Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Collecting Fore-Edge Paintings

ILAB gives a brief tutorial.

From the piece...

The Italian Renaissance is, as with many things, where it all really started (although medieval examples exist). Often quite simple, floral decorations, heraldic designs or motifs, these were generally painted directly onto the fore-edge rather than later ‘fanned’ edge, sometimes with a gold background. These were not uncommon in 15th and 16th century Italy. But the term is now largely used to refer to the British examples of this art. Disappearing pictures start to appear, as it were, on mid 17th century English bibles and common prayer books. By the latter part of the 17th century, very fine works were being produced.

However, the pinnacle of this art was in the late 18th century revival and popularisation of the art by the bookbinders and booksellers Edwards of Halifax. They produced exquisite paintings on the edges, as well as beautiful ‘Etruscan calf’ and painted vellum bindings. London Society was wowed by the beautiful volumes, and the Edwards And Sons shop in Pall Mall is mentioned by Fanny Burney (also known as Madame d'Arblay), the 18th century London socialite who wrote an extensive diary as well as various novels.

The practice of fore-edge painting became widespread, and continued through the 19th and into the 20th century. Demand has always outstripped supply, and this meant that decorating the fore-edge continues to this day.

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