December 18, 2023 in 

The art of fore-edge painting entails beautifully adorning the page edges of a book. Sometimes referred to as fore-edge gilding, this technique typically involves painting the top and bottom edges. However, the process is also possible on the edge closest to the spine.

Fore-edge painting has a rich history dating back to the 10th century. Yet, it only gained popularity in the 13th century with William of Tewkesbury being credited as its earliest recorded practitioner. His masterpiece featured a mesmerizing dragon painted on the fore-edge of a psalm book.

While its popularity waned in the 16th century, fore-edge painting was revived in the 19th century thanks to advancements in gilding and painting techniques. John T. Ince, an acclaimed London-based artist, notably contributed to this resurgence.

Creating these exquisite paintings is relatively straightforward. First, the pages are fanned out to expose the desired edge. The artist then skillfully paints on this exposed surface before it dries. Once complete, they fan back and restore normalcy to reveal their hidden artwork.

A diversity of techniques exists within fore-edge painting craftsmanship; one notable example is “double-edge painting.” Herein lies two contrasting colors painted on both top and bottom edges that merge into an alluring gradient when fanned open.

Another captivating technique is “blind-edge painting,” wherein a single color coats all page edges—forming an arresting display when gently revealed by fanning them apart.

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