Close-up of a Fore-edge Painting

Cosway and Fore-Edge Painting

Cosway Painting

Cosway bookbindings are traditional leather bindings with miniature paintings inset into the covers. These beautiful bindings are named after Richard Cosway (1742-1821), the acclaimed English miniaturist portrait painter from the Regency era. However, Cosway did not invent this style of binding. These bindings were not introduced until the early 20th century and were probably invented by the legendary bookselling firm of Henry Sotheran. The book below, The Poetical Works of H. W. Longfellow is a cosway-type binding with the portrait of the author incorporated in the cover. (Bound in England by Dieter Räder)

The Poetical Works of H. W. Longfellow Cosway Cover

Closeup of Cosway miniature painting

Closeup of Cosway miniature painting

Fore-Edge Painting

H. W. Longfellow’s Poetical Works

The technique of fore-edge painting was developed in the middle of the 17th century, but came of age in the 19th century. The method requires fanning the pages. Then, a water color painting is done on the fanned leaves. When dry, the fore-edge would be gilt or marbled. With this concealment, the painting remains unseen unless the fore-edge is fanned. The first two paintings are on the previous Longfellow’s book. The painter is unknown. The book was bound by D. Räder.

The Fore-Edge of Poetical Works of H. W. Longfellow

Milton’s Poetical Works

This fore-edge painting on Milton’s Poetical Works represents the Old London Bridge. It was painted by renowned artist Martin Frost in 1997. Martin’s website is

The Fore-Edge of Milton’s Poetical Works

Closeup of Fore-Edge painting

Closeup of a Fore-Edge painting

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