Fore-edge painting is a form of illumination on the fore-edge(s) of a book. The scenery depicted may or may not be related to the content of the book. Earliest fore-edge paintings have been dated to the 10th century. There are two types of fore edge painting viz: fanned and closed. Fanned fore-edge painting requires that the book be fanned for the image to be correctly viewed, while the image can be seen in closed fore-edge painting without fanning the book. Fore-edge painting can be single fore-edge, double fore-edge, or triple (panoramic) fore-edge. Most fore-edge paintings are undated and unsigned whereby the painter and the year of painting are anonymous. However, few fore-edge painting books are dated and signed. The earliest dated and signed fore-edge painting dated to 1653.
There is no a singular reason why fore-edge paintings is done. The paintings are done for various reasons; as a form of art, as symbols, to commemorate events, to depict the status of the owner of the book, or to represent the importance of the book. Fore-edge painting is becoming a fading art; therefore, this catalogue by the Rare Book and Manuscript honor students showcases such a rare art collection. The University of Cincinnati Archives & Rare Books Library has some of the finest samples of fore-edge painting books in its collection. Below are some of the books in the fore-edge collection from the university showcased in this catalogue.