Back in November, we featured some truly beautiful examples of the underappreciated art form of the section break marker. Now, we turn our attention to yet another oft-neglected component of the bookmaking process: endpapers. As with section break markers, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of online discussion about endpapers (with a few exceptions).
The Yale University Beinecke Rare Books & Manuscripts Library put on an exhibition on endpapers last year (“Under the Covers: A Visual History of Decorated Endpapers”) and while we’re sorry to have missed it, the online description of the show tells us some important information about the history of endpapers.
Endpapers developed from a practical need: to protect the illuminations from the wear of hardwood boards that served for the covers of medieval books. Not much to look at, early endpapers were made from materials that binders had at hand, such as manuscript waste or blank sheets of parchment. Over time, binders and publishers began to experiment with these sheets, using marbled and decorated papers for artistic effect and later putting advertisements, elaborate designs, genealogies, and landscapes on endpapers.
In the past few decades, endpapers seem to have reverted back to their utilitarian origins. But, somewhat ironically, things might be looking up for the humble endpaper in our post-ebook era (a nostalgic return, perhaps?). Luxury bookmarkers like The Folio Society have been pretty consistently putting out lovely designs, but recently, relatively affordable collections like Word Cloud Classics and Persephone Classics have been stepping up their game as well. Moreover, the British Library and the Bergen Public Library each have a Flickr folder devoted to beautiful endpapers.
Because of our devotion to “making books worthy of their own objecthood,” we’ve put quite a bit of effort into making the endpapers of our books a pleasure to look at again and again. See how many of these endpaper swatches you can match up with its corresponding book--the first person to get all 8 right will receive a free CMP book of their choice!
Comment with your answers on the right!