Alice’s Adventures in a Fore-edge Painting


Frontispiece (signed by Dalziel) and title page of Cotsen 30998 (protective tissue not shown).

One of Cotsen’s numerous editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has an especially attractive feature. Our copy of an 1877 reprint (London: Macmillan and Co.) of the 1866 first edition contains a particularly attractive fore-edge painting:

When this gilded fore-edge is fanned in a downward direction, a painting is revealed

When this gilded fore-edge is fanned in a downward direction, a painting is revealed:



Contemporary bookbinders, publishers, and printers, Maclaren & Macniven’s (Edinburgh) binder’s stamp can still be made out on the front free endpaper verso. Since we know they are responsible for the excellent ruled and gilt-stamped red morocco binding, gilt-tooled dentelles and marbled endpapers, it’s reasonable to assume that they are responsible for the fore-edge painting as well; especially because gilt is typically applied to edges after such a treatment in order to protect and conceal it.

Though not exactly alike (and obviously in color), the painting resembles Tenniel’s original illustration found on page 97:

Vignette, page 97

Vignette, page 97

Though fore-edge marking and devices have been found in manuscripts as early as the 10th Century, disappearing fore-edge paintings (like the one above) seem to have been developed some time in the mid 17th Century. Most surviving examples are English and were produced in the late 19th Century. Exceedingly rare, this is Cotsen’s only example in the collection.

If you want even more Alice (and who doesn’t?) join us in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with our newest exhibition curated by our Rare Books Cataloger, Jeff Barton:


Come See the Kite Wall, the New Installation in Bookscape!

full wall

From left to right: Snowy Owl, Tiger Angel Fish (and babies!), Chinese Dragon, Wind-up Prop Plane, Pirate Ship, Paper Airplane, Fox, and Box Kite.

Just in time for the 18th anniversary of Cotsen Children Library’s inauguration (Halloween of 1997) we have a high-flying new installation in the gallery. The previously blank white wall at the front of the gallery (just above our offices) is a little more lively now. With the introduction of a sky scene to Bookscape, complete with 8 wood fabricated kites and airbrushed clouds, we hope that the gallery feels fuller and more fun.

Now that everything’s up (whew!) you might be wondering how it all got there. Lucky for you, we meticulously documented the whole procedure:

It all started when we turned this pile of parts…

entry e

Into this 40-foot-tall mobile scaffold.


I won’t say this wasn’t fun to climb.

And of course all the features in the front of the gallery had to be removed (except for the exhibition cases with “Flying Machines!”

kite carnage

Don’t worry, Kangaroo is only sleeping. . .

The kites had to be unboxed, touched-up, and assembled.


Believe it or not, some of the kites were “floated” in crates for their transcontinental trip. They came through without a scratch.

dragon head on table a

Getting the dragon ready for his close-up!

angel fish on riser

The Tiger Angel Fish were inspired by stunt kites.

And finally, mounted and installed on the wall.

prop plane install a

Easy does it…

dragon head

Is that really on tight?

paper airplane install a

Though it was a lot of work, it was also a lot of fun. We’d like to thank (once again!) Judson Beaumont and his company Straight Line Designs for making our flighty ideas a reality with whimsical designs and custom fabrications. And none of it could have come together without the hard work and talent of Danielle Swift and Straight Line Design’s Ron Baldesancho.

ship install

Last but not least, like an anxious conductor, Judd instructs Danielle, Ron, and me in the installation of the certainly heavier-than-air ship kite onto the wall.

We hope you enjoy the new addition to the Cotsen gallery! Drop in during our regular hours to see it for yourself!  Don’t forget to take a peek at the exhibition “Flying Machines” too…