Unlike the spine and covers of a bookbinding, the page edges are not
usually decorated, however…
is where the page block is fanned and an image applied to the stepped
surface. If the page edges are themselves gilded or marbled, this
results in the image disappearing when the book is relaxed. When
refanned, the painting magically re-appears.
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The TWO-WAY DOUBLE click for video
is doubly amazing is that the page block can then be fanned in the
opposite direction and a second painting discovered.
The SPLIT DOUBLE click for still image
With large books, the text block can be split in half and painted
separately. Each half can also be fanned in both directions, offering
four painted images (Two-way split double).
click for video
Finally the top and bottom book edges can also be decorated, and if done
so in both directions, can result in a total of twelve possible painted
The vanishing Fore-edge Painting has been a traditional English book art
for centuries and is continued today by just a few artists, usually
working on old, finely bound, pre-gilded books.
The magic transformation of a bright gilded book-edge
into an intricate little painting, and then see it fade back into the
gold again, never fails to delight.