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Heron Books Fore Edge Paintings



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Heron Books have beautiful bindings in (animal free) faux leather with ornate gilded patterns decorating their covers. Mostly sold book club fashion by Mail Order, they were advertised mainly in the Sunday Newspaper Supplements and were available throughout the 60s, 70s . Their popular exclusive author collections were mostly produced in response to subscribers’ requests for particular, favourite authors or subjects. Some of these volumes also came with a handy single page cheat sheet giving the owner some background information on their purchase, so they could talk about their books, even if they just bought them to decorate their shelves without reading them.

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They became extremely popular again in the recent “60's” revival collectors movement, forever associated with the modernistic bookshelves seen in popular cult TV shows, like “The Avengers” & “The Prisoner”. Apart from a good read, they are still favoured by interior designers to give that chic up-market “wall of book covers” look.

Now, apart from the sort after scarcer editions, a new rare form of Heron book has appeared on the collectors market. An un-named artist has chosen these lovely bound volumes as a medium to display the curious art of Hidden Fore Edge Painting. This art form has a long British pedigree dating back to the 17th Century but sadly only a few talented artists are practising it today. In May 2017, the Heritage Crafts Association launched the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts at the House of Lords. This included Fore-Edge Paintings as one of the most Critically Endangered Crafts; English artist Martin Frost, was given an award as the last remaining professional fore-edge painter in the UK.


What makes these embellished books so rare and exceptional, is that there is a unique hand painted watercolour hidden beneath the page edges, that magically appears as the pages are gently bent. The closed book gives no hint of the artistry within, equal in quality to the works of many medieval masters. Few have had the skill or patience required for this rare form of illustration.

As an art-form that is usually found on older and more expensive bindings, that can sell for thousands and seldom appear outside of University Special Collections and very rich peoples libraries, it appears that this artist has chosen to use a more modest quality binding as his/her canvas. The finished book often sells for no more than the low hundreds. Like Banksy who paints his masterpieces on public walls, perhaps we have another anonymous artist with egalitarian ideals