AskDefine | Define copperplate

Dictionary Definition



1 a fine style of handwriting based on the writing used on copperplate engravings
2 a print made from an engraved copperplate
3 an engraving consisting of a smooth plate of copper that has been etched or engraved

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A copper plate, either etched or engraved, to make a recessed pattern.
  2. A print made from such a plate.
  3. A style of handwriting based on that used on such prints; English round hand.


    • 1999: “The village school was a fine school....He learned his reading and had a fair copperplate hand.” — Stardust, Neil Gaiman, page 36 (2001 Perennial paperback edition).

Extensive Definition

Copperplate refers to the use of inscribed sheets of copper in printing. The etched sheets of copper are inked and then have paper rolled over them to produce a copy.
In Southeast Asia, the use of copperplate for important documents was a stage in the writing system; they served as durable documentation in a climate which destroyed other documents. In Java, for example, the copperplates were heated until they were soft, and then inscribed with an implement. Skill in metalwork in Southeast Asia apparently spanned multiple metals during the epoch of copperplate inscriptions.
A notable example is the Laguna Copperplate Inscription of the Philippines.

Copperplate script and typefaces

Copperplate, or English round hand, is also the name of a style of calligraphic writing, using a sharp pointed nib instead of the flat nib used in most calligraphic writing. Its name comes from the sharp lines of the writing style resembling the etches of engraved copper. Copperplate script was prevalent in the 18th century.
This style of calligraphy is different from that produced by angled nibs in that the thickness of the stroke is determined by the pressure applied when writing, instead of nib angle in relation to the writing surface. Formal copperplate script is written close to a 90-degree angle when linking letters.
A slang use of the term recently appeared in Australia. In the 1980s the state of Victoria prescribed a new form of handwriting which lacked the loops and curious capital letter forms that appear in standard cursive to be taught to children in government schools. As a result, the term "copperplate" is sometimes disparagingly used to refer to standard cursive.

Copperplate Gothic

Unlike the calligraphic fonts, Copperplate Gothic was designed by Frederic William Goudy for American Type Founders in the 1901. Gothic appears at first to be a sans serif, but actually has very small, fine serifs. Copperplate Gothic was originally designed for stationery and society printing, and is now used in many varieties of commercial printing.
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