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Paintings hidden in the margins of books


Few of the world’s readers have seen these secret decorations. An obscure form of art hidden under a surface of gold.

“There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye,” said the poet W.H. Auden, That “other story” in things is often much more complete than what we see at first glance, or at least for its secretive qualities. This is the case of fore-edge paintings, and which recently made their magnificent appearance online.

These paintings first appeared in the Middle Ages, but several English Bibles from the mid-17th century included them, and their zenith was at the end of the 18th century, popularized by Edwards of Halifax, the bookbinders and publishers. They produced the most exquisite fore-edge paintings in their most treasured volumes.

To see them it is necessary to open the book and make a ‘fan’ with the pages, and which are often painted in gold so that when the book is closed they cannot be seen. The Boston Public Library has one of the best collections of these fore-edge paintings in books in several languages, man of which have now been digitalized so that we can all see them. The library currently has 258 high-resolution images, gifs, videos, articles and information.

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