Digital Library of the Week: On the Edge – The Hidden Art of Fore-Edge Book Painting

On the Edge- The Hidden Art of Fore-Edge Painting is a beautiful gem of an image collection! I know what you’re thinking – “what in the world is fore-edge book painting?” I didn’t have a clue either until I discovered this beautiful collection from the Boston Public Library. The fore-edge of a book is the side opposite the spine; there are three edges of the pages visible – top, bottom, and the non-bound side. These edges are usually undecorated. Sometimes, the edges would be gilded gold…however, fan the pages and, voila!, reveal an intricate painting.

Waterfront Scene on the fore-edge of the book The Poetical Works of Mr. Williams Collins
Waterfront Scene on the fore-edge of the book The Poetical Works of Mr. Williams Collins

To learn more about the process, and watch some terrific videos of the fanning revelation in action, check out the About Fore-Edge Painting section of this website. We also have a great book on the technique, Fore-Edge Painting: A Historical Survey of a Curious Art in Book Decoration. Want to see one in action? Check out Sagmeister: Made You Look by Peter Hall and designed by Sagmeister, Inc.

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