U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Mucotypes


Folks - it's all been  done - 148 years ago:

See: 'On Proto-photography and the Shroud of Turin', History of Photography, 21 (4), 261-269, (Winter 1997).

From which, I quote:-

"Molluscan Dyes

If the Mediterranean sea-snail, Murex Brandaris, is broken open close to the gills, its hypobranchial gland yields a yellow slime that is transformed by sunlight into Tyrian Purple. This superb dye is now known to be dibromo-indigo, and the photochemistry of its formation is well-understood.65 Tyrian purple was known to the Phoenicians and used for dyeing the robes of Imperial Rome; it has also been identified with the biblical dye, Argaman, used on the fabric of ritual vestments in the Judaic tradition.66
At least twelve species of shellfish are known to yield photosensitive extracts which are transformed by sunlight into purple or blue dyes of the indigo family; one is even common around the coasts of Britain.67 These are perfect, ready-made proto-photographic sensitizers, naturally-available products, and at one time articles of commerce. In 1859, Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers demonstrated their photographic suitability by contact-printing images on silk using an extract of Purpura Lapillus.68 The images are easily fixed by washing, and examples persist today.69

65 R. H. Michael and P. E. McGovern, Archeomaterials, 1 (1987), 135.
66 Irving I. Ziderman, ‘Biblical Dyes of Animal Origin’, Chemistry in Britain, 22:5 (May 1986), 419; idem, ‘Blue Thread of the Tzitzit: Was the Ancient Dye a Prussian Blue or Tyrian Purple?’, Journal of the Society of Dyers and Colourists, 97 (August 1981), 362.
67 How many readers have wondered about those blue sea-gull droppings to be seen on the pavements of our coastal resorts?
68 Henri de Lacase-Duthiers, Proceedings of the Royal Society, 10 (1860), 579
69 Keith Moore, Fixing a shadow: photography, the Royal Society and its Fellows, 1839-1889, London: The Royal Society 1989."

The slime prints - no, MUCOTYPES - I approve this new nomenclature! - made by  Henri de Lascaze-Duthiers in 1859 are still there in the Royal Society's collection in London. You can read his original paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, 10 (1860) 579-584.

There was also a latterday reconstruction by a group of intrepid mollusc-hunters who went off to Scotland to collect dog whelks and extracted the photosensitive mucus from them, and demonstrated its response to sunlight. See: Dyes in History and Archeology, 14 (1996) 70-78.

Happy Escargology,