A few weeks ago I was moving some uncatalogued material from one area of the Map Store to another, in order to make room to house part of the photographic collection. In the process I discovered a number of items I hadn’t previously come across. Among these were a number of interesting First World War maps and a 19th century jigsaw map of England & Wales; however perhaps the most interesting item I came across was this copper printing plate.
This hand engraved copper plate was used to print a world map in two hemispheres and perhaps the most interesting aspect is that this map is in Welsh. It is uncommon to find copper printing plates; most plates were either re-used for other prints, or wore out, or were just melted down.
The map is entitled ‘Darluniad y Ddaear’ and was originally drawn in 1805 by Robert Roberts. Iolo and Menai Roberts describe the map in their article, ‘Pre-Victorian printed maps in the Welsh language’; National Library of Wales Journal, XXXIII.3 (2004), pp. 285-311. This edition of the map was produced by R. Saunderson in 1836 for inclusion in the Rev. Thomas Charles’s Geiriadur Ysgrythyrol, vol. II (Bala, 1839). It is one of only a handful of Welsh language maps produced in the 19th century, and the survival of the copper plate is very rare for such a map.
On further investigation of the Library’s catalogues, I discovered that, in addition to the original copper plate for the map and several copies of the book, the Library also holds the original manuscript of ‘Geiriadur Ysgrythurol’ by Thomas Charles (Calvinistic Methodist Archives: Bala College I/790), and a licence to print the same, issued in 1818 (I/789). This shows how different aspects of our collections can enhance our knowledge and understanding of an item such as the printed book.