During Merrilee’s and my visit to the Boston Public Library last Friday, Tom Blake and Maura Marx introduced us to the results of the BPL’s digitization of its fore-edge books—books with paintings on their edges that can be viewed only by looking at the sides of the book. Some are “double fore-edge” books – one painting is visible when the leaves are fanned one way, and another painting appears when fanned another way. The landscapes we saw date from the 19th century. The one pictured here is from an 1808 first-edition of Latin and Italian poems of Milton translated into English verse, with a painting of the inn at Edmonton, from which John Gilpin, Cowper’s immortal hero, started his famous ride. You can just make out the covers of the book at the top and bottom.
Tom explained that the digitization process is labor-intensive, requiring six times the effort than that needed to digitize a book. The BPL’s Fore-Edge Paintings set is saved in Flickr, as part of its “Art of the Book” collection, and is well worth looking at!