Reilly, James M. The Albumen & Salted Paper Book: The history and practice of photographic printing, 1840-1895. Light Impressions Corporation. Rochester, 1980.

Chapter Five
Alternative and Hybrid Papers

The effect is the most artistic yet obtained on any paper of any make.

--advertisement for "Albumat" brand matte albumen paper, 19121

Three basic kinds of salted papers:-- plain salted, arrowroot and albumen--have already been described in this book. These materials are of landmark historical importance and also are fundamental to any modern practice with handmade silver printing-out papers. However, they do not represent all of the possibilities of salted papers as a group. There are many alternative materials and techniques available which offer a very wide range of textures, colors, effects and contrasts. This chapter presents these alternative printing papers together with the historical context to which they belonged.

The handling and processing of these papers is generally the same as for the other salted papers already covered, but differences in processing will be noted. The main differences lie in the materials and techniques of coating the raw paper with organic binders to carry the silver image. Among the possible alternate materials useful as binders are whey2, casein3, agar-agar4, carrageenin (Irish moss)5, Iceland moss6, and various resins7. Each of these materials has a characteristic effect on the printing process, and many different printing papers may also be created by combining these various binder substances. Even if only one kind of binder is used, a whole range of effects may be accomplished by simply varying the dilution, i.e. the amount, of binder that is applied to the raw paper.

The most important historical example of this is albumen paper, which has been used in many different dilutions over the course of photographic history. Pure albumen produces the familiar glossy albumen paper, while 1:1 dilutions (with water) result in a half-matte paper. A dilution of 1:6 produces a paper that is almost indistinguishable from other matte salted papers. Even a 2% solution of albumen causes a significant improvement in depth and contrast over a paper that is simply salted and has no organic binder at all. Many early photographic prints were made with diluted albumen as a conscious choice over pure albumen. Some photographers preferred the diluted albumen because it was easier to tone, though many chose matte papers for aesthetic reasons.

As outlined in Chapter 3, the earliest printing papers were salted with only a plain solution of salt water and depended on organic sizing such as starch or gelatin already present in the paper to favorably affect the printing process. When the value of organic binders was realized, the salting step became a "salting-sizing" step, whereby suitable organic substances were coated onto the paper to give increased density and detail. Among the very first organic materials to be tried for this purpose were gelatin (ca. 1850)8, albumen (1850) and starch (1854). Less important, though also tried and used in the early 1850's was whey, or "serum of milk," of which the active sizing ingredient was lactose (milk sugar). During the period 1850-1855 fewer and fewer prints were made using only a plain salt solution; after 1855 most of the leading photographers were employing a salting-sizing solution based on the use of albumen in some dilution, gelatin, starch or whey. The majority of prints from the mid-1850's are matte, but not the very deep matte of simple salted paper. Also at this time the paper manufacturers were becoming aware of the photographic uses of their products, and some even offered specially sized and salted papers for photographic printing use.9

The first 25 years of photographic history were a period of very intense exploration of the possibilities of photographic materials, and printing papers were no exception. When the value of sizing on printing papers became clear, a wide variety of gums, sugars, starches, proteins, resins and other substances were tried. Of course most of these experiments yielded little or no improvement on established procedures, but the variety of published recipes alone is enormous, and sufficient to suggest that experimentation was the order of the day. Unlike later years when photographic techniques were conceived and maintained as proprietary secrets, the discoveries of this period were printed in journals and freely circulated, and this helped to further stimulate individual experimentation. Although indispensable to the evolution of photography as an art and science, all of this individual experimentation has created a very difficult situation for 20th-century curators and photographic conservators. These people are now charged with the formidable challenge of identification, and in some cases restoration, of these early prints.

The problem of process identification--not only for these early prints but for many much later prints--is very serious for the collector and curator as well as for the conservator. The attribution of a print to a specific photographer or the dating of a print may depend on a reliable process identification, but such an identification with salted papers is very difficult and in many cases impossible without resorting to destructive testing. Matte salted papers present this difficulty more often than glossy papers do, because with glossy papers there is usually enough binder material on the print to display that material's unique characteristics. For example, glossy albumen paper can usually be distinguished from gelatin printing-out paper fairly easily.

In the case of matte papers, materials are present in smaller quantities and tend to resemble each other, and differences in toning methods often obscure whatever clues the color of the image may provide. To make matters worse for the conservator, matte salted paper prints from this early period are very often the ones needing the most attention and care. At this point the knowledge and techniques to restore these prints are only beginning to be developed, and much more work and study need to be done. The first step is to understand from the historical context the complexity of the problem.

By 1865 the often confusing characteristics of printing-out papers had been fairly well established through experience and study, and some standardization of methods had been accomplished. Glossy albumen paper had become the most commonly used printing paper, and the bulk of it was no longer albumenized by the consumer, but in factories organized for the purpose. Factory-albumenized paper, though still prepared essentially by hand, was reasonably consistent in its appearance and results. It was welcomed as a time-saving alternative at first, and finally came to be regarded as a necessity. Most photographic manuals published after 1865 warn the novice photographer to avoid undue frustration and select his paper ready-made. However, many experienced photographers, especially those whose experience pre-dated the appearance of factory-made albumen and arrowroot papers, continued to produce their own salted papers.

During the last third of the 19th century the public at large and most professional photographers preferred glossy paper of various kinds (with albumen paper foremost until the early 90's), and matte salted papers became the province of those select professionals and amateurs who pursued photography as a means of artistic expression. Although most of the papers described in this chapter were pioneered in the 1850's and 1860's, they did not receive much attention until the late 1880's and 1890's, when salted papers enjoyed a revival, and a reaction set in against glossy papers among a whole new generation of photographers with a noncommercial, nonscientific orientation. As beautiful as glossy albumen paper could be, it became identified with the mediocre productions of commercial portrait studios, among which producing the glossiest possible prints seemed to be a matter of professional pride. The hand-coated matte salted papers were now seen as an attractive alternative, especially after new methods of platinum toning opened a whole range of brown and black image colors that were never possible before (see Chapter 8).

The salted paper revival began with photographers coating their own paper, but in the 1880's a number of matte salted papers appeared on the market and became modestly popular. Plain salted and arrowroot papers had never completely disappeared from trade lists, but among new types of paper were the so-called "Algeinpapiere" (made from Iceland moss), several different resin papers (made with mixed resin-gelatin and resin-starch binders) and matte albumen papers (made with mixtures of albumen and starch). These various matte salted papers were mainly produced in Europe by already established producers of albumen paper, and it appears that few, if any, were exported to the United States. Most of these papers were available in either sensitized or unsensitized condition.

One element which contributed to the salted paper revival was the popularity during the 1880's of true platinum prints, which many photographers admired but few could afford as the price of platinum soared in the early 1890's. It turned out to be cheaper to tone a silver print with a platinum toner than to make an actual platinotype print. Several manufacturers saw a marketing opportunity in this and offered matte salted papers under names like "silver-platinum paper,"10 etc. The finished prints somewhat resembled true platinotypes, but always retained certain characteristics of silver salted papers.

Matte albumen papers were the most popular commercial article of all the papers described in this chapter," but at their peak in the years preceding World War I they accounted for only a small percentage of the total photographic paper market. They faced competition from the many other "artistic' printing methods available at the time--platinum, gum bichromate, carbon printing, matte collodion emulsion-type papers,--and all matte salted papers also bore the stigma of alleged impermanence. Whether justified or not, the reputation of silver papers as impermanent was not helped by the advertising campaigns mounted by the manufacturers of carbon and platinum materials. By the end of the 1920's all matte salted papers were out of commercial production and belonged to the history of photography.12

Resin Papers

Resins were used as paper sizing (including photographic rawstocks) for most of the 19th century. The use of resins as an internal sizing for paper suggested that they could be adapted as an after-sizing for salted papers, and the idea was tried as early as the 1860's. One of the drawbacks to this idea was that thick deposits of resins are impermeable and the print can be toned, fixed and washed only with great difficulty. Also the yellow color of some resins together with a tendency of some batches of rosin to discolor after sensitization kept resin papers from wide use. In the 1880's resin papers were improved when Henry Cooper of England suggested a mixture of resin and gelatin be used instead of pure resins.13 This yielded a matte paper that gave soft results similar to platinum prints, especially when a black color was obtained through the use of combined gold and platinum toning.

The basis of resin papers is that a resin soap (made with a resin and an alkali) is combined with a soluble chloride and mixed with either gelatin or starch. This mixture is coated on paper and allowed to dry. When the paper is sensitized on a silver nitrate solution, the resin is precipitated and becomes insoluble, analogous to the way albumen is rendered insoluble on contact with silver nitrate. One of the most simple resin papers is this one, made with shellac and arrowroot:


This preparation (according to the method described in 1896 by A. von Hübl),14 can be used with most kinds of rawstocks; for well-sized, smooth rawstocks use the recommended amount of shellac solution, and for porous rawstocks up to double the recommended amount may be used. The first step is to prepare a shellac-ammonia solution by the following method: In a porcelain or enamel pan pour 100 ml water over 10 g powdered white shellac, then add 5 ml strong ammonia (CAUTION! Wear eye protection and work in a well ventilated area!) and heat with stirring until the solution is uniform. This solution will keep. Next make 100 ml of 2.5% arrowroot solution that contains 2.5 g sodium chloride. Make this according to the method of preparing an arrowroot solution given in Chapter 3. With vigorous stirring or shaking add 10 ml of the ammonia-shellac solution to the arrowroot solution. Pin the paper to a flat board and distribute the salting mixture evenly with a wide flat brush or a foam brush. With a dry brush smooth out and evenly distribute the coating until a uniform matte appearance is obtained, and hang the paper to dry in a warm place.

Sensitize the paper by floating it for 4 or 5 minutes on a silver solution made as follows:

Silver nitrate 120 g
Citric acid 80 g
Distilled water 1 liter

Although it is quite possible to tone the prints with gold toning baths, Hübl recommends toning them in a platinum toner (see Chapter 8). Combined gold and platinum toning (with gold first) will produce a neutral black tone, while platinum toner used alone will produce a succession of tones from reddish brown to black with reddish-violet cast. Prolonged platinum toning will lead to yellowing of the highlights. Other processing steps are done according to the general outline of processing for salted papers given at the end of Chapter 3.

Matte Albumen Paper

Matte albumen paper refers to a matte salted paper that has been prepared with a mixture of albumen and starch. It was the invention of Baron Arthur von Hübl, an Austrian who did a great deal to further the use of matte salted papers. Hübl also wrote extensively on the platinum printing process and on technical photographic matters Hübl's book on matte salted papers, Der Silberdruck auf Salzpapier (Silver Printing on Salted Paper) was published in 1896 Although unfortunately it was never translated into English the book remains the most complete and well written book on matte salted papers ever to appear. Many of the formulae he freely published in Der Silberdruck auf Salzpapier later made a great deal of money for photographic paper manufacturers.


Fig. 27. Advertisement for matte albumen paper in Paris Photo Gazette, April 25, 1909.

The original formula for matte-albumen paper was first published by Hübl in the journal Photographische Rundschau for Feb. 1895, and it described a paper made with a mixture of equal volumes of albumen and a 2% arrowroot solution. In 1898 the firm of E. Just in Vienna brought on the market a ready-sensitized paper based on Hübl's formula." In 1902 the long-established albumen paper manufacturer Trapp and Munch followed suit. The new product caught on with portrait photographers and partially revived a badly sagging market for the albumen paper producers. Many other companies started making matte albumen paper, giving their products names like Alboidin, Albumon, and Albumat." For the first few years the paper was made according to the original formula--which produced a deep matte surface--but in 1913 a half-matte paper appeared17; this was apparently accomplished by increasing the proportion of albumen in the salting solution. Following the taste of the day, most manufacturers of matte albumen paper offered an extremely wide choice of base stocks. Trapp and Munch offered 18 different choices, including Chinese and Japanese paper, several weights and colors, and a number of different textures.

Matte albumen paper found its chief commercial application among the more sophisticated (and expensive) portrait photographers of the time. Because the toning influenced the color of the print so completely--it was brownish red in the absence of any toning, purplish-black with only gold toning and warm brown to black with combined gold and platinum toning--there was ample opportunity to suit the color of the image to the overall feel of the portrait. Writers in photographic trade magazines rhapsodized over the similarities between matte albumen paper and the more "elegant" and "artistic" processes such as gum bichromate and platinum printing. Matte albumen paper was regarded as a great convenience compared to those processes which it allegedly resembled, but of course by modern business standards in the photographic portrait industry it would be seen as only slightly easier than printing an original portrait in oils.

Although matte albumen paper was mainly produced and consumed in Germany, it was exported to the rest of Europe in the years before World War 118; whether it reached American shores in any quantity during those years is unclear. Matte gelatin printing-out papers (produced by adding resins, starches or clays to the normal emulsion formulae) were much used in the United States and were toned by the same techniques used for matte albumen paper, hence confusion between the two materials is possible. In most cases, however, matte albumen paper will be found to have a slightly rougher, more matte surface than matte gelatin paper. After World War I the market for matte albumen paper declined sharply, because the austere economic conditions in Germany did not favor a printing paper that required precious metal toning. The last company to produce matte albumen paper was Trapp and Munch. They ceased production of it in 1929, issuing a brief statement saying that their "gaslight" developing-out paper (with the somewhat bizarre name of "Tuma-Gas") was in every way a worthy substitute.19 This announcement apparently marks the last time albumen paper of any sort was offered to the public; the last date of manufacture of the older glossy albumen paper was probably ca. 1926.


The following method of preparing matte albumen paper was described by Hübl in his book, Der Silderdruck auf Salzpapier.20 Matte albumen paper is prepared from fresh albumen; the freshest possible eggs are carefully separated, and the whites beaten to a froth just as in the preparation of the usual glossy variety of albumen paper described in Chapter 4. However, the albumen is not allowed to age--rather it is used at most 24 hours after it has settled back to a liquid state. It should be kept refrigerated during settling and filtered through muslin immediately before use. To prepare the salting solution combine 100 ml of fresh albumen with 100 ml of arrowroot solution prepared according to the instructions given in Chapter 3. The 100 ml of arrowroot solution should contain 4 g of sodium chloride.

Very porous rawstocks such as watercolor paper, etc., may require a pre-sizing with plain arrowroot to obtain the best results, but for most papers pre-sizing is not necessary. Pin the sheet of paper to be coated to a flat surface and distribute the arrowroot-albumen mixture according to the procedures outlined for arrowroot papers in Chapter 3. Hang the coated sheets to dry in a warm room. The coated paper will keep indefinitely if stored flat in a cool and dry place. To sensitize the paper float it for 1 to 2 minutes on a solution composed of:

Silver nitrate 120 g
Citric acid 15 g
Distilled water to make 1 liter

Paper thus sensitized will keep in good condition for several weeks, depending on the temperature and humidity of the storage environment. An alternative method of sensitization is to brush the silver solution on the paper with a wide, flat brush. Two brushings--allowing the paper to dry in between brushings--may be necessary to obtain sufficient strength of image. Shadow areas will be weak when sensitization has been insufficient.

It is very important to success with matte albumen paper to insure that the paper is not too dry at the time of printing. Excessive dryness of the paper will result in flat and weak prints. Conditioning the paper in a damp environment such as a basement or closed box with a dish of water inside will probably be necessary in order to obtain the best results. A special kind of blotting paper called "Hygro-Papier" was manufactured and sold by Trapp & Munch for use with matte albumen paper.21 The "Hygro-Papier" was dampened and placed behind the matte albumen paper in the printing frame to insure that a high level of moisture was maintained. Proper pre-conditioning of the sensitized paper should make such measures as "Hygro-Papier" unnecessary, however.

Matte albumen paper requires a negative of about the same density range as glossy albumen paper. The processing of matte albumen paper is the same as with most other kinds of salted paper, and the general outline given at the end of Chapter 3 should be followed. Care should be taken to insure a thorough initial wash that removes as much of the silver nitrate as possible. Most of the gold or platinum toners given in Chapter 8 will work on matte albumen paper. If combined gold and platinum toning is used, deep brown of brown-violet tones may be obtained. Matte albumen paper generally tones faster than glossy albumen paper. Fixing, washing and drying are the same as with most other salted papers.