From the description quoted, it doesn't sound like nitric acid, but silver nitrate solution used to impregnate the paper -- and I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to sensitize that in solution rather than with the hydrogen-rich gas. If I'm translating the old chemical names straight, it looks like he's reacting a phosphine with the silver nitrate, producing a silver phosphide, silver phosphate, silver perphosphate, or silver hydrogen phospate, which could probably be done by treating the paper with an appropriate solution of the correct salt or acid (phosphoric acid would be the obvious first one to try). Reaction with iodine would then produce an iodophosphide or iodophosphate -- which indeed ought to be light sensitive just as a halide would be, possibly with greatly extended spectral response (the phosphorus ought to weaken the ionic bond to the silver, requiring less photon energy to form a developable latent image speck).
No nitrocellulose (because no nitric acid, and in any case very little nitrocellulose would be formed in short exposure and in the absence of sulfuric acid as a catalyst and dessicant), no hydrogen gas if you could react in liquid -- but without an analysis of his paper, it's impossible to be certain what salt or complex he was starting with before sensitizing with iodine vapor. It appears he was originally trying to produce a Daguerreotype on a paper substrate, which would have been a revolutionary advance.
Anyone here enough of a chemo-historian to translate the chemical names into modern IUPAC designations?
Photography has always fascinated me -- as a child, simply for the magic of capturing an image onto glossy paper with a little box, but as an adult because of the unique juxtaposition of science and art -- the physics of optics, the mechanics of the camera, the chemistry of film and developer, alongside the art in seeing, composing, exposing, processing and printing.
DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT let Mateo read about this, Salinas Ca. will never be safe.
For those that don't know, he loves to try out new alternative methods. One of his latest is Uranitypes. He uses urianium to print with. The prints are gorgous, but my hubby once we had left the party where he showed them said, "no way in hell are you trying that process in our home!" only time he has put his foot down.