Copper is known for usage for mankind from Chalcolithic age. The same was used for writing from early times. Copper is beaten into thin sheets and letters are incised on that. The earlier copper plates particularly Taxila plate and the plates of Western Gaṅgas are similar to Palm leaf in size. The North Indian Plates are wider than that of south Indian ones. The document made up of copper may contain several plates and they are strung together. A hole is made at the top or at the left edge and a brass ring will pass through the hole. A royal signet is impressed on the seal so that addition or replacement may be avoided. The first and last plates are written only on the inner sides where the others are written on both the sides. The four edges are made slightly higher to avoid friction. The poems written by the royal poet will be inscribed on the plate by the goldsmith.
The copper plates are termed as Tāmra Paṭa, Tāmra Paṭṭikā, Phalaka, Patra, śāsana and Dānapatra. The usage of Tāmra śāsanas are huge in number in south after 12th CE before which the use was common.
Usually the content of the Tāmraśāsanas are legal documents.
The earliest copper plate is from Sohgaura assigned to Pre Asokan period on paleographical ground. The plate is not engraved but cast on mould of sand.
The second earliest plate is from Śrī vihāra plate from Punjab dating back to 46 BCE. The Taxila plates are dated as 1st CE.
There are a few instances where literarical compositions are also available in copper plate. Hundreds of thick copper plates were discovered at the Saṅkīrtana Bhāṇḍāgāra inside the Bālaji Temple, Tirupati in 1922. These plates contain 12000 music compositions called Saṅkīrtana in praise of Lord Veṅkateśvara and composed by Tāḷḷapāka Annamācārya.
Songs of Tālapaka Vāriyār were also found during 1904.