Nineteenth-century copper plates

Copper plates

Engraved or etched copper plates offer the intricacy of their surfaces to view. But one of the most important teachable features of these objects may be on the reverse. Turn the plate over, and look for areas of hammering which indicate that some alteration was made in the printable area during the lifetime of the plate.

Whether the change was made to correct an error, or to update text on the plate (as here, probably to update the address of the baker or add a new second shop to the advertisement on his printed paper bags), this form of ‘erasure’ reminds us of the durability and also the malleability of the metal plate. We should remember that the printed record may contain numerous copies of both states, identical except for the carefully beaten, burnished, and re-carved area.

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