It is widely known a book can offer the pleasure of a good reading together with the enjoyment of exploring its author’s deepest thoughts. But let me tell you, there is a hidden, a secret delight, not visible to the beholder, that can give pure artistic fruition. They are called fore-edge paintings. They are concealed on the edge, or edges, of books and have been available for our enjoyment the last couple of centuries. They are only visible when pages are fanned and the fortunate perceiver can discover a variety of themes, including historical landscapes, heraldry, portraits, religious scenes, private life, with the list not being limited to these subjects.
The Jackson Library holds in its special collection some of these unique books. Below we share some of their hidden charms for your own appreciation.
Want to learn more and read about fore-edge painting?
- Fore-edge painting; a historical survey of a curious art in book decoration.
- Hidden treasures: the history and technique of fore-edge painting
Watch a video!
Fore-edge Painting 1947 - Unusual Occupations Series
Visit an English fore-edge artist!
Are you ready for painting your own fore-edge?
Books with painted fore-edge
Hodges Special Collection and University Archives
The lighted valley; or, The closing scenes of the life of Abby Bolton
- The dramatic and poetical works of Joanna Baillie.
- The poems of Winthrop Mackworth Praed
- The border antiquities of England and Scotland : comprising specimens of architecture and sculpture, and other vestiges of former ages, accompanied by descriptions
- The works of James Thomson : with his last corrections and improvements : to which is prefixed the life of the author
Last, but not the least, a Wikipedia resource on fore-edge painting and its history