The Secret Art of Fore-edge Painting

I have been on a quest recently to locate hidden artwork in the Filson’s rare book collection.  It all started when I read an article on io9 about fore-edge paintings.  Fore-edge paintings are beautiful works of art created on the edges of book pages; often they are only visible when the pages are fanned in a particular way.  One of the early fore-edge painters was Cesare Vecellio, cousin of the Renaissance painter Titian, who painted the edges of his books in order to beautify them.

Staff at the University of Iowa recently discovered fore-edge paintings in a series of scientific books from the 1830s.  Below is an image of one of the paintings they found; it was created on the edges of a book called Autumn by Robert Mudie.


I haven’t come across any fore-edge paintings in the Filson’s book collections yet, but I plan to keep looking.  If I find one, I will be sure to let you know.

Jana Meyer

Jana Meyer is an Associate Curator of Collections. She received a degree in History from the University of Louisville and a master's degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Kentucky. Jana specializes in arranging and describing the Filson's manuscript collections. In her free time, she enjoys playing board games and hiking with her husband and three-legged dog, Rascal.

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