12 January, 2013 in Article, Images | Comment

It’s very possible that one of your battered old books contains an amazing secret called a “fore-edge painting,” which is an illustration that is hidden on the edge of the pages of the book. The technique allegedly dates back to the 1650s.

You can see the painting by bending together the pages of the book, just so you can see a small piece of each page.

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Autumn by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

cool-gif-books-hidden-messages-images
Autumn by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

So much time and dedication was put into this, the results speak for themselves.

cool-books-hidden-messages-paper
Winter by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

cool-gif-books-hidden-messages-paper
Winter by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

There are even books that have double fore-edge paintings, where a different image can be seen by flipping the book over and fanning the pages in the opposite direction.

cool-books-hidden-messages-mountains
Spring by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

cool-gif-books-hidden-messages-mountains
Spring by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

No matter why people originally painted the edge of their books, now these tiny works of art are being sold for hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars.

cool-books-hidden-messages-flowers
Summer by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

cool-gif-books-hidden-messages-flowers
Summer by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

The images were made by Colleen Theisen who helps with outreach and instruction at the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa. Check the University of Iowa’s special collections Tumblr since they’ll probably find even cooler illustrations from the archives.
Here’s one of the best illustrations made using the same technique. A well-placed easter egg no doubt.

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