The Chrysotype Manual

Image by Greatpatton. Released under terms of the GFDL. Uploaded to English Wikipedia on 20 July 2003.Mike Ware has politely encouraged me to read more of his work – which in my case is more a re-reading carefully.

I had read his Cyanotype book early on (now very out of print, and unlikely to return, and commanding premium prices on the used book market if you can find it) when I was starting out. Faced with an 11 hour trip to Stockholm, I took with me Mike’s practical book The Chrysotype Manual: The Science and Practice of Photographic Printing in Gold. Long plane flights are conducive to concentration.

I highly recommend this book to alternative process practitioners of all walks. I’ve found again and again that some section or description in an unrelated process may shed some light on some difficulty one is encountering elsewhere. Spiral bound, heavy translucent plastic front and back protectors, able to lay flat in the dim room as you concoct a sensitizer, Mike’s book is full of practical information that has bearing on other processes, particularly the iron-based processes of platinotype, argyrotype, cyanotype and of course, chrysotype.

It starts with a solid description of the working environment for alternative process printing, and covers issues of ambient light, printing frames, negatives, wet processing, drying and retouching prints. All well organized, and frankly geared towards an economical approach to printing.

The second chapter on Choice and Coating of Paper is illuminating as to the problems one can encounter in many of these historic processes. Unlike silver gelatin papers where the sensitizer is suspended in gelatin above the surface of the paper which simply acts as an inert substrate, hand-coated processes such as platinotype embed the sensitizer into the fibers themselves where the acid loving processes have ample opportunity to react badly to any additives or contaminants rendering many fine art papers useless for a given process. Mike discusses acidification methods to bring a wider range of papers into play. The background material on paper manufacture, factors affecting strength and curling, and his work with Ruscombe Paper Mill to design a paper for alternative printing processes provide a wealth of detail that may help the practitioner puzzle through problems in the dim room.

Mike is a rigorous chemist by background. His information on processes, reactions and methods of chemistry are by far the most detailed I’ve seen in the literature on these historic processes. He writes in an approachable fashion. For many, the material may serve only as reference for some future point, but Mike covers the practical aspects as simply as possible.

_mg_1525The core of the book is on the New Chrysotype process itself. I’ll leave a discussion on that for a future posting, as I have the chemicals assembled to make a run at the process, and some papers to attack it with. I’d rather describe that as an experience later. The wide possibility of tones and colors achievable with a chrysotype is alluring.

As I mentioned previously, this book is the companion practical manual to the well written (and quickly read) Gold in Photography: The History and Art of the Chrysotype. Both texts are still available from Siderotype.com. I’m not one to push hard on something, but do yourself a favor and purchase the books before they go out of print. I have had a couple frights with recent texts. After giving my second copy of Mike’s Cyanotype text to Mark Nelson as a gift, I misplaced my copy and found out it was (expensively) out of print. Luckily I found it. I damaged my Arentz book recently (coffee and water spill) and luckily it is available and I ordered another. An interesting book I picked up in 2005, Photography’s Antiquarian Avant-Garde was published in 2002 and is already out of print – at least the used price has come down somewhat. Given my ability to damage and lose books, I picked up an extra copy of each of the chrysotype books while I could. Silly, I know, but I sleep better now.

Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

One Comment

  1. Posted Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    The new link for Siderotype.com is http://www.siderotype.com/ and both ‘The Chrysotype Manual’ and ‘Gold in Photography’ can be found at http://www.siderotype.com/publications.html


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