06 December 2008

The End of Endpapers?

To end a week that's turned out to be about children's-book illustration of my childhood, it seems appropriate to talk about endpapers. Drawger's handsome exhibit of older endpapers from members' libraries inspired Alison Morris's showing of recent examples at Shelftalker. Then Betsy Bird at the Fuse prodded Peter Sieruta into scanning and posting even more examples at Collecting Children's Books.

Finally, back in February, Oz Enthusiast Bill Campbell posted this image of W. W. Denslow's endpapers for the second edition of The Wizard of Oz.

In their classic form, endpapers were pieces of paper the size of a full page spread, often in a thicker stock than the paper on which the book was printed. Those sheets could be colored or marbled, or have artwork printed on them, as on the examples above. Naturally, that extra art and printing cost more.

Endpapers were not only decorative, but also served a function in the bookbinding, connecting the pages of the book to the flaps of the hardcover. In cheaper bindings, in fact, the endpapers were the only things holding those parts of the book together.

More recently, publishers have been using "self ends" or "self-endpapers," printed in the same signature as the nearby pages of the book. This makes it more efficient to print full-color endpapers. But it also means endpapers are no longer on different paper stock--one reason the Stinky Cheese Man was able to move the rear endpaper up in his book to finish it early. (Remember that?)

Self ends also reduce the number of pages available for content. Here's how they work for a 32-page signature. Page 1 is glued onto the front cover, and page 32 is glued onto the back cover; naturally, nothing gets printed on those pages. Pages 2 and 3 become the equivalent of the front endpaper, printed to look as if they're two halves of a single continuous sheet--but they're not really connected at all. Likewise, pages 30 and 31 serve as the back endpaper.

That leaves pages 4 through 29 to tell the story and include all the necessary publishing information: title page, copyright page, credits. Self ends thus make a 32-page signature into a 26-page book. As a result of that constriction, I suspect we see self ends more often in longer picture books, that start with two signatures to begin with.

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