I talk a fair amount about how much I like beautiful books. Obviously, the most important thing at the end of the day is the content of a story, but the packaging the publishers choose to give it makes a difference to whether readers bring it home in the first place. Storing books in a way that makes them decorative is also a major source of pleasure for many of us, and visually beautiful books are a part of this. Since the endpapers are hidden on the inside at first glance, while they might help persuade someone perusing in a shop or library to keep looking, they are not the primary way of selling a book – they are not so involved in the judging by the cover circle. Giving a book beautiful endpapers is something that enhances the pleasure of the reader, their enjoyment of the book as a physical object of beauty, that influence the tone and atmosphere as you read. I buy more paperbacks than hardbacks, both because they’re easier to store and easier to read, but when I do buy hardback books I look for nice endpapers. Here are a few of my favourites.
I love books with maps in the front, and this book has not only that, but by having the map on the endpapers, it uses colour. I love how beautiful this is, inside To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey.
Alaska, showing the Wolverine & Tanana Rivers
Incoporating recent explorations by the expedition
Liet. Col. Allen Forrester, 2D U.S. Cavalry.
I love how this map gives us not only a sense of where, but when and with who, we are. The delicacy of the illustration matches the external cover so nicely, as well.
Historical endpapers seems to be a theme for me – this image, from The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory, shows an oil on canvas painting from the Royal Collection named The Family of Henry VIII, painted c. 1545.
Gregory’s books often feature things which are historically relevant in their endpapers – often letters between the historical figures included – but this one in particular always strikes me. I love how central this image is to the story itself, which follows Henry’s last wife Kateryn Parr. I remember when reading the book, I took an interest when I first opened it, and when reading the story I returned to it with a better understanding of the context in which it was produced. The front endpaper here shows the left hand side of the painting, while the back endpaper shows the right hand side. I also love how all of the decadent, rich colours evoke the court and world the reader is to enter, assisting the atmosphere created by the story itself.
In other historical endpapers, I am about to read Conclave by Robert Harris. This is a recent release charting seventy two hours in the election of a new Pope. This is not the sort of story I usually would pick up, and yet the more I read about it elsewhere and listen to Harris discuss it in interviews, I find I’m incredibly interested. It shows a part of what I mean about endpapers being outside of the judge by the cover circle – based on the cover, I would have overlooked this as being a thriller-style novel, which I don’t generally read. Yet the endpapers inside show this beautiful and famous detail from the Sistine Chapel.
This image evokes something so much gentler than a thriller would lead you to expect, that – to me at least – it makes a brilliant contrast to the exterior of the book.
Many endpapers, of course, choose not to have one large image but a motif of some sort which is repeated. Of these styles, my absolute favourite is those in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.
From left to right: endpapers from The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson, Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler and Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
The individual covers for these books are all so beautiful and yet so individual, that I was almost surprised to realise that they have matching endpapers, albeit in their own colour schemes. I love how this links them together, as members of the same project.
And my final, utter favourite endpaper is one that defies what I’ve been saying about endpapers being invisible until you open the book. The gorgeous inside of Arcadia by Iain Pears interacts with the front cover, and is all around one of the most gorgeous books I own.
The difference between this image as glimpsed through the cutout and as a whole, wide expanse is fascinating to me – especially because this same image is used on the paperback edition of the book, but I loved this so much more that I deliberately spent the extra ten pounds on the hardback version. There was something about the interrupting text over the picture on the paperback that I didn’t like, after the feeling of space and freedom that opening this book suggests.
Do you have any favourite endpapers? Tell me about them in the comments!