Fore-Edge Painting Books

Happy World Book Day! In celebration, I’m going to share with you the books that make the biggest impression when I give tours: the fore-edge painting books. Fore-edge painting is the very old practice of painting tiny images on the edges of the pages.

Fishing Scene, Fore-edge painting, fanned to the right. The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell, London, Edward Moxon, 1840.
Fishing Scene, Fore-edge painting, fanned to the right. The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell, London, Edward Moxon, 1840. Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The book block is angled and clamped while the tiny watercolor painting is made.

Foxhunting Scene, Fore-edge painting, fanned to the right, Thoughts on Hunting in a Series of Familiar Letters to a Friend, by Peter Beckford, Esq., London, Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1820. Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

After drying, the clamp is released and a bookbinder applies marbling or gilt to the closed book. This makes the painting invisible when the book is closed, but it appears when the pages are fanned.

The gilt edges hide the painting on the edge. To the casual observer, there's nothing special here...
The gilt edges hide the painting on the edge. To the casual observer, there’s nothing special here…

NSLM’s fore-edge painting collection is housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. We have about 30 of them, and they depict riding, hunting, or fishing scenes.

Hunting Scene, Fore-edge painting, fanned to the right, The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edinburgh and London, Gall & Inglis, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
Hunting Scene, Fore-edge painting, fanned to the right, The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edinburgh and London, Gall & Inglis. Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Most of them date from the middle of the 19th Century to the early 20th Century. Although fore-edge painting is rare, there are still some artists who produce fore-edge art today.

Shooting Scene, Fore-edge painting, fanned to the right, The Bird, by Jules Michelet; with 210 illustrations by Giacomelli, London, T. Nelson and Sons, 1872. Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
Shooting Scene, Fore-edge painting, fanned to the right, The Bird, by Jules Michelet, London, T. Nelson and Sons, 1872. Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Do you have a hidden painting in your old books? Check your book collections and fan the pages. You never know what you might find!

Advertisements

0 Comments

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s