The technique of fore-edge painting was developed in the middle of the 17th century, but was little practiced until the end of the 18th century, coming into an efflorescence in the 19th century. The method was to fan the fore-edge of the text block (the outer edge) and clamp it. Then, a water color painting would be executed on the fanned leaves. When dry, the fore-edge would most commonly be gilt, less commonly marbled. With this concealment, the existence of the painting would be unknown unless the fore-edge was fanned, a pleasant surprise.

Milner, Alfred Milner, Viscount, 1854-1925.
England in Egypt. London : Arnold, 1894.
448 p. : map ; 21 cm. 86K
Trench, Richard C., 1807-1886.
Notes on the miracles of our Lord. London : K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1895.
512 p. ; 20 cm. 82K
A new Italian dictionary, in two parts; Italian & English - English & Italian. London, Peacock, 1806.
1 v. (unpaged) ; 14 cm. 38K
The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments. London, J. Reeves, 1811.
1 v. (unpaged) ; 15 cm. 21K

Here are examples of double fore-edge paintings, in which a different scene is revealed when the text block is fanned in either direction.

Walton, Izaak, 1593-1683.
The complete angler of Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton. Second edition. London : John Major, 1824.
lviii, 416 p. : ill., ports., facsim. ; 21 cm 73K, 102K

The next examples are from a two volume set that has double fore-edge paintings in each volume.

Tasso, Torquato, 1544-1595.
Tasso's Jerusalem delivered, an heroic poem. With notes and occasional illustrations. Translated by J.H. Hunt ... London, Printed for J. Mawman, by T. Miller, 1818.
2 v. ; 22 cm.

Vol.1 74K, 84K
Vol. 2 78K, 95K

The next and final images are unusual in that it is a double fore-edge painting that has been done one on each half, left and right, of the text block.

Defoe, Daniel, 1661?-1731.
The life and adventures of Robinson Crusoe / written by himself. London : Printed for J. Walker ..., 1818.
vi, 638 p., <1> leaf of plates : ill. ; 14 cm. 43K, 31K

For further information about the rare book collection, contact the department.


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Updated: Nov. 9, 1999