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British Journal of Photography - 1876

Communication by HJ Palmer to Edinburgh Photogrpahic Society

Experiences in Working

Gelatino-Bromide Emulsion

Lecture to EPS

Rev HJ Palmer gave a lecture to Edinburgh Photographic Society in January 1876, and followed this up with a communication to EPS, which was published in the British Journal of Photography on 10 March 1876.


He spoke of advantages of the gelatino-bromide emulsion over all other processes, whether wet or dry.  Namely:

-  It will give instantaneity in a good light.

-  It is a simpler and more certain mode of working.

-  It produces no fumes of ether, so noxious to some invalids.

-  It is the most inexpensive process that a photogrpaher can adopt.


He said that failures were normally the result of one of three causes:

1. The character of the light.
Palmer experimented with ruby and other safelights, and as a result of these experiments recommended Forrest's non-actinic orange, plus one thickness of orange tissue paper.  This, he claimed gave absolute freedom from fog, even with bright sunlight passing through it.

2. Want of patience in preparing the emulsion.
Palmer recommended placing the bottle containing the solution of the gelatine pellicle should be placed in a hot bath, and giving frequent stirrings with a glass rod until no soft substance could be detected at the bottom of the bottle.  Only then should the solution be passed through a fine linen to remove bubbles

3. The length of time allowed for the plates to dry spontaneously.
Palmer commented that too long protraction of the drying process could result in blistering at the centre of the plate and frilling at the margin of the plate.  He, and others, had devised apparatus to ensure that the plates could be placed on a level surface and a steady flow of warm dry air passed over them.

The Darkroom

Palmer described the part of his darkroom in which he dried his plates.  His warm air was provided by a paraffin lamp with iron cone attached.  The outlet from this apparatus was:

"fixed at the bottom of the drying cupboard;  the lamp underneath is called the "Rechaud spirit-lamp"  My cupboard contains four shelves, accurately levelled, and sufficiently capacious to hold eight dozen quarter plates or two dozen 9 x 7.

The top is my operating table, and in front are the light-tight doors with lock and key to baffle inquisitive visitors to the darkroom.

The Gelatino Bromide Emulsion Process

Palmer favoured the simplicity of using Kennett's pellicle,  but also gave a list of the ingredients required to make the emulsion ab initio, and instructions on how to mix these.

He also commented on the exposures required when using these plates, and how to intensify the image on the plate, should this be necessary.

Brief details of Palmer's recommendations can be found on the HJ Palmer - Gelatino Bromide Emulsion Process page of this web site.

[BJP: 10 March 1876; page 113]

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