Endpaper Renaissance

Endpaper art is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Back in 2012, Rebecca Barry profiled British professional marbler Jemma Lewis here on the FB blog, and after our recent story in the fall print issue about the revival of endpapers, we thought it was time to check back in with Lewis and see what she's been up to. We also heard from Julie Farquhar, the production manager at the Folio Society who produced the 2017 limited edition of H.P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories and which feature Lewis' endpapers, seen below.


You've been credited with being at the vanguard of a rekindled love of marbled, handmade endpapers. What drew you to this profession?

                                                                                                                                                   Lewis: I studied Textile Art at Norwich school of Art & Design and have always had a love for color, surface pattern, and design. My progression to becoming a paper marbler was actually via local bookbinders where I worked for several years in the offices, before going to train with the lady who supplied us with marbled paper.


How do you approach a book project? Is there a desire to match the marbling in some way with the text?

                                                                                                                                                  Lewis: We love to take our inspiration from the book itself, whether that be the title, the illustrations, or a design that ties in with how the book is being bound. In the instance of The Call of the Cthulhu, the purple and green spots were inspired by the two-tone iridescent book cloth used in the casing. Coming up with bespoke designs is one of my favorite parts of the marbling process.


Why do you think there's a renewed fascination with endpaper decoration?

                                                                                                                                                      Lewis: In the 18th century, marbled papers were the endpaper of choice for beautiful fine bindings. The use of marbled papers has once again seen a resurgence as people appreciate the craftsmanship involved and the many wonderful variations marbling can offer. Marbling is a heritage craft, but the designs and color-ways are no longer restricted to the traditional designs and darker palettes. We use bright base papers, metallic paints, and a contemporary palette.

                                                                                                                                              Farquhar: Endpapers present a good opportunity for additional embellishment or illustration--a double page spread at the very start and end of the book which would otherwise be plain. They can be used to create a mood or a feeling for the entire book, be more specific to the text, or just be purely decorative and enhance the appeal of the overall book design.

                                                                                                                                                       I think people love marbled endpapers as it is all part of the current appeal for the hand-crafted way of producing beautiful bespoke items on a small scale. The colors and patterns feel quite different to conventionally printed endpapers.


Some endpapers are bolder and more expressive than the book jackets--why do you suppose that is?

                                                                                                                                                           Lewis: I think there is something very exciting about opening up what appears to be a fairly plain book and seeing colored marbled endpapers on the inside!

                                                                                                                                            Farquhar: I agree with Jemma. If you are binding with a certain type of cloth or leather and you want to show the natural texture or weave of the cloth or grain of the leather, then your binding design may be quite simple. Or, perhaps the content of the book may merit a simple, classic, perhaps typographic binding design. The endpapers at the very start and end of the book present a great opportunity for embellishment or convey a certain mood and atmosphere while providing an unexpected wow factor.


Check out the fall 2017 print issue of Fine Books & Collections Magazine for more on the endpaper renaissance, including a conversation with geometric endpaper enthusiast (and New Yorker illustrator) Bob Staake