“In triplicate” is being forgotten

More than half the world now does not know what a “carbon copy” means.

“Cut and paste” has been used for a very long time with manuscripts but really took off after the advent of the photo-copier.

Seven years ago I posted about the origins of “in triplicate”. At that time a Google search for “triplicate forms” generated over 3.5 million hits. This morning it generated less than 2 million.

Why “in triplicate”? – one for me, one for you and one for Rome

I have a vague recollection that I was once told that it was connected to the use of “carbon paper”  where the quality of the writing was insufficient after the second carbon (third copy). The word “triplicate” is said to have a 15th century origin in Middle English and comes from Latin (triplicatus). There is also a suggestion that pharmacists and their predecessors required 3 copies of everything but I am not clear as to why.

But my preferred story is that the Romans are responsible. It is not inconceivable that Roman administrators in their far-flung empire outposts first started doing things in triplicate.

 “One for me, one for you and one for Rome”.

Or it could just be the mystic, magical power of the number 3!!


 

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