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book parts and house parts,

a mini blog

  • Writer's picturesusann cokal

Getting into the Endpapers

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

I told my Danish aunt that I've been really into endpapers as part of my current craft project, a miniature inn for writers and readers who want to luxuriate in settings appropriate to their favorite authors ... "And that includes fabulous endpapers!" I finished excitedly.

"What are endpapers?" she asked. She actually asked it after a while; I could tell she didn't want to damp my enthusiasm.

Endpapers are those thick pages that hold the meat of a book (its pages) to the covers. They are--or were--often decorated with marbled designs, or maps, or even just textured color. Every writer wants beautiful endpapers. My one disappointment with my first book, Mirabilis, was that I couldn't have colored endpapers to help create the atmosphere of fourteenth-century France; it wasn't in the budget (and I seethed with jealousy over the writers published at the same time with colorful endpapers).

Since then, I've had not only pretty endpapers but also edge stains and gorgeous case wraps--topics for future posts.

I once bought an ordinary-looking book, The Hotel by Elizabeth Bowen, because it had beautiful embossed endpapers that looked like lavender satin wallpaper ...

and because it was printed in the town where I was going to go to a creative writhing programme. Bought in San Diego at venerable Wahrenbrock's (I MISS WAHRENBROCK'S [and almost everything else about Sain Diego]), the book was read, enjoyed a little, and kept 27 years--because of the endpapers.

Now I'm using endpapers as floors and wallpaper and sometimes as furniture finishes for mini people who want to live in a book. I could never cut up a book to harvest its parts, but there are plenty of people who can, and I suppose I should thank them for taking out the razor blades.

I love the thickness and shine of papers from the 1880s. They are perfect for the floors of a bookshop and kitchen--the kitchen will be devoted to Barbara Pym, who did love Victorian literature, if not its decor.

So Barbara's practical floor is swirls of black and red and yellow and white--perhaps a maelstrom of religious thought and a reconciliation of Victorian and modern ways of being a woman. Her walls are green and gold marbled paper handmade in Italy for endpapers or other paper crafts, and I made the wall tiles from art nouveau patterns I found on the internet. She needed a bit of something to protect from zealous splashing of the mop. I'm almost sorry that I'll have to add appliances, because I like this room so much. I gave it a back door and a casement window for over the sink, because the narrator of Excellent Women once said that if she were to write a novel, it would take place in the mind of a woman doing dishes at a window.

The bookstore floor is done but the room isn't entirely. This is where I was working out how to do walls, doors, windows, etc. I made a copper ceiling, which will reflect lamplight nicely over books, and used some antique endpapers for the floors. The walls are made of a sheet that shows possible ornaments for books or other objects that need ornamentation. They're from the turn of the last century. I like the sort of randomness they bring--which will be covered with books eventually.

This was to be the room devoted to F. Scott Fitzgerald, with hints at the Jazz Age and the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. I monkeyed a bit with floor and ceiling heights because this room is in an annex that wasn't made for the original kit. So although I love these hand-feathered/marbled endpapers, I have to figure out something for the pediment over this window ... A taller window or a bay seems wrong; something needs to be happening inside.

Occasionally I spent an ungodly amount getting nice endpapers for the hotel, and I'm not going to use them all ... maybe I can glue them into my notebooks and pretend I really have something for one of my own stories.

This completely amazing handmade blue paper is flat but has a wonderful 3D effect. It was one of the first things I bought; it was to be for the floor of the fairy-tale room, under the swan beds and a tree I made (more on that room to come). But it didn't look right with the tone of the other rooms, so now I have $30 worth of this marvelous paper.

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