The Hidden World of Fore-Edge Painted Books

There was a time when the hunt for a rare book, or even just an out of print book, was a major undertaking - you could either travel the country scouring multiple used bookstores yourself or pay a commission to a book dealer who would put feelers out through his local network and, if necessary, to the wider world of book dealers through a classified ad in a trade magazine. However, with the advent of the internet and search engines such as AddAll, most of us have been able to cut out the middle-man and, with a few clicks of the mouse, track down that old childhood favorite without ever leaving the house.

But there is at least one area of book collecting that still benefits from the hands on touch - where the thrill of the chase is discovering the hidden secret of an apparently run of the mill book - and that is the search for fore-edge paintings.

To create a fore-edge painting, the pages of a book are fanned out and held in a vice. A painting is then applied usually with water color. When the paint is dry the book is released from the clamp so the book is flat again, and the edges of the book are then either gilted or marbled to completely hide any evidence of the painting from casual eyes. I was introduced to fore-edge painting while visiting a friend's father on New York's Upper East Side a few months back where, even though the book's secret was known to me, I still felt a sense of discovery in fanning the pages to find the hidden painting.

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Check out a prejudice at the Living Library

Davina Morgan-Witts, BookBrowse editor

A Living Library event looks much like a conventional library - tables and chairs are set out for study, librarians staff the check out desk and borrowers can browse a catalog of books.  The difference is that what's on loan are not books but people!  The heart of The Living Library are Living Books - people that, for one reason or another, are subjected to stereotyping and prejudices. All are unpaid volunteers.

The concept is simple; interested participants check out a Living Book on a topic of interest and spend 30 minutes in discussion with the particular Book. 

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The Night She Won Miss America
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