The popularity of fore-edge paintings first arose in the late 18th century in the shop owned by Edwards of Halifax, who was already known for his exquisite bindings and who, by adding a fore-edge painting to an already fine binding, was creating the ultimate luxury item. Many other artists took up their paintbrushes to do the same.
Of course, the art of fore-edge painting goes back many centuries before Edwards, to when it was common to write an author’s name or book title onto the fore-edge of a book for identification purposes, but this exhibition (with one exception
) focuses on the heyday of the “vanishing” fore-edge painting (one that is invisible when a book is closed and appears only when the book is fanned open) that began in Edwards’ shop and continued into the 20th century.
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