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Fore-edge painting of Sydney Cove

Fore-edge painting is a book decoration technique which has been used across the centuries. A fore-edge painting is a decoration or scene painted on the edges of the pages of a book. Often it is painted so that the pages must be fanned in a certain way for the image to be seen.  The technique was particularly popular in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.

 The State Library holds a number of works with fore-edge paintings and has just acquired a volume of T. K. Hervey’s Poetical Sketch-Book with a fore-edge painting of Sydney Cove. The cove is painted from the viewpoint of where Fort Macquarie once stood on Bennelong Point. The painting includes the stonework and cannons of the fort in the foreground, ships in the harbour and buildings on the western bank of Sydney Cove. The image is based on one originally produced by Frederick Terry. The painting is suited to the volume as it also contains a third edition of Hervey’s poem Australia.  Although the book was published in 1829, the date and artist of the painting itself are unknown. The image cannot be seen normally. Instead the pages must be fanned for the image to be seen.

This is a rare example of this fascinating art form with an Australian context. It is located in the Mitchell Library at 821.8/56.

Simon Cootes
Collection Development Librarian