non-miniature variety including bagpipes, films, sculptures, and much more dispersed among our archival and collections materials.