Basic Endpapers

Laurence Town (1) states that one of the reasons for introducing endpapers was to prevent the first and last sections of a book from being “dragged away” from the text block by the boards.  While Arthur Johnson (2) emphasises two purposes, the pull of the board paper countering the pull of the external covering material and the fly leaves protecting the opening and ending pages of the text.  Douglas Cockerell (3) suggests that for “people who must write notes in books to do so with the least injury to the book, it is advisable to put a good number of blank papers at each end”.

The endpapers include the board paper, also known as the paste down, and the flyleaves.  In modern (19th century onwards) letterpress the endpapers were supplied and added by the binder.  But it was desirable that the binder use the same paper as the text block if available.  The board paper and the recto of the first flyleaf, being one sheet of paper, are often decorative papers.

In the QBG Introductory Bookbinding Course the endpapers are of the simplest form, a tipped on single fold of paper which provides a board paper and a single flyleaf.  This is fine for the beginner just learning about the structure of the book, however if one continues to bind books by hand a more robust endpaper configurations should be used.  Town suggests that in the “light of long experience” the most successful endpapers are sewn on. 

There are many construction techniques for endpapers with Johnson illustrating 14 different configurations and this is far from exhaustive.  Each one attempts to solve different structural goals and provide aesthetic value in accord with the overall binding.  In other posts I will describe 3 different sewn endpapers which are ideal for the binder who has completed the introductory course and is wanting to advance the quality of their case bound work.

  • Hidden Cloth Jointed Endpaper
  • Common Made Endpaper
  • Zigzag Endpaper

Considerations for all Endpapers

  • The grain direction of all paper and cloth hinges must run head to tail.
  • If you can’t match the paper for the flyleaves to the text block then always use an equal or heavier paper for the flyleaves, never lighter weight, and always a shade darker, never whiter.
  • Make the endpaper larger than the text block and trim down to size.  It’s too difficult to make the endpaper exactly the size required.
  • Mark the outside of the board paper and the waste sheets.  This is especially useful in making sure decorated papers are kept matched back and front (pattern is same way up).
  • The endpapers are sewn on to the front and back of the book just like another signature.  For exposed cloth jointed endpapers, usually used for stationary binding, the thread should encircle the tape so as to give a continuous line of thread inside the endpaper section.
  • The endpaper, and first section, should be tipped in, front and back.

A final thought from Laurence Town.  “In addition to giving strength and protection to the book, endpapers should show good taste, and add neatness and beauty to the binding.” (1)

1. Town, Laurence. Bookbinding by Hand. s.l. : Latimer Trend & Co, 1963.

2. Johnson, Arthur W. The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding. s.l. : Thames and Hudson, 1998.

3. Cockerell, Douglas. Bookbinding, and the Care of Books. s.l. : John Hogg, 1911.

4. Colishaw, Nick. Leather Binding DVD.