Fore-edge Painting: Images on Book Edges

Kristen Twardowski

Jerusalem Delivered by John Hoole.PNG

Modern book design focuses on typography, cover art, and internal flourishes, but several hundred years ago book designers also added art to the sides of pages. This type of art is called fore-edge painting, and it refers to a painted design on the edges of book pages. When looking at the edge of a single page, it is impossible to tell what the image is supposed to be, but when all of the pages are viewed together, a coherent image.

Fore-edge paintings have a long history. In fact, they precede the invention of the printing press by several hundred years. The first known fore-edge paintings are from the 10th century. During these early years, the images were primarily symbolic or Heraldic designs that had been hand painted onto the book.

By the 18th century, however, the focus of fore-edge paintings changed. The images began to depict numerous themes including landscapes, religious symbols…

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