Secret Paintings in 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa

In Art, Painting

Colleen Theisen, who helps with outreach and instruction at the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa, recently 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.

Above and below are photos of SpringSummerAutumn 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.

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books

Autumn by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Autumn by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa




Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Winter by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Winter by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Spring by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Spring by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Summer by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Summer by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa




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