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Lives of the Engineers – Smeaton and Rennie [Harbours – Lighthouses – Bridges] – with fore-edge painting

by Samuel Smiles.

London, John Murray, 1891.

8vo. ppix 389. illustrated with portraits of the two engineers and other engravings in the text.

very good clean condition. finely bound by Bumpus in full tan calf. all edges gilt. 

with a really high quality fore-edge painting, being a copy of John Gendall’s painting of London’s Southwark Bridge over the Thames, designed by Rennie, dating from 1819, the same year that the bridge was opened.

Whilst it is not always easy to date fore-edge paintings, I am confident that this example is not a modern work, probably from the early 20th century, and it is of a far higher standard than many of the rather crude efforts that are often seen.   [the attached image doesn’t really do justice to the quality of the painting]

A ‘fore-edge painting’ is a curious art form, where the artist creates his hidden painting on the leading edge of a book’s pages when the pages are fanned out. When the book is closed, gilt or marbling is applied to the page edges and the painting is not visible until the pages are again fanned out.

 

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