Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Annotated Dictionary of Fore-Edge Paintings is a Must-Have

by Stephen J. Gertz

An exciting new book on fore-edge paintings has just been published. Authored by Los Angeles rare bookseller, Jeff Weber, this volume is immediately the most important contribution to the history of fore-edge paintings since the books of Carl J. Weber, the author’s grandfather, were issued in 1949 and 1966. It is an instant must-own reference for collectors, dealers, institutional librarians/curators, or anyone with an interest in this edgy art form.

The book, An Annotated Dictionary of Fore-edge Painting Artists & Binders (Mostly English & American). Part II: The Fore-edge Paintings of Miss C. B. Currie; with a Catalogue Raisonné, has been issued in a limited edition of 980 trade copies, with 20 deluxe copies specially bound and embellished with a hand-painted fore-edge scene on the fanned edge of the book.

Holy Bible, Cambridge, 1659, 1660, Royal Heads Binder.

The culmination of more than twenty-five years of work by Weber, much information comes directly from the artists who actually make fore-edge paintings. In 2006 Weber published a comprehensive study on John T. Beer, the first person to regularly sign his fore-edges. With this new monograph Weber offers the same treatment to Miss Currie, but he also adds a great deal of information directed to numerous artists and bookbinders who contributed to this art form from the sixteenth century forward.

The challenges of uncovering the history of fore-edge painting are known. These paintings are mostly painted anonymously, mostly unsigned, and the presentation is often misleading, or people misinterpret information easily (such as imprint dates, bookplates, falsely attributing a printing to the wrong date/or era). Weber’s aim is to create a basis for what can be known about certain fore-edge paintings, identifying them, giving their history, alerting the readers about numerous factors that can help to understand what they are looking at.

The book includes the most comprehensive assessment of seventeenth century English fore-edge specimens up to the present.

Divided into three sections, the first is a series of brief essays offering the author’s perspectives on studying this field, including gathering information from the books themselves as archeological specimens, the language of fore-edge painting, and evidence in the 1860s of the first fore-edge paintings in America.

The second section - and the dominant feature of the book - is an annotated dictionary, heavily illustrated, citing numerous specimens, arranged alphabetically by artist or binder. There are even treatments of binders who are identified as not being sources of fore-edge paintings. This is the first book to ever single out the names and history of each of these contributors. The result is that each entry tells when and where an artist worked, how to identify a painting, noting characteristics unique to their work, where the artist studied art and other details. Specific examples are noted throughout. Locations are supplied and the author notes by a rating system which entries are certain fore-edge contributors, and those who are not at all; finally a mark in numerous entries indicates if the author has seen that work in person.

The third section offers a full history and catalogue raisonnĂ© of the fore-edge painting work of the mysterious Ms C. B.  Currie, one of the most important fore-edge artists from England in the twentieth century and the only artist to have numbered her editions. This project was challenging since no record of her entire fore-edge work exists and her own identity has been unknown until recently. Currie worked for Sotheran’s in London during the first half of the twentieth century. Currie’s history is presented in much more detail than available anywhere else, focusing on her fore-edge art and relationships to the English book trade.

The book is handsomely designed by Patrick Reagh, and printed and bound in China.

WEBER, Jeff. An Annotated Dictionary of Fore-edge Painting Artists & Binders (Mostly English & American). Part II: The Fore-edge Paintings of Miss C. B. Currie; with a Catalogue RaisonnĂ©. Los Angeles: Weber Rare Books 2010. Limited Edition of 1,000 copies in three issues, printed and designed by Patrick Reagh, Printers, and signed by the author. 10 x 7 inches. approx. 432 pages. Illustrated throughout, indexes. 

The Issues:

A Limited Trade Edition of 980 copies in cloth with dust jacket:  $400

Deluxe Leather-Bound Edition of 5 copies, gilt-edges and slip-case (numbered 16-20):  $ 1,000

Ultra-Deluxe Edition of 15 special copies that will be hand-painted on the fore-edge by selected artists. Each piece will be unique and signed. Hand-bound in full morocco, extra-gilt, all-edge-gilt. Custom slip-case. (numbered 1-15):  $ 1,800.  

To order, phone (323) 344-9332 or email here.
All images courtesy of Jeff Weber Rare Books, with our thanks.

Read Weber's A Collector's Primer to the Wonders of Fore-Edge Painting.


  1. MARVELOUS presentation on a grand book, a unique treatment of a most decorative art of the book. Certain to be a monument of artists, publishers, binders as well as of this author-scholar.

  2. Just received my copies from Jeff Weber very thorough and detailed treatise on fore-edge painting and binders- must have for all collectors of the book arts in particular fore-edge painting collectors -clears up many myths and misconceptions in his grandfather's books -Randall Moskovitz MD


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