Zigzag Endpaper

I avoided the zigzag endpaper for a long time because it looks complicated.  This was a mistake, as once I studied it, I found it simple to construct and the expanding gusset is an ingenious way to reduce the drag on the sections by the boards.  Middleton states it’s unclear who invented the zigzag endpaper, or when it first appeared.  His earliest observation of it is on a Doves Bindery book.  However, Douglas Cockerell made it very popular and well known by recommending it, and describing the method of construction in Bookbinding, and the Care of Books in 1901.  His approach is so well described I believe it remains the best and I will try and follow it below.

I am making a number of journals for Xmas presents this year.  In stationery binding you want the book to lay flat for writing in and withstand regularly use.  Thus, it is important the inside hinges created by the endpapers be very strong and not drag the book apart.  I have decided to use zigzag endpapers for this project.  The literature also talks about further reinforcing the endpaper by guarding the outside of the spine folds with leather or cloth.  I have not yet experimented with this.


Each endpaper will require the following.

  • 1 coloured or decorated paper, which when folded is larger than the text block.  This will be the board paper and first flyleaf.
  • 2 plain papers, which when folded are larger than the text block, for the flyleaves and waste paper.
  • Optional plain paper slightly larger than the text block.


  • Using dividers mark a 3mm strip at the fold on the colour sheet and on both sides of a white sheet.  Using a bone folder lightly score a folding line on the white paper.
  • Paste (50/50 mix) a 3mm strip at the fold on both a coloured paper and a white paper.  This is quickly done by using the coloured paper to guard the white and using a waste sheet to guard the coloured.  It is best to paste both sheets to ensure excellent adhesion.
  • Place the white sheet on the bench with the crease mark facing down and tip the coloured sheet onto it with the folds pointing away from each other.  This is best understood with the help of the diagram.  Rub down firmly.
  • The upward facing coloured sheet will be the outward facing board paper and should be marked with an “O” for out, and the upper white will be the waste and can be marked with a “W”.
  • Fold the white waste sheet around the coloured sheet so it now protects the board paper.
  • Fold the other side of the white sheet back on itself at the crease mark made earlier.
  • Now to complete the zigzag (or W as some authors refer to it) fold the white back again so it is level with the fold around the coloured sheet.  Now there is a gusset when looking in towards the spine of the sheets.
  • Now inside the white sheet place the second folded white sheet.  It is inside of this second white sheet that the endpaper is sewn.

It is possible to be finished with this endpaper at this point.  However, one will encounter a problem when gluing the spine and lining.  It is easy to get adhesive into the gusset or for the spine lining to seal the gusset closed.  One school of thought is that as long as a tube remains the drag of the boards will be reduced.  Or you can follow Laurence Town’s advice and tip on an additional waste and fold this around the complete endpaper to protect the gusset.  I have taken to following Mr. Town’s advice.