Henry Taylor was an early photographer in my home county of Surrey. His business was as a Chemist , druggist and bookseller. This article was originally published in the International Annual of Anthony's Photographic Bulletin in June 1889. It offers an insight into the world of the Calotype in the 1850s and Henry Taylor plainly looks back to these formative years with fondness.
THE CALOTYPE PROCESS, AND HOW WE PHOTO-
GRAPHED IN THE FIFTIES.
By H, D, Taylor*
I am indebted to the Hon. Arthur Kerr for my introduction to
photography. In the year 1853 he was staying in my neighbor-
hood (Godalming), and as he had just been taking lessons from
•Thirty years ago Mr. Taylor stood in the front rank of Bnglish photographers,
the contemporary criticism on his work in the Athenaeum Art Journal etc., certify this.
Mr. Buckle, of Leamington, in ,calotype, he offered to instruct
me in its mysteries. On the principle "palmam qui meruit
ferat" I should prefer to call the process "Talbotype"; as Mr.
Fox Talbot was its author.
I was anxious that my success should not be marred by the use
of imperfect instruments, I therefore procured from Ross a cam-
era to take pictures 8 1/2 x6 1/2 inches, with two double backs for
paper, a landscape lens 2 1/2 inches diameter, stand, etc., costing
about £16. I had prepared- some paper, and on the receipt of my
apparatus August 1, 1853, 1 produced my first picture, which was
tolerably successful. I will describe in detail the process I
adopted : First, to make iodized paper : The method I first used
was to wash over the paper, cut a little larger than the proposed
negative, with a solution of nitrate of silver, 30 grains to the
ounce, and when this was absorbed it was put in a bath of iodide
of potassium, 20 grains to the ounce ; then thoroughly washed to
free it from nitrate of potash and hung up to dry. A better
method which I subsequently adopted was to use a double iodide
of silver and potassium made thus : Dissolve separately in dis-
tilled water 60 grains each of nitrate of silver and iodide of po-
tassium ; mix and allow precipitate to subside ; wash it in several
waters, add 4 ounces distilled water and 600 grains iodide of po-
tassium, or sufficient to redissolve the precipitate. The paper I
found best for negatives was Turner's, made at Chafford Mills,
near Penshurst. This paper, and I believe most English papers,
are sized with gelatine, the foreign papers with starch, and I
attribute the superiority of the former to its containing gelatine.
The paper being cut to the size somewhat larger than the pro-
posed negative, have a board larger than the paper covered with
flannel on one side, on the other side a piece of webbing nailed
on, to put the hand in.
Lay a piece of white blotting paper larger than the negative
paper on the flannel ; on this, the negative paper, pin with silver
pins the four corners to keep the whole firm. Then take a thick
glass tube like a test tube, but open at both ends, and a thick
piece of silver wire longer than the tube, with a hook at one end
and some cotton wool quite clean. Take a piece of the wool, say
about the size of an egg, and with the hook catch the middle of
it and draw it about an inch into the tube. Trim the tuft of
loose fibres, and it is ready for use. It will form a most conveni-
ent brush which has frequently to be used in the process. It
was the invention of Mr. Buckle and was known by his name.
Its advantages are obvious. There is nothing to disturb the
chemicals, and a new brush can be made in a moment. Some
used a glass rod and other contrivances, but nothing can be better
than Buckle's brush. I recollect having a brush with Dr. Dia-
mond on this subject in one of the Journals, Pour into a glass
measure a small quantity of the double iodide solution ; 1 ounce
will cover 10 pieces 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches. Saturate the brush and wash over
the paper, beginning at the top, by broad strokes to and fro hori-
zontally, and finally in the contrary direction. Lay aside for a
short time and let the paper absorb the solution ; then place in a
large dish of clean water and change it several times to free it
from iodide of potassium. Several sheets may be put into one
dish, but they must not be allowed to lie close together. The
iodide of silver remains in the paper and colors it a pale prim-
My paper generally remained in the water all night, and was
then hung up to dry. Light does not affect it ; on the contrary,
we were in the habit of exposing it to the sun, under glass, for
some hours. I cannot say if this was necessary. Each sheet
should have a pencil mark at the back, because the iodized sur-
face is not easily distinguishable in a yellow light.
The next step is to excite for camera, which must be done in a
yellow light. Cut the iodized paper to the exact size of the holder.
Take the board with a clean piece of blotting paper on it and
pin a piece of the iodized paper by the four corners on it. Make
the two solutions following :
Nitrate of silver _ 50 grains.
Distilled water _ 1 ounce.
Acetic acid 80 drops.
Call this Solution A.
Gallic acid 10 grains.
Distilled water 2 ounces.
Call it Solution B.
Take 2 drachms distilled water, add 6 drops of Solution A, and
then 6 of Solution B. Do not mix the two solutions till one is
diluted with water. This quantity is sufficient for 2 pieces
8 1/2 inches x6 1/2 inches Brush over evenly, leave for half a minute, and blot
off with clean blotting paper ; place in the holder. In backs
intended for 2 pieces of paper, place a piece of red blotting paper
between the two, taking care that the sensitive surfaces are next
the glass. The time of exposure, subject of course to amount
of light, was 4 or 5 minutes.
■ To develop picture : Take of Solutions A and B equal parts ;
about 40 drops of each are required for 2 pictures.
Should the negative be visible beyond a pink sky, wash over
first with Solution B. Pin the negative on the board and proceed
to wash over evenly with the brush. When the development is
nearly complete wash over finally with Solution B.
Then wash in three waters and set in a solution of hyposul-
phite of soda, 1 ounce to 20 of water. When free from yellow
iodide, wash in several changes of water to take out hyposul-
phite of silver. It may then be hung up to dry, or at once freed
from size. For this purpose place it in a shallow porcelain dish
and pour boiling water over it. When transparent hang up to
dry, or remove the water by blotting paper. When dry iron
with a box-iron. Hold the iron in the right hand, and in the
left a piece of white wax ; melt the wax with the hot iron and
saturate the negative with it ; remove any superfluity by ironing
it between sheets of blotting paper. It should then be almost
as transparent as glass. The final step is to print from these
I had a great objection to albumenized papers and printed my
proofs in manner following : Salt any good paper with a solution
of chloride of ammonium, 20 grains to each ounce of water.
When dry, pin a piece on the board and wash over with a Buckle
brush the following solution :
Nitrate of silver 30 or 40 grains.
Distilled water 1 ounce.
When dissolved add solution of ammonia sufficient, after pre-
cipitating oxide, to nearly redissolve precipitate.
Fix in a bath of one ounce hyposulphite of soda to 20 ounces of
water and tone as usual.
I claim for the calotype several advantages : First, for cleanliness
— there is no need for dirty fingers ; next, no necessity to work
in darkness. One or at most two thicknesses of yellow calico are
sufficient during any stage to keep out excess of light so that the
development can be pleasurably watched. I have frequently had
quite a bevy of ladies looking on during the development of my
day';s work. Further, the development can be very much con-
trolled — parts which are slow in making their appearance can be
stimulated with a few drops of Solution A, and when it is too
rapid can be retarded by a wash of Solution B.
I had a camera made for pictures 15x12, and the process is as
easily worked as in that I have described. I made compara-
tively few pictures with it ; other engagements prevented my
I took with me on an excursion 4 pieces of paper sensitized in
two double backs, which I carried in a flannel bag with two
divisions by a strap over the shoulder. In very hot weather I
wrapped the whole in a woolen shawl dipped in a brook and
wrung out to keep it cool. The negatives were generally devel-
oped in the evening by the light of an ordinary candle.
When taken out of the backs the sky is generally of a light
pink color ; if much detail appears it is a sign of over exposure.
As this is a slow process, calm weather is most desirable ; the
best time to insure this is about an hour after sunrise, and in this
way I have been able to take sharp negatives of leaves and corn,
although the exposure was 5 minutes. Calotype and the mod-
ern methods may be compared to traveling in the old time and
to-day ; the former in both cases is, I think, the pleasanter. I
have had a large experience in photography since collodion
drove calotype out of the field — in the exhibition of 1861 and
two journeys to France — but the early days have the most agree-
able reminiscences. In addition to exhibiting my pictures in
London, Edinburgh, Norwich, Manchester, Cheltenham, etc., I
sent some to Brussels in 1856, for which they awarded me a medal.
I made large quantities of iodized paper for amateurs ; a Mr.
Raven ordered 300 pieces 12x10 to take with him on a conti-
nental trip. Among the workers in calotype at that period were
the following :
Rev. J. R. Major,
Rev. F. A. S. Marshall,
Rev. T. M. Raven,
Rev. J. Winter,
The Hon. A. S. Kerr,
C. Innes, Edinburgh,
G. Moir, Edinburgh,
B. B. Turner,