with fore-edge painting
Martin Frost creates paintings in places that people can’t see, or can only find if they know exactly where to look. The UK-based artist is a fore-edge painter, which means he produces elaborate designs and scenes along the edges of gilded books. The works are discovered only when you fan the pages in a certain way, and become hidden by the book’s gold edges as soon it is closed. “It is a discrete painting,” Frost tells Great Big Story. “It is only there when you know how to unlock it.”
Vanishing fore-edge painting dates back to about 1660, but didn’t become popular until the 18th-century. Frost has practiced the rare art form for the last 40 years, and as far as he knows, is the last commercial fore-edge painter in the world. You can view more of his hidden paintings, in addition to a series of illuminated miniatures, on his website. (via Great Big Story)
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A few days ago Colleen Theisen who helps with outreach and instruction at the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa shared an amazing gif she made that demonstrates something called fore-edge painting on the edge of a 1837 book called Autumn by Robert Mudie. Fore-edge painting, which is believed to date back as early as the 1650s, is a way of hiding a painting on the edge of a book so that it can only be seen when the pages are fanned out. There are even books that have double fore-edge paintings, where a different image can be seen by flipping the book over and fanning the pages in the opposite direction.
When I realized the book Theisen shared was only one of a series about the seasons, I got in touch and she agreed to photograph the other three so we could share them with you here. Above are photos of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter which were donated to the University of Iowa by Charlotte Smith. How much fun are these? Keep an eye on the University of Iowa’s special collections Tumblr as they unearth more artifacts from the archives.
Update: Because this post is getting so much attention, here are some more amazing fore-edge paintings found on YouTube.
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