The Elsbeth and Bettina Bollmann Collection of fore-edge paintings and bindings
The Bollmann Collection includes fore-edge paintings executed over more than 250 years, on books printed between 1639 and 1895, with a wide variety of subjects – landscapes, mansions, religious buildings, boats, coats of arms, and flowers.
The practice of painting on the flat fore-edges of books goes back many centuries but the more subtle art of creating a hidden picture which is only visible when the leaves of the book are fanned appeared in England in the middle of the 17th century. There are three 17th-century fore-edge paintings in the Bollmann Collection, one of them probably executed in 1652 and the other two dated 1685 and 1688.
The art of fore-edge painting was taken up by the firm of Edwards of Halifax in the late 18th century and is often associated with that family. Founded by William Edwards in Halifax, Yorkshire, William was joined in his business by his sons, two of whom opened their own premises in London. Apart from fore-edge paintings, the Edwards are known for their Etruscan-style bindings, described as such because motifs typical of Etruscan vases were used to decorate them, and for illustrated vellum bindings, on which a drawing on the cover is covered with a thin layer of transparent vellum to protect it. Both of these designs by the Edwards family are represented by several books in the Bollmann Collection.
Most fore-edge paintings are not dated and some of them were added to books many years after the books were published. Double fore-edge paintings and triple edge paintings, which are not commonly found, are believed to date from the early 20th century. Books with these paintings are among the highlights of this collection.