8 Workplace of a Copperplate Engraver

Copperplate engraver table.
Workplace of a copper engraver at Mayer’s times with engraver tools.
Copperplate engraver (Listen to text)

The workplace of a copperplate engraver is the donation of the last trained German copperplate engraver Rainer Kalnbach (1928-2018).


At Tobias Mayer’s time, the maps were first drawn by hand and then engraved with every detail mirrored into a copper plate. The profession of an copperplate engraver was very much respected („my friend and copper engraver“). One of the last learned map copperplate engraver was Rainer Kalnbach, who could bring the craftsmanship and precision of his craft to life, just as one did in the days of Tobias Mayer. The copperplate engraving is a gravure printing technique, 2.5 to 3 mm thick copper plates with a polished surface are carved with special equipment. The resulting depressions absorb the printing ink, the plate surface is cleaned again. The printing is done with a press, the moistened paper absorbs the ink and the drawings appear in the right direction in black. Each map had to be printed one at a time and the plate could deliver about 500 to 1000 good prints before the print became to bad. The copper printing is complex, but is hard to beat in terms of sharpness, softness and fineness. Although Tobias Mayer probably learned copperplate engraving in Augsburg, in Nuremberg his task was to draw the originals.