Secret Fore-Edge Paintings Revealed

Once upon a time, bookbinding was more than just a way to preserve words. Colleen Theisen of the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa make several moving gif images of books that have artful fore-edge paintings. At rest, the books show the edges of the pages in gold. That's fancy enough, but when you fan those pages just a little, the painting shows up.

Fore-edge painting, which is believed to date back as early as the 1650s, is a way of hiding a painting on the edge of a book so that it can only be seen when the pages are fanned out. There are even books that have double fore-edge paintings, where a different image can be seen by flipping the book over and fanning the pages in the opposite direction.

When I realized the book Theisen shared was only one of a series about the seasons, I got in touch and she agreed to photograph the other three so we could share them with you here.

See the books demonstrated at Colossal. Link -via Laughing Squid

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