Sep 10, 2013

40 Hidden Artworks Painted on the Edges of Books


A fore-edge painting is a technique of painting on the edges of the pages of a book. The artwork can only be seen when the pages are fanned, as seen in the animation below. When the book is closed, you don’t see the image because it is hidden by the gilding (i.e., the gold leaf applied to the edges of the page).

fore-edge painting fanning animated gif

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, fore-edge paintings first arose during the European Middle Ages but came to prominence during the mid-17th century to the late 19th century. Anne C. Bromer for the Boston Public Library writes, “Most fore-edge painters working for binding firms did not sign their work, which explains why it is difficult to pinpoint and date the hidden paintings.”

Thanks to the generous gifts from Anne and David Bromer and Albert H. Wiggin, the Boston Public Library holds one of the finest collections of fore-edge paintings in the United States. Most of the collection has been put online for the world to enjoy and features more than 200 high-resolution images; complete with additional videos, articles and information.

The University of Iowa and Colossal recently featured a few fore-edge paintings with animated gifs that can also be seen below.


For more visit



1. The causes, appearances, and effects of the
seasonal decay and decomposition of nature, 1837 by Robert Mudie

fore-edge paintings gif

fore-edge paintings gif



2. The Holy Bible
Split fore-edge painting

fore edge painting



3. Letters of Lady Rachel Russell, 1801
by J. Mawman




4. Analysis of the Game of Chess, 1790
by François-André Danican Philidor




5. Characteristics of women, moral, political, and historical, v.2 1833
by Anna Jameson
Painting of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage




6. Speeches of Henry Lord Brougham, v.1 1838
by Henry Lord Brougham
A view of Philadelphia showing the Delaware




7. Jeanne d’Arc
Author Unknown
The People Of Orleans Greet Joan Of Arc




8. The rod and the gun, 1841
by James Wilson




9. Poems by the late William Cowper, Esq., v.2 1820
by William Cowper




10. The speeches of the right honorable William Pitt, v.2 1808
by William Pitt
George Washington and Benjamin Franklin




11. The causes, appearances, and effects of the
seasonal decay and decomposition of nature
, 1837 by Robert Mudie

hidden artworks on edges of books

hidden artworks on edges of books



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




13. The lord of the isles, 1815
by Walter Scott
Carrick Castle In Argyll, Scotland




14. The world before the flood, 1819
by James Montgomery




15. The rambler, v.1 1825
by Samuel Johnson
Old Wych Street, London




16. The complete angler of Isaak Walton and Charles Cotton, 1835
by Izaak Walton




17. The Education of Henry Adams, 1918
by Henry Adams




18. Jerusalem delivered (Torquato Tasso), v.1 1797
by John Hoole




19. Oberon, 1798
by William Sotheby




20. The Holy Bible, 1811
St Paul’s Cathedral




21. The lay of the last minstrel, 1823
by Sir Walter Bart Scott
View of Kelso, Scotland




22. Paradise Lost, 1876
by John Milton
Milton Triptych




23. Latin and Italian poems of Milton, 1808
by John Milton
The Inn at Edmonton




24. Marmion, 1811
by Sir Walter Scott
Lindesfarne Abbey




25. The Poetical Works of Alexander Pope, 1863
by Alexander Pope




26. Poems by William Cowper, Esq., v.1 1808
by William Cowper




27. Select British poets, v.3 1824
Various Authors
Wimborne Minster




28. Rokeby, 1813
by Walter Scott
View of Barnard Castle




29. The causes, appearances, and effects of the
seasonal decay and decomposition of nature
, 1837 by Robert Mudie

hidden artworks on the edges of books gif

hidden artworks on the edges of books gif



30. The curse of Kehama, 1812
by Robert Southey
Indian River Scene with Hindu Temple




31. Lalla Rookh, 1818
by Thomas Moore
Tyburn Turnpike, London




32. The lives of Dr. John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton, [etc.] 1824
by Izaak Walton




33. Poems by the late William Cowper, Esq., v.1 1820
by William Cowper
A View of Olney




34. The red true story book
by Andrew Lang and H. J. Ford
The Capture Of Joan Of Arc




35. The causes, appearances, and effects of the
seasonal decay and decomposition of nature
, 1837 by Robert Mudie

fore-edge paintings on books

fore-edge paintings on books



36. Poems by the late William Cowper, Esq., v.2 1820
by William Cowper




37. Poems on several occasions, 1813
by Lord Edward Thurlow
A View of Dublin




38. The Holy Bible, v.2 1803
‘The Last Supper’




39. The Holy Bible, v.2 1795
The Mount Of Olives From The Slopes Of Zion




40. The anthologies, an extensive collection
of all compositions subsequent to the Liang dynasty





If you enjoyed this post, the Sifter
highly recommends:











Pin ItEmail this



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48,251 other followers

Like Us on Facebook?

Close: I already like TwistedSifter