“Hidden Treasures on the Edge” will be displayed on the fourth floor of Alden Library through March. The exhibit highlights a sample of the fore-edge painted books from the Jeffery D. Chaddock Collection, owned by alumnus Jeff Chaddock (’88).

Photographer: Mark Clavin/Ohio University Libraries


“Poetical Works of Lord Byron,” published in 1855 by John Murray of London, contains this split, double fore-edge painting by today’s pre-eminent painter, Martin Frost, and features two separate portraits of Lord Byron.

Photographer: Mark Clavin/Ohio University Libraries


Pictured is one of two iPad screens featured in the exhibit, “Hidden Treasures on the Edge,” which were linked to the Libraries’ online interactive website.

Photographer: Mark Clavin/Ohio University Libraries

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Libraries website provides access to fore-edge exhibit

In the age of the Internet, we are often one click away from our next exploration.

Ohio University Libraries is inviting users to immerse themselves into the world of fore-edge painted books through a website that allows in-depth access to “Hidden Treasures on the Edge: Fore-edge Painted Books from the Jeffery D. Chaddock Collection,” an exhibit on the fourth floor of Alden Library.

Fore-edge paintings, watercolor directly applied to the fanned pages of a book, are essentially hidden by gilded edges. One would never notice the images until the pages of the book are fanned, revealing the hidden work of art.

Last semester, OHIO Libraries hosted the opening of “Hidden Treasures on the Edge.” Curated by Miriam Intrator, special collections librarian, the exhibit provides a glimpse of the rare collection of fore-edge painted books owned by OHIO alumnus Jeff Chaddock (’88).

“It was a thrill and an honor to see such a great surge of interest and positive response from the community regarding such a rare, beautiful and mysterious book art form,” said Intrator.

The online exhibit is a digital supplement to the exhibit on the fourth floor of Alden. Through the website’s many informative pages, users are invited to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the exhibit from wherever they are located.

The home page provides a shortcut to webpages that feature information on the art of fore-edge painting, a timeline on the history of fore-edge painted books, an interactive tool, a slideshow of fore-edge painted books and informational videos.
“So much of the excitement of fore-edge books is the moment when you flip the pages to reveal the hidden painting,” said Scott Seaman, dean of Ohio University Libraries. “The interactive website allows you to flip the pages and reveal the painting digitally. It’s a creative way of conveying the magic of these extraordinary books without traveling to Athens for the exhibit.”

The interactive component allows the user to digitally fan a fore-edge book to reveal the beautifully mysterious paintings. This includes five digital representations of fore-edge painted books from the Chaddock Collection: “The Poetical Works of Henry Kirke White” by Kirke White; “A History of Eton College” by H.C. Maxwell Lyte; “A Dictionary of the Natural History of the Bible” by Thaddeus Mason Harris; and “The Poems of Ossian: With Dissertations on the Era” and “Idylls of the King” by Alfred Tennyson.

Informational videos on the website provide a visual presentation of eight fore-edge titles from the Chaddock collection. Each video demonstration emphasizes the key features of the fore-edge painted book such as: the title page, an up-close look at the fore-edge painting and how to manually fan the pages of the book, in order to view the hidden fore-edge painting.

The timeline on the history of fore-edge painted books begins with the earliest known fore-edge decorations in 4th century Europe and continues through modern day fore-edge painting applications. The photo slideshow of fore-edge book paintings provides a glimpse of the diversity of the fore-edge paintings from the expansive Chaddock Collection. The works of art include landscapes, portraits, seascapes, cityscapes, ruins, erotica and historical imagery.

The Jeffery D. Chaddock Collection is comprised of more than 100 fore-edge painted books from the 17th century through the present day, and is a promised gift to Ohio University Libraries.

Alumnus Jeffery D. Chaddock (’88) is the CEO of The Chaddock Group with Ameriprise Financial. A patron of the Libraries and an avid collector, Chaddock has spent years compiling works of literature. One of his most passionate endeavors is the collection of fore-edge painted books.

“About 15 years ago, I found an even more intriguing art form, fore-edge painted books,” said Chaddock. “Now as a collector, I am sharing my passion with the Libraries by gifting my collection, so others may have the opportunity to explore these unique works of art.”

In the future, Chaddock’s generous gift will become one of the numerous rare and special collections that are housed at OHIO Libraries’ Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections.