Annotated Dictionary of Fore-edge Painting Artists & Binders. The Fore-edge Paintings of Miss C. B. Currie; with a Catalogue Raisonné.
Joel Silver: January 22, 2013
“By the way, I use your fore-edge book a great deal, and I recommend it whenever I teach my reference sources course.”
August 26, 2011
[two parts] A:
Dear Mr. Weber:
I wanted to let you know that your ANNOTATED DICTIONARY OF FORE-EDGE PAINTING ARTISTS & BINDERS arrived this morning, and I was very glad to have a chance to see it. The book is a monument, and the production quality is really first-rate. Of course, the lore of fore-edge painting is considerably less exoteric than the lore of printing and binding, so I think, along with your grandfather’s books, you have a resource that is going to be The Destination for people exploring this subject. It is a fascinating field, but rather sparse in documentation. So, we are grateful to have this in our collection.
One thing that I’d like to ask is, whether there is someone (or several) who do workshops on fore-edge painting? At our King Library Press we sponsor occasional workshops on paper-making, marbling, calligraphy, binding, woodcut work, and the various book arts, and fore-edge painting might be a possibility for us. Do you have any suggestions on this?
With many thanks again for the ANNOTATED DICTIONARY and best wishes,
[two parts] B:
Many thanks for your response on the practicing fore-edge artists. This is very good to know about, and I hope we’ll be exploring this possibility in the spring.
I was quite interested to learn more about the relationship of the artists and the book trade, and also the interesting in using finely bound 19th century works for 20th century paintings. The Victorian fine bindings and gift bindings often do have brilliant fore-edges, and no doubt that makes the most attractive “canvas” for this kind of work. The workmanship at its best is really wonderful.
So much of this research must fall into attributions, with so much unsigned work, but no doubt there are good clues after one sees a large body of exemplars.
Congratulations again on completing a much-needed resource, and many thanks, especially, on the leads for possible guest artists.
Special Collections Dept. / University of KY Libraries / Lexington, KY
February 17, 2011
Dear Jeff:- What a grand book you are publishing! I’ve now had two evenings to read, savor, and be awed by your creation. It is a gem, a most worthy colophon [finishing touch] to CJW’s landmark book. And Patrick Reagh has matched the quality of Fred Anthoensen’s product of sixty years past. Thus you have researched and written and brought to birth a grand monument to the art of the book.
Spending time with the dictionary portion is watching a host of glorious book-persons pass by. Time with your instructional preface is indeed an education. And the generous Currie (Curry) treatment is a rich book within a book, such a fascinating tale.
“A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.” With those words by Moliere, your parents dub you the “Master Spirit of FEP.” This book shall have a life beyond any of ours. It is certain to enhance your shop’s reputation, bring luster to you as an antiquarian bookseller, and elicit admiration from your host of friends and business colleagues. Now may the reviews add to the crescendo of applause which you richly deserve?
We are grateful for the signed copy. I appreciate your dedication, and am most notably touched by your saluting your dear departed teacher-scholar-brother Douglas. Thank you, Jeff. Love, Dad
MY SON THE AUTHOR HAS JUST WRITTEN A BOOK.
THE SUBJECT IS FEP. YOU SHOULD TAKE A LOOK.
MS CURRIE, AN ARTIST, HAS BEEN RESEARCHED AND WRITTEN ABOUT.
IN THE WORLD OF FEP SHE CARRIED SOME CLOUT.
JEFF HURRIED AND SCURRIED THE WORLD TO GATHER THE WORD,
LABORED FOR YEARS, AND ACTED THE NERD.
JEFF HONORED HIS GRANDFATHER CARL, AND CARRIED FORTH THE FEP WORD.
THEN THE TOME WAS LAUNCHED AND AWAITED BY ALL.
DEDICATED TO HIS FATHER AND HIS BROTHER, WHAT A GREAT CALL!
I AM JEFF’S MOTHER, AND I TELL YOU I’M PROUD
AND FLOATING ON NUMBER NINE – THE CLOUD.
Congratulations on your most recent book the Annotated Dictionary of Fore-edge Painting Artists & Binders with a Catalogue Raisonne of Miss C. B. Currie. It is a great triumph to see your work in print. You should be very proud of your accomplishments! Bravo! Thank you for giving me a copy and inscribing it. The photographs are spectacular and enrich the text immensely. Hopefully sometime in the distant future I can lovingly past it down to one of our grandchildren. It is certainly a book I will treasure. Kudos to you!
History of Science News Headlines
News from the Profession
Jeff Weber’s Annotated Dictionary of Fore-edge Painting
Date Posted: 12/06/2010
Jeff Weber’s An Annotated Dictionary of Fore-edge Painting Artists & Binders (Mostly English & American). Part II: The Fore-edge Paintings of Miss C. B. Currie; with a Catalogue Raisonné, is now available from Weber Rare Books (Los Angeles: 2010), designed by Patrick Reagh printers.
This is the first book of its kind ever published, being an annotated dictionary of known artists & binders who are known to make fore-edge paintings, a field which is heavily dominated by anonymous artwork. Jeff’s grandfather Carl J. Weber wrote the last history of fore-edge painting, which went into two editions (1949 and 1966).
Jeff Weber’s New Book on Artists and Binders of Fore-Edge Paintings
ABAA Member Jeff Weber has recently published a new book on the artists and binders of fore-edge paintings. This reference work is entitled, “An Annotated Dictionary of Fore-edge Painting Artists & Binders (Mostly English & American). Part II: The Fore-edge Paintings of Miss C. B. Currie; with a Catalogue Raisonné” and has been 27 years in the making. In the author’s own words:
“This book, for example, will correct a lot of misinformation, it seeks to define the role of each binder or artist individually, so that you cannot mix up the contributions of one or another painter/binder. There is a lot of specificity to allow the reader to identify their own fore-edge paintings, if possible. There is a good deal of time given to learning about how to find the history of a fore-edge. I am very interested in, for example, the 19th century – and earlier – terms used for ‘fore-edge painting’ – a 20th century term! Many times I am looking only for contemporary evidence of someone’s work. I also don’t only deal with the obvious and famous binders that are well documented, but also those little own pieces that seem obscure…”
Fellow member Vic Zoschak brought the publication to our attention, remarking that the book is “quite impressive, to say the least.”
Stephen Gertz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
by Stephen J. Gertz
An exciting new book on fore-edge paintings has just been published. Authored by Los Angeles rare bookseller, Jeff Weber, this volume is immediately the most important contribution to the history of fore-edge paintings since the books of Carl J. Weber, the author’s grandfather, were issued in 1949 and 1966. It is an instant must-own reference for collectors, dealers, institutional librarians/curators, or anyone with an interest in this edgy art form.
The book, An Annotated Dictionary of Fore-edge Painting Artists & Binders (Mostly English & American). Part II: The Fore-edge Paintings of Miss C. B. Currie; with a Catalogue Raisonné, has been issued in a limited edition of 980 trade copies, with 20 deluxe copies specially bound and embellished with a hand-painted fore-edge scene on the fanned edge of the book.
The culmination of more than twenty-five years of work by Weber, much information comes directly from the artists who actually make fore-edge paintings. In 2006 Weber published a comprehensive study on John T. Beer, the first person to regularly sign his fore-edges. With this new monograph Weber offers the same treatment to Miss Currie, but he also adds a great deal of information directed to numerous artists and bookbinders who contributed to this art form from the sixteenth century forward.
The challenges of uncovering the history of fore-edge painting are known. These paintings are mostly painted anonymously, mostly unsigned, and the presentation is often misleading, or people misinterpret information easily (such as imprint dates, bookplates, falsely attributing a printing to the wrong date/or era). Weber’s aim is to create a basis for what can be known about certain fore-edge paintings, identifying them, giving their history, alerting the readers about numerous factors that can help to understand what they are looking at.
The book includes the most comprehensive assessment of seventeenth century English fore-edge specimens up to the present.
Divided into three sections, the first is a series of brief essays offering the author’s perspectives on studying this field, including gathering information from the books themselves as archeological specimens, the language of fore-edge painting, and evidence in the 1860s of the first fore-edge paintings in America.
The second section – and the dominant feature of the book – is an annotated dictionary, heavily illustrated, citing numerous specimens, arranged alphabetically by artist or binder. There are even treatments of binders who are identified as not being sources of fore-edge paintings. This is the first book to ever single out the names and history of each of these contributors. The result is that each entry tells when and where an artist worked, how to identify a painting, noting characteristics unique to their work, where the artist studied art and other details. Specific examples are noted throughout. Locations are supplied and the author notes by a rating system which entries are certain fore-edge contributors, and those who are not at all; finally a mark in numerous entries indicates if the author has seen that work in person.
The third section offers a full history and catalogue raisonné of the fore-edge painting work of the mysterious Ms C. B. Currie, one of the most important fore-edge artists from England in the twentieth century and the only artist to have numbered her editions. This project was challenging since no record of her entire fore-edge work exists and her own identity has been unknown until recently. Currie worked for Sotheran’s in London during the first half of the twentieth century. Currie’s history is presented in much more detail than available anywhere else, focusing on her fore-edge art and relationships to the English book trade.
The book is handsomely designed by Patrick Reagh, and printed and bound in China.
WEBER, Jeff. An Annotated Dictionary of Fore-edge Painting Artists & Binders (Mostly English & American). Part II: The Fore-edge Paintings of Miss C. B. Currie; with a Catalogue Raisonné. Los Angeles: Weber Rare Books 2010. Limited Edition of 1,000 copies in three issues, printed and designed by Patrick Reagh, Printers, and signed by the author. 10 x 7 inches. approx. 432 pages. Illustrated throughout, indexes.
A Limited Trade Edition of 980 copies in cloth with dust jacket: $400
Deluxe Leather-Bound Edition of 5 copies, gilt-edges and slip-case (numbered 16-20): $ 1,000
Ultra-Deluxe Edition of 15 special copies that will be hand-painted on the fore-edge by selected artists. Each piece will be unique and signed. Hand-bound in full morocco, extra-gilt, all-edge-gilt. Custom slip-case. (numbered 1-15): $ 1,800.
To order, phone (323) 344-9332 (323) 344-9332 or email here.
I have had your new book in my possession for a few weeks now but have not had the opportunity time-wise to e-mail you to thank you for such an informative beauty! It’s gorgeous, and I know I will enjoy learning from it (handling it carefully!). Thank you also for signing it before sending it out. I will cherish it.
From Vic Gray
Many congratulations, Jeff. It looks succulent, though I fear I shall need to save a while before I can treat myself.
Just in case you haven’t got in touch with Sotheran’s direct, I’ve forwarded it to them with an exhortation to buy.
We launch the Sotheran’s book on 31 May. I fear Miss Currie doesn’t get full justice, because of lack of space – but she’s really your (and Stephen Ratcliffe’s) discovery. I’m delighted she’s finally coming in to the full light of day.
Very best wishes
Vic Zoschak “Great book Jeff, thanks!” Vic
I have just received my copy of your book. Thank you so much for the book, the printed mentions and, especially, the lovely ms note in the front to me, personally. I am so touched. I was cross with myself because I forgot to ask you to sign the book when you kindly offered to send me a copy, but I needn’t have worried. It is such a great book to hold, even the heft of it really feels like a reference book (sounds silly but perhaps you know what I mean). Well, what a fantastic production. That shouldn’t be a surprise given what you tell me about the attention to design etc but having seen the standard of feps reproduced in other books, well, there simply is no comparison, is there? Anyone who has a fep now stands a good chance of learning more, by comparing it to one of your illustrations. Incidentally, the way you include parts of the printed page, binding covers and spines at different angles is a good idea, providing a contrast to the fep and reminding the reader that these are, amazingly, three dimensional objects! The work which has gone into your indexes and catalogue listings! Must admit that I couldn’t have managed this sort of detail myself but this element is going to be really useful when following things up. I have only just started reading the text, but already there are things there which I didn’t know. Can’t wait to get into it more!
Thanks too for your previous email. Re reviews, I try not to read them because I always find them troubling. The critical one you mention sounds as if it said more about the reviewer than your work (and I suppose people may use this forum inappropriately to vent their feelings about whatever!).
Again, thank you so much, I am thrilled.
Weber is the grandson of Carl Weber, who was one of the pioneers in the identification of fore-edge painters and scholarship into the history of this practice. The younger Weber has produced an essential reference resource on the art of fore-edge painting, with an extensive dictionary of artists and binders. The first part provides an introduction to the issues surrounding the fore-edge painting, the second part is the guide to artists and binders, with annotated bibliographic descriptions of known works by each artist. The third part describes the history and art of the miniature painter Miss C.B. Currie, one of the leading fore-edge artists of the twentieth century. – Bromer
The most important contribution to fore-edge painting history in over 40 years. It is the first comprehensive annotated dictionary to contain the identification of all known fore-edge painters and binders. – Ed Postal
Hi Jeff, I’m so glad you are pleased with them. I haven’t inscribed them yet but was going to, did you want this in ink on the actual book, I thought I’d check before. Paypal is best, though they charge. I always worry about sending money in the post and if you sent me Euros I’d lose money in exchanging them to £ anyway. So if that’s ok I’ll send you an invoice and post the books off to the binder. Thank you so much for giving me this very special commission and I am very chuffed with the write-up in your book. Clare.
May 19, 2011
Dear Mr Weber,
Thank you for the copy of your fine book which arrived this afternoon. It is a terrific piece of work and very well produced – I hope that you are pleased with it.
Our company history has just been delivered here to us and I hope that you will accept a copy of this from us in recognition of the help you kindly gave to Vic.
We are having a launch party on May 31st in the shop to which you would be very welcome (I don’t know if you are coming over to the London bookfair?).
Despite our historic dealings with Miss Currie I must admit that recently we have sold very little in the way of fore-edges and so I am slightly loathe to commit to purchasing copies. We do however have several institutional clients who might be interested and I will certainly let them know about the book.
My thanks again for letting us have a copy of this fine book.
Andrew McGeachin Managing Director
Henry Sotheran Ltd ABA ILAB PBFA 2 Sackville Street, Piccadilly London W1S 3DP
0207 439 6151
May 23, 2011
Many thanks for your splendid book which has been long anticipated. I shall enjoy studying it at my leisure and I am pleased to have been of some help. Could you please tell me how much the book will retail at?
I am sending you some pictures of an Etruscan calf binding Maggs have acquired recently. It is Cowper’s Poems of 1800, two volumes bound together. I have failed to identify the fore-edge painting which looks more like a factory mill than a grand country house, although set in a fine landscape. Do you have any idea where it might be?
If you are in England sometime you might like to come to Wormsley?
With kind regards,
Early British Dept.
Maggs Bros. Ltd.
50 Berkeley Square
ANNOTATED DICTIONARY OF FORE-EDGE PAINTING
ARTISTS & BINDERS and THE FORE-EDGE PAINTINGS OF
MISS C. B. CURRIE with a CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ by Jeff
Weber. Los Angeles, California: Jeff Weber Rare Books, 2010.
7 x 10 inches hardcover, dust jacket, 421 pages, fully illustrated in color.
Review by Jeanne Bennett
Jeff Weber has devoted years to the study of a little known and neglected art form, that of fore-edge painting. For those who are not familiar with this type of book decoration, a fore-edge painting is a miniature watercolor that disappears under the gilt edges of a book. It only comes out of hiding when the fore-edge is fanned. Like magic, landscapes, portraits, paintings illustrative of the text (and sometimes not) suddenly appear.
Mr. Weber has fanned the edges of thousands of these books, becoming so familiar with painting styles that he is able to recognize artists’ work though the paintings are not signed. He studies bindings, publication dates, provenance, and even handwritten notes, to identify the artist. Clues dating the paintings are found in auction records, bookseller catalogs and personal letters. Because he owns Jeff Weber Rare Books in Los Angeles, California, Mr. Weber often has fore-edge paintings pass through his inventory, each of which is perused and documented.
We now have the benefit of Mr. Weber’s encyclopedic knowledge in his recently published Annotated Dictionary of Fore-Edge Painting Artists & Binders including a separate section devoted to The Fore-Edge Paintings of Miss C. B. Currie with a Catalogue Raisonné.
Mr. Weber titles his book an “Annotated Dictionary.” Yes, the known fore-edge painters are included, supported by meticulous research, presented with the precision expected from the best of scholars. But in Mr. Weber’s book we find an extra-ordinary bonus. Each artist comes to life in the biographical information Weber has been able to glean— artists who once saw the magic appearance of a tiny painting when they fanned a fore-edge, declaring, “I have to try this!” Did the artists make a living from this art form? Were they bookbinders? Were they book collectors who wanted to add an exciting decoration to their treasures?
Even a fraud is exposed. S. E. Stevens knowingly signed his paintings with false initials, implying they were done in the late 1700’s by James Edwards of the Edwards of Halifax bookbinding firm. Though not a skilled artist, Stevens painted thousands of edges in the 1940s and 1950s. Mr. Weber warns the reader that other fore-edge painters have been known to apply their art to books hoping the buyer will assume the paintings were contemporary to the publishing date. These artists neither sign nor date their paintings.
Mr. Weber’s book includes nearly 200 fore-edge painters, binders, collectors and historical entries related to his subject. Of the fore-edge painters, 22 are American, a few from Canada, and one or two from France, Holland and Germany. The remaining painters are from the United Kingdom. Among the prolific gifted artists of today are Clare Brooksbank who has done close to 1,000 paintings, Don Noble, about 2,500, although he no longer paints edges, and Martin Frost, the leading fore-edge painter with more than 3,000 beautifully executed edges. Mr. Frost is also an extremely fine bookbinder.
The entries of binders include Barritt & Co., London, Roger Bartlett, Thomas Fazakerley, Samuel Mearne, the Naval Binder, Joseph Ruzicka, Sangorski & Sutcliffe, Philip Smith and Staggmeier & Welcher, to name a few.
Highlighting the text are hundreds of color images, all appurtenant their textual references—all an aspiring artist or a book lover could ask. It should be noted that fore-edge painting began in the late 16th Century. Although the entries are alphabetical, not chronological, the images allow a careful reader to follow the development of this art form from the early monochromatic paintings of flowers and family crests to exquisite full-color miniature paintings on all three edges of the text.
Mr. Weber, who in 2005 gave us The Fore-edge Paintings of John T. Beer, devotes over a hundred pages to The Fore-edge Paintings of Miss C. B. Currie. Miss Currie’s recently discovered correct name is Caroline Billin Curry, the youngest of twelve children, born in 1849 in Helston, Cornwall, England. In the early 1900s she worked in London at the Henry Sotheran & Co. bookshop and Rivière & Son, binders. Aside from painting fore edges, she also painted nearly 1,000 miniatures on ivory that were inset in the covers of leather bindings. These are known as Cosway bindings.
It is unusual for fore-edge painters to sign their paintings, more unusual for them to be numbered. However, Miss Currie’s catalogue lists 172 signed and numbered fore-edge paintings, and an additional 44 unnumbered paintings. More than thirty images of her Cosway-style miniatures and fore-edge paintings are included, mostly in color. They display the extraordinary talent Miss C. B. Currie brought to her work.
Clarification and reference material is abundant, conveniently placed in footnotes throughout the text. An extensive Bibliography, Cumulative Book List and Cumulative Index are also provided.
Jeff Weber’s passion for the art of fore-edge painting may have been sparked by the two books on fore-edge painting by his grandfather Carl J. Weber, but this tour de force is his alone as he carries on a tradition of scholastic excellence. His Annotated Dictionary is an outstanding compendium for scholars and laymen who wish to learn about this most beautiful form of book decoration.
Ms. Bennett’s book Hidden Treasures: the History and Technique of Fore-edge Painting will be published in Fall 2011.
Number 196 June 2011 Guild of Book Workers
[not reviewing the book, just commenting]
You made a beautiful book and fore-edging is a beautiful art and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have been part of it, but the mass market is a superficial beast – that’s business I guess. Sometimes in life you have the opportunity for your outer life to reflect your inner life and sometimes you have to fake it a little to get by. I hope the book keeps selling, it is a lovely book but a specialist interest. I should put a link about it on my website, have you asked the others to do the same. – Clare Brooksbank