Who was fore-edge painting first attributed to? This is a difficult question to answer. However, some clues to this will be found in the following section, which will examine the development of the “hidden” fore-edge painting.
A family known as the Edwards of Halifax ( England ) had the greatest impact on the development of fore-edge paintings, but they did not invent this particular book decoration technique. William Edwards (1723-1808) was practicing the art of fore-edge painting as early as 1775, however, there are examples of fore-edge paintings dating to 1651 by Stephen and Thomas Lewis, who were bookbinders in London . Unfortunately little is known about the Lewis brothers other than they were the sons of a London stationer and they worked in London at least until 1664 (Weber 52-53). Other early examples came from the bookshop of Samuel Mearne, Stationer and Bookseller to King Charles II of England (Swan 22). Mearne held the office from 1660 until his death in 1683, and his bookshop has been attributed with producing many elegant bindings which are highly sought after by collectors. After Mearne's death the art of fore-edge painting was practiced infrequently, until William Edwards took an interest in it (Swan 27).