Watt's letter copy press was the first reliable copying machine, and its operating principle was used in office machines until typewriters and carbon paper came into common use (to be later supplanted by photocopiers and by electronic document storage and exchange). This rare example of a Watt portable press represents four trends: improvement in efficiency of office work; growth in the amount of paper used in offices; the creation of specialised papers and inks to facilitate the production of multiple copies of documents; and the manufacture of portable versions of larger machines to improve convenience for users and widen the market for a technology.
Before Watt invented the press and James Watt Jr and Matthew Robinson Boulton manufactured and commercialised it, copy clerks were employed to produce handwritten copies of letters and other documents. The press changed the job description of a copy clerk from penman to machine operator, and it reduced job opportunities for copy clerks while reducing the skill level required.
Debbie Rudder, Curator, 2013