The Secret World of Fore-Edge Book Paintings

There’s nothing we love more than an old, handsomely bound book. Much to our delight, the University of Iowa recently published a series of photographs detailing a four-volume set of scientific books from 1837. They contain secret artworks, known as fore-edge paintings, hidden along the edges of the pages. It’s a whimsical art form that dates back to the 16th century, when Italian artist Cesare Vecellio (cousin of Renaissance painter Titian)¬†started using his books as a canvas in order to beautify them.¬†As the artistry of edge paintings developed, they became more complex and fanciful, the painted scenes visible only when the pages were fanned. In some cases, a different image would appear when fanned back to front and front to back. We went searching for other examples of this beautiful art form, which is being kept alive by a select few today.



Each book in this four-volume series (1837) by Robert Mudie revealed a painting of the seasons.