Copper engraving

Draughtsman Willie Hall describes how Bartholomew's engravers made revisions on the copper plates.



'Before the war, yeah, most of the maps were engraved on copper plates. And then an enamel proof was taken from the copper plate and it was a very highly skilled job taking those proofs. There was one gentleman did this job in Bartholomew's and he did it on a press, like an old Caxton mill press.

'It was very unlikely that the proof was pulled correctly first time. It had to be perfect. So actually the skills of these men at that time made your mind boggle. The map was cut on copper, names as well. I mean, that was a fantastic thing: all these tiny little names — you know, about four- and five-point — was engraved on copper. In reverse!

'To be corrected, they used to take the copper plates and turn them over and they had a small anvil they used to put underneath and with a hammer they used to mark the area they wanted taken out. They used to hammer, hammer, hammer like this, to hammer out the detail that had been engraved previously and turn it over and then re-cut in the revised map.

'So if there was a lot of revision the amount of banging that used to go on in this engraving room some days was just tremendous! Bang, bang, banging out the copper …'


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