THE PHOTOGRAPHIC NEWS, February 15, 1861, p.77
The principal troubles met with in alkaline gold toning may be embraced under the following heads :--
Weakness and flatness of image.
General greyness of tone.
Red spots and streaks.
Weakness and flatness of image is generally caused by the negative being deficient in contrast:
One peculiarity of toning by this method is, that a good print can only be obtained from a good negative. By the old method, a passable one could be got from a weak negative, by over-printing and reducing in the toning.
Generally, however, a weak and flat appearance is indicative of the silver solution being too weak. This use of a weak silver solution is one of the greatest causes of trouble, I take this opportunity of urging, as I have already done elsewhere, the use of the little instrument known as the hydrometer silver-tester, for estimating the amount of nitrate of silver in solution, every morning before sensitizing paper. No person knows, unless he has tested how rapidly the, silver is abstracted from their bath by sensitizing paper. If objection be made to the instrument I have named, then use one of the other argentometers; they are all good and efficient, only do use some one of them.
A general greyness and coldness of tone,--Over-toning is the general cause of this. Not being exposed long enough in the printing frame, and being kept too long in the toning solution, will always produce this effect. The remedy is obvious. Papers excited, on weak silver solutions have a constant tendency this way. Some, papers are more subject to it than others, and on some Saxe papers it is too easily produced. Rive papers do not go into the, inky tones but adhere to the purple brown tints.
A general mealiness--This at first sight appears to be a defect in the albumenizing, and yet it really is not so, for neither the albumen or the albumenizer is at fault, but the plain paper. It took me some considerable time to establish this fact, but I am quite convinced of it now.
This defect exists principally in coarse paper. When laid on the albumen it absorbs it unequally, and when dried the surface is seen full of small hillocks and hollows arising from this unequal absorption. Now as the gold requires a uniform surface of albumen to produce a uniform tint, it is seen that it cannot be obtained here, for the valleys, so to speak, tone first, and as they have less albumen on them, they are finished before the hillocks scarcely begin; the print taken out at this stage is covered with minute red spots of untoned albumen; now let it be replaced, and the toning continued till these spots are the desired colour; by this time the valleys are over-toned and have turned to a lighter grey, and the picture has that unpleasant speckled and dotted appearance, as if it had been dusted with fine flour and in rubbing off, it had got ground into the pores of the albumen. Paper having this defect should be condemned as although it may be modified by manipulation, it never gives good pictures. Rive paper is very rarely subject to this objectionable peculiarity.
Red spots and. streaks. These are often caused by the paper being badly albumenized, and are then defects of manipulation but they are often to be attributed to irregularities in the surface of the primitive paper, some parts absorbing more than the rest, and in toning, as the gold changes the colour just in the proportion of albumen present, so the difference of colour produced registers the exact amount of albumen, the red spots, lines, and patches shewing the irregular amount of albumen present. Remedy: better paper.
Blisters.--The defects hitherto pointed out belong mainly to German paper, but blisters are more prone to the thick Rive papers. The albumenizer is often charged with these, as though they were his fault. He is no more accountable for them, often much less, than the person who uses the paper. They range in size from a pin's head to a marble, or larger. They may be found in any very highly albumenized paper, and only in that description, and arc less frequent in thin than in thick papers, being scarcely ever found in thin Saxe, and most abundant in thick Rive. These blisters usually take an oval form, and seem to be formed by a gas being generated in the body of the paper which by its dilation, causes the soft and elastic albumen to expand also. The paper however splits into two layers, one portion remaining attached to the albumen. As a rule the greater the relative amount of carbonate of soda present, so is the tendency to blisters. Many papers will blister when a large quantity of the carbonate is added to the gold, which, if the latter be used acid or neutral, will not blister at all. This quite favours the idea already named as to their probable origin, for if the soda base unite with any of the acid sizing material in the body of the paper, the carbonic acid in struggling to escape would cause the distension of the albumen surface, and thus obviously explain the presence of blisters. They generally go down in drying.
I think I have pointed out the principal defects complained of, and apart from ourselves and our own defective manipulation, the great cause of the difficulties lies in the very plain papers themselves.
Those who albumenize paper must endeavour to have some control over the sizing, so that they may guarantee a more, uniform article. Many persons think that the faults lie with the individuals who albumenize the papers. This-is a mistake. These persons, when they prepare a large batch of albumen, float thin and thick paper, Saxe, English, Rive, all On the same albumen, in fact, treat them all alike; but the papers, as you know, all give different tones. Much less is in the albumenizer's domain than is supposed. Speaking of albumen, there are many false notions extant. Gelatine, dextrine, gum arabic, &c. are supposed to be added to albumen to increase the glaze; and many faults are attributed to these sources; whereas I believe that no substance whatever, chloride and acetic acid excepted, is added to the albumen, in this country at least. The cause of those bad smelling papers is decomposed albumen, than which few things have amore foetid odour.
Not long since, one gentleman, who ought to have known better, burst forth with a grand panacea for all our troubles; a something which, if added to our albumen, everything was to go right, and without it all formulae were hopelessly wrong. After this grand flourish of trumpets, and when on the tiptoe of expectation, we were told to wait a fortnight--whole fortnight of anxious suspense, for the secret was too great to be hurriedly told--when, wonder of wonders, the mountain commenced its labours, and, a few drops of acetic acid oozed out. This, added to albumen, was to be a cure for all the ills albumen was heir to. Jesting apart, for the matter can only be so treated, despite the oracular method of its utterance, and the ponderous effort to astonish the world whatever small merit the addition of acetic acid to albumen may have, has long been known and is constantly practised. It does aid in producing limpidity, and, perhaps, tends to keep the whites clear, but it is so utterly inefficient to cope with the greater difficulties already named, that, while acknowledging its humble aid, all its extraordinary merits I dismiss to the safe keeping of the gentleman who made the discovery.
In leaving the matter in your hands, for I have only attempted to open it, allow me to say, that although we have troubles with our paper now we are not peculiar, and need not despond, for troubles with paper have always existed In early calotype days the cry was, where can we get good paper? The present are not the first complaints on printing. When the first novelty was past, producing prints at all, complaints were made of the foxy hue and dead sunken-in effect of our prints. Albumen was then introduced to give a finer surface and greater brilliancy. This was all very well, but there remained the odious colour, something between brick-dust and gingerbread, when that awful mystery of "toning" was invented, and we first got glimpses of that "beauty which only leads to destruction." During that brief period how we revelled in our new-born powers. Who would not be a photographer to produce such tones, such blacks, such whites? You remember that famous "Crucifixion." What a delusion we laboured under then? It was as though we had bargained with the Evil One to have temporary good for permanent ill--selling for fleeting. beauty all future permanence. It was an awful "sell," that villainous mixture of sulphur and acid, and hypo and gold, and silver and chloride, and nitrate, and--what not. That ominous black pool, thick with ooze and slime, and fearfully suggestive, by its very brimstone smell, of the dreadful fate reserved for the young print, just fresh from the printing-frame, full of its fresh purple beauty. See, it takes the fatal plunge deep into this black ditch, and when we see it again, its virgin charms are all gone; wan and pale, disrobed of its early attractions, there, in that dark pool, it must in penance lie, till, forgetting its former self, it emerges, sallow in hue, black, in shadow, a delusive beauty in its face, disease at its heart, a mockery, a delusion, and a snare, and fitting triumph of the demon--Sulphur:
Let us hope that these times are all past, that, in a photographic sense, the golden age is at hand, when our beauties will be as permanent as they are true. It is true some few of us still linger and look back fondly at the good old hypo times, who are sceptics as to the "good time coming," who sigh for the flesh-pots of Egypt; as an off-set to these--the archaeologists of photography--let us point to the noble monument existing in the present Photographic Exhibition, where the few sulphur-toned prints present show up, by very contrast, the splendid success of alkaline gold toning.