RIT Press publishes fascinating book on history of photographic printing

The RIT Press, a scholarly publishing enterprise at the Rochester Institute of Technology, has released the publication “The Albumen and Salted Paper Book” by James Reilly. The book is a descriptive history of the major photographic printing processes that were used between 1840 and 1895.

The first 50 years of photography established a tradition of individual experimentation and craftsmanship in which each photographer participated in the manufacture of printing materials that were used. Albumen print and salted paper print were the ordinary, all-purpose materials of the time. In fact, Albumen print is the second most common type of photograph ever made.

According to Reilly, the book combines full working directions for the albumen and salted paper print processes, extensive historical information about their fabrication and use in the 19th century, and recommendations for identification, storage and preservation.


Manufacture of albumen paper in Dresden circa 1890. The first step was to separate the eggs! (Photo courtesy of RIT Press).

“Process identification of 19th century print materials depends wholly on experience and judgment, and is a skill that slowly improves with practice,” Reilly explains. “In order to develop skills in identifying albumen and salted paper prints, original prints must be seen and handled.”

Reilly has written and lectured extensively on the environmental management of images and fine arts preservation. He is the Director of the Image Permanence Institute, a recognized leader in the development and deployment of sustainable practices for the preservation of images and cultural properties. IPI is jointly sponsored by RIT and The Society for Imaging Science and Technology.

The Albumen and Salted Paper Book is available for purchase in hardcover at For RIT news, photos and videos, go to