The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. [Fore-edge Painting].


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. [Fore-edge Painting].

TWAIN, Mark [Samuel L. Clemens].


Item Number: 121969

Hartford: The American Publishing Company, 1884.

Finely bound example of the apotheosis of American boyhood. Octavo, bound full morocco with gilt titles and tooling to the spine, gilt ruling to the panels, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers, illustrated. With a fore-edge painting to each edge of the text block including a portrait of Twain and scenes from the book. With the original cloth panels and spine adhered to the verso of the front and rear panels.

Popular and controversial at the time of publication in 1876, Mark Twain’s masterpiece The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has been adapted into dozens of film, television and theatrical productions. The quintessential tale of American boyhood established one of the most memorable characters in American literature who appeared in three later sequels including Twain’s other most notable work, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. “The first novel Mark Twain wrote without a co-author, Tom Sawyer is also his most clearly autobiographical novel enlivened by extraordinary and melodramatic events, it is otherwise a realistic depiction of the experiences, people and places that Mark Twain knew as a child” (Rasmussen, 459). The earliest fore-edge paintings date possibly as far back as the 10th century; these earliest paintings were symbolic designs. Early English fore-edge paintings, believed to date to the 14th century, presented heraldic designs in gold and other colors. The first known example of a disappearing fore-edge painting (where the painting is not visible when the book is closed) dates from 1649. The earliest signed and dated fore-edge painting dates to 1653: a family coat of arms painted on a 1651 Bible. Around 1750, the subject matter of fore-edge paintings changed from simply decorative or heraldic designs to landscapes, portraits and religious scenes, usually painted in full color. Modern fore-edge painted scenes have a lot more variation as they can depict numerous subjects not found on earlier specimens. These include scenes that are erotic, or they might involve scenes from novels (like Jules Verne, Sherlock Holmes or Dickens, etc.). In many cases, the chosen scene will depict a subject related to the book, but in other cases it did not. In one instance, the same New Brunswick landscape was applied to both a Bible and to a collection of poetry and plays. The choice of scenes is made by either the artist, bookseller or owner, thus the variety is wide. The technique was popularized in the 18th century by John Brindley (1732-1756), publisher and bookbinder to the prince of Wales and Edwards of Halifax, a distinguished family of bookbinders and booksellers. The majority of extant examples of fore-edge painting date to the late 19th and early 20th century on reproductions of books originally published in the early 19th century.

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