Hidden Artworks Painted on the Edges of Books

Apparently, fore-edge paintings first arose during the European Middle Ages but came to prominence during the mid-17th century to the late 19th century.

Here are a few of the most interesting of this niche form of art.

The Holy Bible
Split fore-edge painting

Letters of Lady Rachel Russell, 1801
by J. Mawman

Characteristics of women, moral, political, and historical,
by Anna Jameson
Painting of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Poems by the late William Cowper, Esq., 
by William Cowper

The speeches of the right honorable William Pitt,
by William Pitt
George Washington and Benjamin Franklin

The poetical works of Thomas Moore, 1865
by Thomas Moore
View Of Enniscorthy, England

The rambler,
by Samuel Johnson
Old Wych Street, London

The Holy Bible, 1811
St Paul’s Cathedral

Paradise Lost, 1876
by John Milton
Milton Triptych

The Poetical Works of Alexander Pope, 1863
by Alexander Pope


10 thoughts on “Hidden Artworks Painted on the Edges of Books

  1. These are beautiful and I’m glad you brought this to the attention of others. Do you have any background information on this subject to share? Who has done this work? When? Is a catalog in existence listing these works and history of same? Great views in your post!

    1. It would be something pretty cool, but I believe they have to be hand painted. That would make for a pretty expensive book. Also, I don’t think it works well with regular paper.

  2. See, I told you, you bring us the coolest stuff. I first saw this in Japan in 1972 at my then girl friends, family home in Fukuoka. A wealthy background allowed them pleasures and treats only left to the privileged. And although an art a 1000 years old, it’s rarely done now because we don’t use that kind of parchment any longer. I liked Cyril Davenport who classified them as ‘library edition’ and ‘craftsman’. The second is easiest to understand, as it was in the bookbinders best interest to add as much art to the outside of the book as possible.

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