Monday, April 8, 2013

On the (Fore) Edge

Horse Race scene painted on the fore-edge of an 1811 version of Songs of Chace
Image via Boston Public Library site
Speaking of cross-dressing, here are some books posing as gorgeous paintings.

Woman and House scene on the fore-edge of Education of Henry Adams

Today I came across the Boston Public Library's collection of books with fore-edge hand painted artwork. I fell in love not only with the elaborate detail of the paintings themselves, but the way in which the books must be manhandled fanned in order to reveal the image. According to the website,  If the page edges are themselves gilded or marbled, this results in the image disappearing when the book is relaxed. When re-fanned, the painting magically re-appears. Here is an example of the books being twisted into just the right angle so as to display the painted fore-edge:


So these books actually have both a gilt edge to look fancy on the shelf or the reading table and the hidden painted fore-edge to entertain the reader with a scene that may or may not have anything to do with the book's content.

Man fishing scene on fore-edge of The Lives of Dr. John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton

The website has a wonderful zoom function that allows you to get a pretty close look at the intricacies of this lost art.

But hold on to your petticoats for one second, because it gets better. There is such a thing as the "Two-Way Double" in which the book's pages, when fanned one way reveal one painted scene and a completely different scene when fanned in the opposite direction.


From there, you have the "Split Double" which has two paintings per fan direction (resulting in a total of four paintings), and finally there is the grandaddy of them all: the ALL EDGE.


There are lots more to look at, my fair petticoat rustlers! Enjoy! 

People Playing Chess scene painted on Analysis of the Game of Chess

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