Monday, September 11, 2006

Invisible Artwork: Fore-Edge Painting

Fore-edge paintings are watercolor decorations, painted on the ends of the pages of the fore-edge of a book. In most cases, a fore-edge painting is only visible when the pages are fanned out.

According to Wikipedia, the earliest fore-edge paintings date possibly as far back as the 10th century and were symbolic designs. The first known example of a disappearing fore-edge painting (where the painting is not visible when the book is closed) dates from 1649. Around 1750 the subject matter of fore-edge paintings changed from simply decorative or heraldic designs to landscapes, portraits, and religious scenes, first in monochrome and then later in full color. In many cases, the chosen depiction related to the subject of the book, but in other cases it did not.

The technique involved fanning the fore-edge of the text block (the outer edge) and clamping it. Then, a watercolor painting would be executed on the fanned leaves. When dry, the fore-edge would most commonly be gilt, less commonly marbled. thus concealing the existence of the painting until the fore-edge was fanned.

In addition to the standard painting, sometimes known as a single, there are several variations:
  • split … each half of the fore-edge bears a different painting.
  • double … shows an illustration when the fore-edge is fanned out the usual way, and a completely different painting when the pages are fanned out in the opposite direction.
  • triple ... in addition to paintings on the edges, a third painting is applied directly to the edges (in lieu of gilt or marbling).
  • panoramic … the illustration covers not only the fore-edge but the top and bottom edges of the book as well.
One practitioner, Martin Frost, whose work is pictured here, has produced well over 3000 fore-edge and miniature paintings since 1970. His site has a video of the fanning process. This site has some examples done by students in one of his workshops.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Parts of the Book

Whether binding traditionally or making artist books, the parts of the book are something we all should know. This site has nice drawings. Here is another site which has photographs.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Exhibit: The Evolution of the Medieval Book

tudy of the manuscript book as a physical object is known as codicology – from codex, a Latin word for "book," especially one whose pages can be turned, as distinguished from a scroll. Codicology is concerned with writing surfaces (parchment and paper) as well as the covers, stitching, etc. that make up a binding.

The Evolution of the Medieval Book traces the history of the medieval book–its appearance, content, audiences, and forms–from the 9th to the 15th centuries.

Looking at these old books with their beautiful illustrations (illuminations) and text makes me want to take up calligraphy. It is interesting to note that marking up text and making notes on the page is not a modern development.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tools: Bone Folders

Although materials like horn, stone and teflon are being used to make them, the classic bone folder is a shaped piece of bone carved from real animal bones, often deer or elk. Bone is an ideal material to use for smoothing, scoring, and creasing paper and cloth because it is sturdy, smooth and grainless. It can also be used for burnishing (polishing and imparting glossiness) and with sufficient (or excessive) pressure its edge is sharp enough to cut paper or cloth.

Many bone folders are carved with ornate handles or other decorative features, but a basic bone folder is typically shaped like a wooden tongue depressor or a large popsicle stick with rounded ends or a pointed end for working in corners.

Basic bone folders can usually be found in hobby and craft stores and online bookbinding supply merchants. More ornate bone folders are harder to find but there is nothing to prevent the owner of a plain bone folder from personalizing it with a little carving of their own.

Links to photos:
Top Photo
Bottom Photo