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book parts and house parts,

a mini blog

  • Writer's picturesusann cokal

So it seems endpapers are trendy for many purposes.

Yes, fancy endpapers are having a moment. Which is not why they are in my writerly mini-inn; I've just always liked them.

Above is the bookshop-in-progress, with a spiral staircase careening about because it is not yet installed.

I once asked my high school humanities teacher why those white or colored or decorated--sometimes very fancily so--pages appear at the beginning and end of a book; she didn't know and I speculated, sincerely, "Building suspense?"

But, as I mentioned last week, they help hold a book together. So they really do build, and I suppose they build tension as well. (I'm writing this with a migraine, so forgive the shaky-foundation not-quite-humor.)

They can be very pretty and an informative part of the book itself, as in the endpapers for Peter Høeg's Smilla's Sense of Snow (which depends on knowledge of Copenhagen geography for a bit of tension and timing, hence the map) and Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer (for which it is just nice to look at pictures of insects while getting a feel for the season):

Using books as part of a design scheme brings to mind Nicholson Baker's "Books as Furniture," an essay that appeared in The New Yorker in 1995 and horrified many of us with reports of books being sold to interior designers a foot or so of lined-up spines at a time, and in color batches. Because books should be part of your color scheme.

Here's how it would look if I decorated with a FEW favorite books that have red spines or black spines. If your book has a red or black spine and I have failed to include it, that is only because I was grabbing from shelves within a certain reach. I am sure I love your book and its red or black spine.

I do not care for it and don't feel like trying other colors. I organize my shelves by the way books make me feel, unless I need to keep an author's corpus together, or editions of Nancy Drew with spine styles consistent. Because everybody does that, of course.

The ordinary consumer can do that now. Plenty of shops on Etsy, for example, will sell you a foot or so of turquoise books in a lot. Or orange books, and so on. I single out no particular shop, but some of the books do look interesting beyond the color and design of their spines.

So, endpapers.

Speaking of Nancy, she has some fabulous endpapers in her old editions. Here's a sampling, from 1930s to 1970s. They have names such as "Digging Man," which I find even more ominous than the books' plots.

And those endpapers (and spines) were made into equally fabulous fabric around 2010 or so. I bought up many versions of it and made some fangirl outfits for myself. Recently I sold off most of my leftover Nancy-endpaper fabric and found its value had appreciated.

There's other endpaper-inspired fabric still for sale. I think it's mostly in use for quilters (as is the case for the Nancy fabric, though I know people also make face masks out of what they can find now). It's based on designs of hand-marbled paper used for endpapers in the 1700s and 1800s.

Here are some actual marbled endpapers and book covers from the late 1800s:

And here is some fabric now trendily current (the one at top right has gold highlights) :

The last time this kind of fabric was used for clothes was the 1960s, and then it was mostly polyester. I had a very funkadelic blue-and-green feathered-endpaper shirt that I paired with red hiphuggers in junior high. Unfortunately, that was in 1979, and I'd bought those things at a yard sale, and vintage was NOT fashionable where I lived (small, picky mountain town). Nonetheless, I wore them and felt awesome. And yet, I'm glad those garments have now vanished from my life, along with the jocks and cheerleaders who gave them critical reviews.

I have bought antique books for the glorious endpapers, of course, and for the whole musty-smelling, artful, edge-stained package of them. LOVE them.

I felt guilty when I bought antique endpapers by themselves, harvested from old books, to put into the mini-inn. But don't they look fabulous??? Nothing like the mellowing over time.

Couple of rooms with contemporary hand-marbled paper:

Now is it crazy that I want to buy a few yards of that fabric and make myself a Statement Dress?

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