This section is from the book "A Manual Of Photography", by Robert Hunt. Also available from Amazon: A Manual of Photography.
" A mezzotinto picture was now pressed on a glazed frame over another portion of the same paper, and abandoned on the upper shelf of a green-house to whatever sun might occur from August 19 to October 19. The interval proved one of almost uninterrupted storm, rain, and darkness. On removal, no appearance whatever of any impressed picture could be discerned, nor was it even possible to tell the top of the picture from the bottom. It was then exposed in a glass jar to the fumes of muriatic acid, when, after a few minutes, the development of the dormant picture commenced, and slowly proceeded, disclosing the details in a soft and pleasing style. Being then laid by in a drawer, with free access of air, the picture again faded, by very slow degrees, and on January 2, 1842, was found quite obliterated. Being then subjected to the acid vapour the colour was reproduced.
Chemists are familiar with the colour of this flower as a test of acids and alkalies, for which, however, it seems by no means better adapted than many others; less so, indeed, than that of the Violar tricolor, the common purple iris, and many others which might be named. It offers, in fact, another and rather a striking instance of the simultaneous existence of two colouring ingredients in the same flower, comporting themselves differently, not only in regard to light but to chemical agents. Extracted with alcohol, the juice of the violet is of a rich blue colour, which it imparts in high perfection to paper. Exposed to sunshine, a portion of this colour gives way pretty readily, but a residual blue, rather inclining to greenish, resists obstinately, and requires a very much longer exposure (for whole weeks, indeed) for its destruction, which is not even then complete. Photographic impressions, therefore, taken on this paper, though very pretty, are exceedingly tedious in their preperation, if we would have the lights sharply made out.
Among a great many hybrid varieties of this genus, lately forwarded to me from the Cape, occurred one of a very intense purplish-brown colour, nearly black. The alcoholic extract of this flower in its liquid state is rich crimson-brown. Spread on paper, it imparted a dark olive-green colour, which proved perfectly insensible to very prolonged action, either of sunshine or the spectrum. The addition of carbonate of soda changed the colour of this tincture to a good green, slightly inclining to olive, and which imparted the same tint to paper. In this state, to my surprise, it manifested rather a high degree of photographic sensibility, and gave very pretty pictures with a day or two of exposure to sunshine. When prepared with the fresh juice there is hardly any residual tint, but if the paper be kept, a great amount of indestructible yellow remains outstanding. The action is confined chiefly to the negative end of the spectrum; all but the first five or six parts beyond the yellow show little more than a trace of action. A photograph impressed on this paper is reddened by muriatic acid fumes. If then transferred to an atmosphere of ammonia, and when super-saturated the excess of alkali allowed to exhale, it is fixed, and of a dark green colour. Both the tint and sharpness of the picture, however, suffer in this process.
Among the vegetable colours totally destroyed by light, or which leave no residual tint, at least when fresh prepared, perhaps the two most rich and beautiful are those of the red poppy and the double purple groundsel (Senecio splendens). The former owes its red colour in all probability to free carbonic acid, or some other (as the acetic), completely expelled by drying : for the colour its tincture imparts to paper, instead of red, is a fine blue very slightly verging on slate-blue. But it has by no means the ordinary chemical characters of blue vegetable colours. Carbonate of soda, for instance, does not in the least degree turn the expressed juice green; and when washed with the mixture, a paper results of a light slate-grey, hardly at all inclining to green. the blue tincture is considerably sensitive, and from the richness of its tone and the absence of residual tint, paper stained with it affords photographic impressions of great beauty and sharpness, some of which will be found among the collection submitted with this paper for inspection.
This flower yields a rich purple juice in great abundance and of surprising intensity. Nothing can exceed the rich and velvety tint of paper tinted while it is fresh. It is, however, not very sensible to light, and many weeks are necessary to obtain a good photographic impression".
In the progress of my own researches on this subject, I found that the green colouring matter of the leaves of herbaceous plants, when spread upon paper, changed with tolerable rapidity when exposed to sunshine. There are, however, some very curious points connected with the phenomena of these changes which demand a far more extensive investigation than they have yet received.
I find that the juices taken from the leaves in the spring, change more rapidly than when expressed from the same plants in the autumn; and the juices of those flowering plants which have been cultivated under the artificial circumstances of a store-house, or conservatory, are more readily affected than such as are grown in the open air. Many of the experiments just described furnish very instructive examples of the operations of the solar rays upon organic bodies, from which we may deduce important truths connected with natural phenomena.