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Endpapers – Work of Art

by The bookworm on September 12, 2014

endpapers- nancy drew

Book collector interests may be driven by a particular author or genre (science, art, modern firsts, exploration etc.), a particular illustrator or artist, a certain series of award winning books, fine bindings in book design, cover or dust jacket art; a printer of fine press books, incunabula or books printed during certain periods, movable parts or miniature books, inscribed, signed or advance review copies and the list goes on and on.

A book component that has recently picked up a great deal of followers thanks to fine press books and museum exhibits are the endpapers used in the binding process. Endpapers (end-papers or endleaves), are the double-sized, thick, strong paper which is folded, with one half pasted against an inside cover (the pastedown) and the other positioned to lead or trail the other sheets. The first free pages to the front of the book were originally designed to take up the strain of opening the covers of the book.  As a cost-saving measure for cheaper editions, a binder may have also used waste material for the endpapers, instead of a clean sheet of paper or parchment. Today they are primarily constructed by pasting folded colored and white sheets together, to protect the text from the boards and counteract the pull of the cover on the boards.

From vellum, silken and marbled endpapers to pictorial, Dutch gilt and “Images Populaires” designs, endpaper collectors have maintained a progressively astute desire to hunt some of the offerings. Colored paper production techniques such as marbling paper had been practiced in the Islamic world and the Far East for some time becoming one of the chief means available for producing decorated endpapers, and later used in Europe beginning with the sixteenth century. The changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century caused the diminution in hand bookbinding which also brought the extinction of the marbler’s art.

endpapers - marbled

endpapers - swirl









Beyond marbling, during the last century, a number of decorative endpaper works generated a great deal of interest resulting in the extinction of such copies from the market. A scarce Halcyon House edition from 1920, published and distributed by Blue Ribbon Books, was of Rockwell Kent‘s “Wilderness. A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska.” This exhibits the best Kent drawing of this work on the endpapers. First printings through the fourth printing (1936) vanished from the market.

Endpapers Rockwell Kent


One of the most important children’s illustrated books of the twentieth century, the second book in the series of books by A.A. Milne for his son Christopher Robin Milne, is Winnie-the-Pooh. The endpapers, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard (E.H. Shepard) show the map to the “100 Aker Wood.”  The first state of the book which was first published by Methuen in 1926, complete, in good condition, trades for more than $3,000.



endpapers - artAmong today’s fine press productions the most interesting items are collections of books with unique endpapers and works of art. The limited edition of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love (Portland, 1989), features hand-painted endpapers. Several characters from the novel were sketched to create the hand-colored illustration on the front endpaper, most of which were duplicated at least 3 or 4 times in the limited production.  The sheets of the Knopf/Seluzicki Fine Books first edition are bound in black cloth with unique gouache paintings on the endpapers signed by Dunn and by the artist, Mare Blocker in a total edition of 32, now selling above $1000.

Next time you happen to open a book, take the time to notice the first thing you see, the nice drawing, the art, the map, the colorful pattern of the marbling on the front endpaper.  It may have more to offer than a mere element of structural support. It could cause you to skip over the contents to the end of the book straight to the back end paper to double your enjoyment.




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Dobbs-Middleton dispute

Nothing can be as fascinating in the world of exploration and discovery as some of the early Arctic voyages. Still one of the last frontiers on earth, the region that spans the Arctic Ocean and covers land areas in parts of Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the United States (Alaska), has attracted numerous explorers whose journeys are documented in various journals and accounts. One of my favorite exploration adventures is the search for the Northwest Passage, specifically what is referred to as the Dobbs-Middleton controversy.

In order to grasp the essence of the Dobbs-Middleton dispute, a bit of a background historical information is necessary, beginning with the Russians who had forced their way to the east of Siberia and discovered Alaska in 1648. One of the consequences of the Russian advancement was believed to be the formation of the Hudson Bay Company by the British American colonies in 1670. Listed in the fur trade business, the company spent more energy exploring the possibility of a north-west passage to India and China from the western outlet of the Hudson Bay.  In May of 1741, after some unsuccessful voyages of discovery, two ships,  the Furnace Bomb and the Discovery Pink, left England with Irish engineer-in-chief and surveyor-general, Arthur Dobbs’s abstracts containing all voyages’ information known to him at the time. Dobbs, who did  not travel with the expedition,  selected Hudson Bay’s Captain Christopher Middleton to be the commander of the expedition. They ascended as far as 88° west  Greenwich, examining all openings, but they were stopped by the ice at Repulse Bay, turning back on September 1742. Middleton reported that the only openings seen between the 65 and the 66 parallels of north latitude were from large rivers. Dobbs accused Middleton of making false statements and brought the matter before Admiral Sir Charles Wager.

For collectors of the “Exploration & Travel” genre, the Dobbs-Middleton dispute produced a number of collectible items.  Middleton’s “Vindication of the Conduct of Captain Christopher Middleton” (London, 1743) was followed by “Remarks on Capt. Middleton’s Defence by A. Dobbs”  (London, 1744), which was re-battled by Middleton’s  “A Rejoinder”  (London, 1745).  Despite containing extensive controversial portions, some of the accounts contain much valuable and interesting information regarding the physical geography of the area.

Hudson Bay Map

Thomas W. Streeter, Sr.  (1883-1965), the greatest Americana book collector of the 20th century, and his son Frank Sherwin Streeter, collected among other treasures the pamphlets around the Dobbs-Middleton controversy.  Some of the pamphlets in this fierce dispute of words have long been regarded as the black tulips of early Arctic voyages, and were sold by Christie’s New York   on April 16-17, 2007 as part of an event titled “The Frank S. Streeter Library: Important Navigation, Pacific Voyages, Cartography, Science.”  Among them, “Dobbs, Arthur. A Reply to Capt. Middleton’s Answer to the Remarks on his Vindication of his Conduct… London: J. Robinson, 1745,” sold for $31,200. It was estimated at a mere $4,000-$6,000. Seven more lots attracted similar enthusiasm from bidders.

This September, Sotheby’s is holding the second part of its Exploration and Discovery 1576-1939: The Library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching, featuring authors D-J. Franklin Brooke-Hitching who assembled the finest private collection of English language books relating to voyages, exploration and discovery from 16th century to the 1930s. This second part includes a collection of seven works in 3 volumes dated 1743-45 on the Dobbs-Middleton controversy.  Estimate: £60,000-90,000.  If part 1 is any indication of things to come, the lot could easily break through the high estimate.

An interesting part of this literature pertaining to the dispute had to do with the activities of the Russians in the Siberian Arctic with their own explorations of the Northern Pacific under Vitus Bering, the exploration of Bering Strait, Bering’s discovery of Alaska, and the Russian occupation of that northern tip of the continent.  Russian advancement had important implications to the nature of the motives behind the dispute that ultimately led to such collectible writings.

Dobbs-Middleton Dispute2

pamphlets of the Dobbs-Middleton  dispute


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