Early manuscript and printed books usually had no endpapers; the text was attached directly to the cover, sometimes leaving the opening pages of an illuminated manuscript vulnerable to damage. As printing spread, books were no longer the exclusive preserve of religious communities and wealthy collectors. And when thousands of titles were produced, purchased and handled every day, the first and last pages of the text were exposed to dirt and the risk of damage. Simple endpapers, made of paper or vellum, were introduced.
As printing spread, books were no longer the exclusive preserve of religious communities and wealthy collectors.
From the seventeenth century, endpapers became a more important, often ornamental, aspect of the binding. As with any genre of decorative arts, fashions and techniques changed through the years.
Marbled paper was popular for endpapers from the seventeenth century. The technique was first adopted in Europe in the sixteenth century, having spread from China and Japan through the Middle East. The effect is produced by floating a selection of paints in a tray of ‘sized’ liquid, which is thickened with cellulose. A sheet of paper is placed onto the surface of the liquid. When the page is lifted out of the tray, the colours remain as patterns on the surface of the paper.