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The Art and Practice of Silver Printingby Robinson and Abney
Synopses & Reviews
This is a classic text that was reprinted a few decades ago. But even the few reprints available sell for well more than a hundred dollars. I suspect those who know the significance of the book acquired it, and won't let it go.
It's about making photographic prints on paper with egg whites, better known as albumen. Until the 1880's almost every photograph was made this way.
You take egg whites and whip them up until they're liquid instead of stringy. I use a blender for a couple of minutes. Then you add ammonium chloride, the first cousin of table salt, also known as sal ammoniac. It's cheap and available. Then you float the paper on the albumen for a few minutes and hang it to dry. If you want even more gloss and depth, you can coat a second time.
Once dry, in a darkroom which isn't really very dark, you float the paper on a silver nitrate solution to sensitize and then let it dry.
Next you put a negative on top of the paper in a simple print frame and let the sun make your print. No enlarger. No optics. No expensive equipment. (Although I use a bank of UV flourescent tubes instead of the sun.) After that you tone with gold, or sodium sulfide, and then fix and wash like modern print materials.
Albumen prints need high contrast negatives that bring the best out in low-contrast albumen materials. The prints can be stunning. There's a richness and warmth that is rarely found in modern gelatin materials.
The authors here, talk about preliminary experiments, preparation of albumenized paper, the sensitizing bath, how to keep the bath in order, silvering the paper, washed sensitive paper, cutting paper, printing frames, preparing the landscape negative, printing the landscape, preparing the portrait negative, vignetting, printing the portrait, combination printing, toning, fixing, washing, printing on plain paper, printing on resinized paper, printing on gelatino-chloride emulsion paper, drying the prints, mounting, defects, encaustic paste and more.
Captain Abney was a leader in photography in England, credited with introducing hydroquinone as a developer. This 1881 American edition is a book any silver printer should have as reference. And our price is so low, you can't afford not to have one. Abney's rules-of-thumb for success are worth the price alone. You get a rare photography book revealing the secrets of how the old guys did it. I think you'll want to build a camera and try it!
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