An exhibit of copper plates used in early map making is on display at the library through January.
The engravings, which were acquired recently from the USGS by the University of Idaho Library, are exceptional examples of mapping history that will help to preserve part of Idaho’s history and culture.
Copper plate engraving was a technique used by the USGS to print almost all of its maps from the late 1800s until about the 1940s. Information on copper plates was transferred to lithographic stone for printing. By the 1950s, copper plate engraving was retired in favor of faster and more economical methods.
The UI Library worked with the Idaho Geological Survey and the Idaho Federal Surplus Property Program to acquire one set of the engravings, which were released by the U.S. Federal Government in May 2014. Engraved by hand around the turn of the last century, the copper plates measure approximately 17x21 inches and weigh 12.5 pounds each. The plates will permanently reside in the UI Library on the Moscow campus in the care of Special Collections and Archives.
The engravings acquired by the UI Library show the cultural features, elevation contours and water features of the Coeur d’Alene area. A map produced from the engravings was first published in 1903 based on survey work done in the years 1899 and 1901.
“In this digital age, where intricate maps are available with the swipe of a finger across our smartphones, the copper plates display helps communicate the long and complex evolution of mapmaking,” said Bruce Godfrey, GIS Librarian at the UI Library.