Backprinting on 20th Century Photographic Paper

The Paul Messier Historic Photographic Papers Collection

The collection contains approximately 4,000 samples, of which most have been fully catalogued by manufacturer, brand, surface texture and reflectance. Possibly the largest collection of its kind in the world, papers typically enter the collection in manufacturer sample books or in original manufacturer packages. With samples from 65 manufacturers comprising over 360 brands, the collection was started in the late 1990's to provide an objective baseline for dating and authenticating photographic prints as well as an aid to scholarship and connoisseurship. Aside for providing samples for the backprinting survey, the collection has been used for a number of studies that have significantly expanded the understanding of photographic papers. These projects include a survey for optical brightening agents, measurements of inorganic components in the baryta layers (in collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute), paper fiber identification (in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art and Integrated Paper Services), stability of optically brightened paper (in collaboration with the Art Conservation Research Center, Carnegie Mellon University). Aside from these studies and research applications, the collection serves the intrinsically valuable function of preserving the materials used by 20th Century photographers.

Contributions to the collection are gratefully accepted. In some cases, the purchase of unique papers and manufacturer sample books can be arranged, such inquiries are welcome. Please contact

packages of photgraphic paper

Packages of Ilford Document Vellum & Ferrania Vega ca. 1960

sample books

Neobrom (Czech manufacturer 1914-1998) sample books from ca. 1930

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