Alice’s Adventures in a Fore-edge Painting

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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:

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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:

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New Exhibition: Flying Machines opens October 1st, 2015

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Exhibition flyer

Flying Machines: Science and Fantasy will be the next exhibition in the Cotsen gallery. Featuring mechanical flyers from the world of childhood; the show will include illustrated books, board games, an installation of toys, and a very special piece of realia on loan from the Museum Objects Collection.

Centered around two major themes, science and fantasy, the items selected track depictions of flying machines from the realistic to the magical in children’s literature. From the earliest fantastic ideas about man-made flyers, through inventive science fiction and real scientific experiments, into the whimsical machines of impossible flights. The exhibition features imagined contraptions from seven different countries over almost 100 years of flights of fancy (1892-1971).

To appease your curiosity for the next two weeks (since I’m sure you are all waiting with bated breath for the opening) check out some of the books that just didn’t quite make it:

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All About Airships, front board, Cotsen 75809

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The Flying Grandmother, Page [7], Cotsen 7330

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Wings for Per, Endpapers, Cotsen 7248

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En aeroplane dans les 7 ciels, Page [10], Cotsen 6492200

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Das grosse Erlebnis, Page spread [9-10], Cotsen 58400

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Airplanes: Stories and Pictures, Page [26], Cotsen 49801

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Air Babies, Title page, Cotsen 31474

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Valériane in a Helicopter, Page spread [14-15], Cotsen 21961

If you enjoyed those, the books that actually made it into the exhibition promise to be even better!

Flying Machines: Science and Fantasy

Opening October 1st and running until the end of year. 

Visit during the first 2 days to get a special gallery give away for children (hint: it’s a toy Styrofoam airplane!).

Exhibition title card

Exhibition title card