Albumen paper

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Mer de Glâce, Chamonix
MFA# 1989.23


A photographic Printing out paper widely used from about 1850-1890. Albumen paper was invented by Louis Desiré Blanquart and presented to the French Academy of Sciences in 1850. Blanquart used a thin layer of egg white protein to disperse and bind photosensitive salts. Egg white was whipped then allowed to settle to a liquid; this formed a homogeneous liquid which was mixed with small amounts of salt (usually Sodium chloride or Ammonium chloride) and Citric acid, then spread as a thin layer over a high quality cellulosic paper. After drying, the layer was activated by treatment with Silver nitrate to form Silver chloride, a light sensitive compound. To create an image, a negative was placed in direct contact with the paper, then exposed to daylight. Once the development was complete, it was stopped by treating the paper with a fixing agent such as Sodium thiosulfate. Albumen prints were a golden to purplish brown color with a glossy surface. It was replaced in the 1890s by Silver gelatin paper.

U.S. Cruiser "Boston"
MFA# 1998.87

Synonyms and Related Terms

albumen print; albumen photograph


Common Types of Paper

Additional Images

Resources and Citations

  • James M. Reilly, The Albumen & Salted Paper Book: The history and practice of photographic printing, 1840-1895. Light Impressions Corporation. Rochester, 1980
  • Timothy Vitale, Paul Messier, "Physical and Mechanical Properties of Albumen Photographs" JAIC 33(3):279-99, 1994.
  • E.J.LaBarre, Dictionary and Encyclopedia of Paper and Paper-making, Swets & Zeitlinger, Amsterdam, 1969 Comment: dates of use = 1850-1890
  • The Dictionary of Art, Grove's Dictionaries Inc., New York, 1996 Comment: final date of use = 1895
  • Luis Nadeau, Encyclopedia of Printing, Photographic, and Photomechanical Processes, Atelier, New Brunswick, 1997 Comment: Invented by Louis Desire Blanquart in the late 1840s and presented to the French Academy of Sciences on May 27, 1850.
  • Caring for your Collections, Arthur W Schulz (ed.), Harry N. Abrams, Inc. , New York, 1992 Comment: Debbie Hess Norris chapter; dates of use = 1855-1885
  • Preservation 101 Glossary of Terms -invented in 1850 by Louis-Desire Blanquart-Evrard

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