ILFORD Bromide and GasLight Papers


Bromide Platinomatt Surface paper – (‘PMS’ paper). Image alongside, courtesy of Michael Talbert.

This Bromide Paper was first introduced in 1897. Notice that it pre-dates the change of company name to Ilford, Limited and is instead being sold by the original Harman company of The Britannia Works Co. Ltd.



Ilford Clorona paper introduced around 1933. Scan sent by "David".

Michael Talbert reports that warm tones on Ilford “Clorona” paper were popular in the 1930s. The Ilford Manual for 1935 gives two print developers, ID-23 and ID-24, suitable for producing warm-black to sepia to red tones on Clorona paper. The Ilford Manual also states that Clorona paper required a negative of “Fair contrast” when brown-sepia to red tones were desired. As the tone of the print changed from brown-black to sepia and finally to red, the visual contrast decreased, so a negative of fairly high contrast usually gave the best results. This is exactly what Michael found in the 1960s using Kodak's equivalent, Royal Bromesko paper.


Ilford Bromide, Selo Gaslight and Selo Contact paper boxes. Images supplied by Michael Talbert.

These boxes have been conveniently dated (25/2/144, 23/8/43 and 25/2/44) and so were products of Ilford during World War 2.

The lowest of the four boxes, labelled S.2 25P is thought to date to the 1930s.


The upper surface of the top box (B.1 1.P)
Although Ilford Bromide paper had been on sale since 1884, the box of bromide paper below is clearly much later, post-1945, since it has no Paddle Steamer trade marks. It is also a 'New Range' at the transition of Ilford' paper grading. Image by Simon Spaans.


Ilford Standard Selo GasLight paper, as used for making simple contact prints.

A Selo Gaslight printing paper packet image sent to me by Michael Talbert. He believes the packet dates to around 1940.

Gaslight printing paper was a slow (i.e. relatively light insensitive) paper used for making contact prints. "Contact" prints mean prints made by clamping the negative into close contact with the printing paper, hence the resulting print is exactly the same size as the negative. Such a printing method was frequently used when negatives were large enough (plates or large roll film sizes) to produce worthwhile 'same-size' prints. But the advent of miniature 35mm film cameras mostly made such a printing method obsolete and such small negatives were printed by projection using an 'enlarger' to yield a useful sized image.

The name Gas Light refers to yellow coloured light, as produced by 'Towns' gas when burnt in gas mantles for home lighting. The paper was largely insensitive to such light and so contact printing could be carried out in what was, until the 1930s, normal household room gas lighting. But the term (and the paper type) persisted into the electric light era (as with this 1940 packet), though it was necessary to take more care to shield the paper from direct light when using it in a room lit by electricity. By the 1950s, this type of slow, silver chloride based, printing paper was (correctly) renamed as Contact Printing Paper.

The pack of paper shown here is of ¼plate size (3¼" x 4¼") of Normal contrast grade, single weight (i.e. thick paper rather than card) and with a glossy surface (though requiring glazing to bring out the full glossy potential. Glazing involved squeegeeing the wet print (from its final wash) onto a sheet of glass and allowing the print to dry. With luck (!) the print would fall off the glass when dry and would have a perfect mirror glossy finish. Commercial printing laboratories used heated chromium glazing sheets rather than glass.

The code on the packet is S31P, which is odd as the paper is labelled as Normal grade, while 3 usually refers to a Hard or Vigorous grade.

Perhaps the 'Changes in Gradation' shown above explains the anomaly. It seems that post-1945 Ilford changed their printing paper contrast range such that the previous Grade 3 (vigorous) became named 'Normal' with a Grade 2 designation. The packet shown here seems to fall into the transition period when both grading nomenclatures were in use


This Selo pack probably dates from the mid-1930s and it is quite possible that the '35' in the lower right hand corner is a date mark for 1935. Image by Simon Spans.

Further images of Selo Gaslight printing paper (below), from this same era, have come to me from Bob Hindley.
He says "I attach some photos which will probably interest you. They are of an item I bought at a car boot sale earlier this morning (Feb 2015). It was very expensive - 50p".

The stamp on the back says County Borough (of) Halifax, 24 Sep 1938, Alien's Department.
"From what I can glean from the web, the Alien's Department must have been responsible for registering foreign nationals.
You'll see that the code is S41P and it's hard, glossy, single-weight".


A leaflet that was enclosed with Ilford Contact Paper in August 1949 can be downloaded here.

Michael Talbert has sent these three pictures of an Ilford paper surface sample booklet; just two stacks of small (7.5cm x 5cm) black and white prints on different surfaces stuck onto a piece of cardboard, demonstrating Bromide, Plastika and Contact papers. It probably dates to the early 1950s, but unfortunately is undated.

Similar samples were contained in the Ilford booklets on 'Printing and Enlarging', printed in March 1947 and in May 1955 (see my Ilford Chronology) and probably also in other years.

The 1955 entry suggests that perhaps the samples shown here may have originated within a 'Printing and Enlarging' edition dated prior to February 1953, the date when Multigrade was re-introduced.
Its likely that Multigrade samples would have otherwise been included, as with the 1955 edition.

There are 24 small prints, each made on a different surface or base colour, (white or cream), of Bromide, Plastika, and Contact papers.

This page last updated: 1st September 2020 (previously 3rd August 2019)