Re: Magnani Pescia et al.. for gumprinting

From: Katharine Thayer ^lt;>
Date: 10/24/05-04:19:41 AM Z
Message-id: <>

davidhatton wrote:
> Dear All,
> Very soon I will be making my annual trek to the UK for reprovisioning etc..
> My brief encounter with Talbot paper from Ruscombe Mill really taught me
> a lot, so I won't be buying any more this side of Hell freezing over.
> I've no doubt that those of you with great expertise could make
> wonderful prints with it but for me it causes too many problems. So, I
> need a paper which
> a) does not cockle when wet,
> b) does not cockle when dry,
> c) does not expand and contract like a concertina during the Gum Process
> d) has a fine surface
> e) has a nice white colour (note the correct spelling Wikipedia)
> f) does not sink during development..
> In fact I want the perfect paper for Gumprints which are somewhat
> detailed. I can't afford to try lots of samples because of my remote
> location (somewhere in South-West Turkey) and I have to make my
> purchases in one hit.
> It has been suggested that Magnani Pescia has all these qualities. Does
> anyone use this paper. A certain famous Gum printer says Reeves BFK is
> unsuitable yet others say it is fine.

Hi David,
I have used Magnani Pescia occasionally over the years and always found
it a lovely paper to use, but I've mostly used it unsized and not for
multiple gum printings, so I can't tell you how it holds up under
multiple soakings. It shreds along the edges of cuts, which might
suggest that it could disintegrate if soaked too much... but then
Fabriano Uno and Fabriano Artistico Extra White also shred along the
edges of cuts (I was constantly having to clean out the channel of my
cutter when I used Uno) and they don't disintegrate in water, so
shredding while cutting is probably not a very good indicator of wet
strength or wet integrity of the paper. (BTW, Uno is no longer
available, having been replaced by Fabriano Artistico Extra-White).

I can only think of a couple of examples of prints on Pescia on my
website, visual demonstrations at

Scroll down to "Myths about gum." The first example under that heading
is a tiny section (less than an inch wide) of a gum print from an 8x10
negative on Pescia, enlarged to show how well gum can hold detail, if
printed from a large format negative onto smooth paper. The third
example in that section, the portrait, is also printed on Pescia, but
from a 35mm negative, cropped and enlarged and made into a digital
negative printed from a laser printer; its inclusion in this section is
to show that if softness is an object, it can be achieved by working
from 35mm negatives, cropping and enlarging and using ancient digital
printing methods (this was pre-inkjet printers) on paper, to make the

These were some of my early gum prints; the "Coffee Shop and Grille"
print was made even before I had a darkroom or a computer, and was
printed from an 8x10 negative borrowed from the historical collection of
a local photographer-collector so that I could experiment with gum
without actually investing anything in it. (It didn't take more than a
couple of prints to decide that this was definitely my medium). When I
was later deciding on a paper to call my own and to print tricolor gum
on, after spending some time printing gum on every paper known to man, I
settled on Arches hot press, but it was so long ago I can no longer
remember what the deciding factors were in the decision. It was probably
mostly subjective: I loved the warm color of the Arches and loved the
way it printed, especially the way it made beautiful tricolor gum
prints unsized, and I was happy with it until Arches changed the paper
and I stopped using it, around the end of the 20th century. I was ready
to make a change anyway, as at that time I was mostly interested in
printing high-key images with very fine tonal gradations in a very
narrow total range of mid-high tones, and the Arches didn't do that as
smoothly as I wished.

But this is the problem in trying to find the "perfect" gum printing
paper. Many, if not most, watercolor and printing papers will satisfy
your criteria, but you will find that you like some and not others, for
different reasons and depending on how you want your final print to
look. Many people have found Rives BFK a great gum printing paper. I've
never liked it myself, but would never use the phrase "unsuitable for
gum printing" to describe a paper that so many other gum printers have
used very successfully. And when I ran a print on it recently, to test
for myself the assertion that glyoxal-hardened gelatin on BFK would
produce a speckled print (it didn't) I was surprised at how fine detail
such a textured paper could render.

I personally don't like the surface texture of the Fabriano Artistico
Extra White, and I'm not crazy about the way the paper prints either,
but each to his own. My current paper favorite is Arches Bright White
HP, sized with glyoxal-hardened gelatin or a gelatin-gesso combination.
It prints gorgeously and with nice tonal gradations and expression of
fine detail. It has its own characteristics: it is a thin crisp paper
and in my experience can present some problems eventually (not during
development or drying but later, when experiencing environmental changes
while hanging) with differential shrinking when the gum is unevenly
distributed across the paper, especially when the image includes areas
of white paper where no gum is deposited. But this particular condition
being rather rare, I seem to have decided that the advantages of this
paper outweigh the drawbacks, for me; it continues to be my paper of
choice. (The one time I had a problem with warping while hanging, I had
the print dry-mounted to flatten it).

This example (below) was made to show something other than paper
comparison, and the test prints aren't the greatest on earth, but it
does show how Arches bright white prints for me compared to Fabriano
Artistico Extra White:

Recently I said that I am printing more on Yupo than on paper, but I've
found that my success rate on Yupo isn't 100% and I've dropped back to
printing mostly on the Arches bright white again while I try to work out
the problems with the yupo. The advantage of the yupo of course is that
drying time is cut down substantially; you can dry the gum with a hair
dryer in a few minutes and it's ready to re-print. But, there's
obviously some bugs with the yupo I haven't quite got worked out yet.

That's more than you want to know about paper for gum, but I think it's
important for you to know that there's not one right answer to the
question. My recommendation is usually to experiment with several
different papers and see how you like them, but I can see this would be
difficult if you have to travel across a continent to get your supplies.
Good luck,
Received on Mon Oct 24 11:40:08 2005

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