Henry Fox Talbot
the salt paper print process in 1834.
This process was used:
to make prints first from Talbot's photogenic
from the early 1840s
onwards, to make prints from
negatives produced by Talbot and others.
- later, occasionally to make
prints from collodion negatives on glass
Create the Image
fine writing paper in a weak solution of common salt (sodium chloride).
the paper to dry it.
Coat the paper with a 20% solution of silver nitrate.
This creates silver nitrate
crystals. These are deposited within the fibres of the paper; not
held in by gelatin as was the case with later processes. The
amount of silver deposited in the paper was only about one tenth the
level that is found in modern prints.
Lay the negative over the paper and expose to sunlight.
Fix the Image
After exposure fix the image to ensure that it remains captured on the
paper. Fixing can be achieved by using:
- a concentrated solution of silver nitrate
- hyposulphite of soda
('hypo') as is used today, or
- one of the halides such as silver iodide.
use of sodium hyposulphite (hypo) to fix prints was known from the early
days, but Talbot continued to use his concentrated silver nitrate (salt)
early photographers in St Andrews also persisted with salt fixing their
prints, and had difficulty achieving successful results.
Talbot changed to using silver bromide to fix his prints.
more popular fixer, used by others was silver iodide. Silver
chloride and potassium bromide could also be used.
& Adamson experimented with several of these fixing solutions.
5. After fixing, wash he
print thoroughly to remove the fixer and prevent it subsequently
damaging the print. Some photographers washed their prints for 12
to 24 hours or longer, perhaps using 20 changes of water.
Blanquet- Evrard's Announcement
The above is
a 'printing-out process'. This is the process that was normally
Blanquet-Evrard, in 1851 announced that it was possible to
produce prints more quickly by developing, fixing and washing, as for a
Hill & Adamson's Results
was a small brown image, which could be delightful when well printed,
though many early photographers had difficulty making successful salt
The success of the
process, and the amount of detail retained in the calotype
depended on many factors, including the batch of paper used.
Talbot often used Watman's Rag Paper.
Turner's Patent Tablotype paper gave excellent results in
the late 1840s and early 1850s.
Much of the paper produced today includes bleaches, or
even hypo, and so is not suitable for making calotype prints.
image was very delicate and liable to fade. Fading can be reduced by the
exclusion of air. e.g. when two prints have been pressed together
in a photographic album, they tend to show less fading.
of Talbot's images have faded badly.
& Adamson's images have survived better, apart from fading around the
edges of some. This may be due to the care taken by Adamson in
making the prints - possibly even due to some particular aspect of
Adamson's processing. DO Hill remarked that Adamson
thinks he knows some things others do not."
in the Print
Tones of salted
paper prints can vary from reddish-brown to chestnut brown;
purplish brown if toned with gold chloride for greater permanence;
yellowish brown if faded.
They sometimes exhibit a lilac
tone. This is likely to occur in prints fixed with silver chloride,
and is due to incomplete removal of silver by the fixer.
They sometimes exhibit primrose
yellow tones. This is
likely to occur in iodide-fixed prints, and is due to silver chloride
having been transformed to silver iodide.
Surface of the Print
Except for those that hae been glazed or
varnished with a thin coating of albumen (so producing albumenized salt
prints), salt paper prints have a matt surface. The tones are
embedded in the fibres of the paper.
Waxing of the negative paper
enabled more detail to be retained, and prevented the fibres of the
calotype negative being seen in the final print.
Hill & Adamson
work of Talbot in Edinburgh, Hill and Adamson and other early Edinburgh
photographers is mentioned on the page
describing the Calotype process.
Talbot left a documentary
record of his methods for producing prints. Hill &
Adamson did not.
Museum of Edinburgh
have begun at the Museum of Edinburgh, carrying out non-destructive
analysis of some of Hill & Adamson's calotypes and prints looking
for the levels of silver, bromide, iodine, iron, cobalt, copper,
zink arsenic and other elements in these prints.
should help in determining what chemicals were likely to have been
added in the smelt during the paper-making, and what chemicals were used
by Adamson in making the his prints.
are ongoing. It appears that Adamson appears to have experimented
with different chemicals, but no 'secret ingredient' has been found.
who gave a lecture on chemicals used by early photographers, including
and Adamson, at the
Hill Bi-Centenary Conference.
who gave a lecture on her team's analysis of calotypes and prints by
Robert Adamson, at the
Hill Bi-Centenary Conference.
Richard Morris, who gave a
of the calotype process in Edinburgh on 11 May 02, for comments on
salted paper prints. Richard Morris recommends the book:
Albumen and Salted Paper Book - The History and Practice of Photographic
Printing 1840-1895 by James