Treasure uncovered in the Bartle stacks
Beth Kilmarx, curator of rare books at the Binghamton University Libraries, made an exciting discovery one recent afternoon. She found a hidden painting on a nearly 200-year-old book’s fore-edge, the side opposite the book’s spine. “I saw the discolored gilt edge,” Kilmarx said, “and when I bent the leaves to find the cause of the coloring, I saw the painting.”
The rare watercolor, on an 1818 edition of The Book of Common Prayer, is only visible when all of the pages are bent at once. The painting shows the ruins of Byland Abbey in North Yorkshire, England.
The book was published in London by J. Cook and S. Collingwood at the Clarendon Press, though it’s unlikely the painting was done there. In fact, Kilmarx guesses that the book was painted and given a new binding in the 1840s or 1850s. It boasts a red morocco binding with single gilt fillets on both covers. The spine is in gilt compartments with the title stamped in gilt. Along the inside edges of the book are decorative gilt lace patterns. And inside the cover, there’s a plate bearing the name F.H. Baker, along with his coat of arms. “Books back then,” Kilmarx said, “were made to be one-of-a-kind.”
Watch Kilmarx discuss Binghamton’s rare books collection in the video below: