Cover image of Duplicator Underground: The Independent Publishing Industry in Communist Poland
February 24, 2017

January 2017 saw the release of Duplicator Underground: The Independent Publishing Industry in Communist Poland, 1976-89 (Slavica Publishers), edited by UCR Deputy University Librarian Ann Frenkel, retired UCR Librarian Gwido Zlatkes, and Polish historian Paweł Sowiński.

The book is the first comprehensive scholarly discussion in English of Polish independent publishing in the 1970s and 1980s. Underground publishing reached a semi-industrial scale and represented a significant social movement which ultimately contributed to the end of Communism in Poland. The book sheds light onto the phenomenon of the Polish so-called “second circulation,” including discussions of various aspects of underground printing, distribution, and circulation of independent publications.  The book includes scholarly essays as well as primary source documents.

Deputy University Librarian Frenkel and Zlatkes, a librarian with graduate degrees in philology and Jewish history, have been working together for almost 20 years as translators and editors. This volume represents their collaboration with Professor Sowinski who is a specialist in underground publishing in East-Central Europe, dissident movements, mass-leisure, and festivals.

While working in both Special Collections and in Metadata Services in the UCR Library, Zlatkes noticed that many of the fanzines in the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy had been printed in the same way that most underground publications were made when he lived in Poland and was involved as a journalist and editor with the Polish dissident movement during the late 1970s and 1980s.

Zlatkes stated in the book’s introduction that while scholarly writings to date frequently recognize the role of independent publishing in the Polish anticommunist dissident movement, very little exists that focuses on the technical aspect of printing and production. Duplicator Underground is intended to fill that void.

The genesis for this book came in 2011, when Zlatkes was awarded the American Printing History Association Mark Samuels Lasner Fellowship in Printing History, and embarked on a six-week scouting trip to Poland. Further research was supported by grants from the Librarians Association of the University of California. Then in 2013-2014, when Zlatkes was selected as a Fulbright Research Scholar, he spent nine months studying underground printing in Poland at the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences. This research cemented the collaboration between the three editors, particularly with Paweł Sowiński who helped form the active network of authors who contributed their scholarly output for the book.

 In addition to scholarly articles, “Duplicator Underground” includes contemporary narratives and testimonies from publishers, editors, printers, distributors, and even police officials. The book shares stories about how anonymous activists and near-obsolete technologies changed history amidst a climate of government censorship where printing anything without state permission – even obituaries and wedding invitations – was deemed a punishable offense.

Frenkel said, “This anthology is valuable not only for researchers, but also for use in teaching. What better way to introduce students to the topic than reading firsthand about the methods employed by underground printers to evade a police 'tail,' or a detailed description of homespun printing techniques that use underwear elastic and laundry detergent?”

Duplicator Underground is available at the UCR Library, as well as for purchase from Amazon.