Makes me want to go hunting for secret art.
October 25, 2011 7:54 AM   Subscribe

A fore-edge painting (previously, but it's been a while) is a painting on the edges of the pages of a book that can only be seen when the pages are fanned out. Marist College has a nice history and introduction and the Boston Public Library has an impressive gallery.
posted by Vibrissa (8 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I love that there is some secret history, escalating technical challenges, and even a dismissed fringe element of savages for some stuff that nobody might ever even see.
posted by SharkParty at 8:56 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, I just saw this mentioned on a description of a book at the Morgan Library, but they didn't have it fanned out to show the example. I was wondering what these looked like, and if they could be done in two directions. The (Moby Dick?) example in the Youtube video is really vivid -- I wonder if it was restored or new?
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 9:12 AM on October 25, 2011

Thank you for posting this, they are fascinating. I had heard of these but had never seen one.
posted by antiquated at 9:23 AM on October 25, 2011

Vibrissa, you stand on the shoulders of giants. (Nice addition. Thanks!)
posted by steef at 9:53 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow. Now I'm wondering if images could be generated by deliberately putting slices of a picture at the edge of images intended to be printed. It'd be a great easter-egg in a comic, for instance.
posted by egypturnash at 12:51 PM on October 25, 2011

So very cool,thanks for sharing this!
In related links, I found the video by Topeka Library Special Collections showing examples from their collection. The level of elaborateness (is that a word??) really varies. I thought it was excellent that they answered questions in their comments section. They also recommended checking out bookbinder Martin Frost's work. He does fore edge paintings himself and teaches the technique. On his gallery page, you can see some examples that are meant to be viewed from the book open from the center page withe a left and right fan.

His website needs help. He has his catalogue on a pdf. Old fashioned work can be sold on modern websites. that is all.
posted by Librarygeek at 9:24 PM on October 25, 2011

I had the incredible privilege of working in the Boston Public Library Rare Books and Manuscripts room for about 6 months, and it was the most incredible job I ever had. The collection can’t be fathomed from the list they have up on their website: and so much just isn’t listed on the website. The huge collection of Incunabula, from the dawn of printing: Stuff made by Gutenberg and Caxton. The painted Persian scrolls. And the stuff that’s so much harder to classify: The locks of hair from Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The pike from John Brown's raid on Harpers' Ferry. Sacco and Vanzetti’s ashes. The massive World’s Fair collection. I could go on all day, this is just stuff I remember off the top of my head.
The best part about the BPL’s collection is that it belongs to the Boston PUBLIC Library. You want to check out some of the stuff that’s not overly fragile? Make an appointment. The people there not only love the history that all that stuff represents, it’s their mission to share it with others. No matter what the topic, if it’s American History or literature-related, the Rare Books section will have something awesome to show you. Make your appointment a few weeks in advance – call up and express your interest, and there’s a darn good chance you’ll get to see some really cool stuff, and learn the history behind it.
posted by Artazil at 7:53 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Boston Public Library can update their website: the Catholic Church has sold off the larger Estelle Doheny collection (and the St. John's Seminary land where it was held), which is a pretty rotten way to respect the wishes of a papal countess. But weird things happen when money and unusually high percentages of molesting priests are involved. And if you are made of money, you can buy a case of Estelle's fore-edge volumes!
posted by Scram at 9:34 PM on October 27, 2011

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