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Endsheet Art

Hidden Pages of the Book

Posted 07.27.15 by Allison Fischbach

Map on the endsheets of "Letters from Iceland" by W.H. Auden

We've delved into the depths of our Special Collection to bring out some rarely used volumes for our Endsheet Art exhibit.

When you open a new book fresh off the store shelves, take a look at the very first page. No, not the title page, the one before that - the page that bridges the gap between the cover and the text, this is the endsheet.

A majority of endsheets in contemporary books are white or solid colors and don't commend much attention, but before the advent of mass printing books were host to variety of decorative endpages.

Handmade, marbled papers were popular in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and are considered works of art in and of themselves. The Decker is fortunate enough to own a number of beautifully marbled tomes from the 18th and 19th centuries, including marbled edges and covers. In our upstairs cases, take some time to view the intricate swirls and vibrant colors of these unique monotypes.

Growing mass production changed endsheets from unique swirls into standard designs, and patterned pages came into play. Some publishers, like Modern Library, have uniform patterned endsheets for all their editions, while others change endsheet patterns from edition to edition. Printed endsheets were even used while fixing damaged items, and can sometimes be found in library books sporting old repairs.

Children's books and young adult adventure novels from the early to mid- 19th century sometimes feature endsheets with thematic illustrations or key scenes from the story. Maps are also popular, even in contemporary adventure and fantasy writing. Art and architecture books also commonly feature photographs or paintings on their endsheets, often examples of the works discussed in the text, helping ease the reader into the information.

Examining endsheets presents a viewing experience as varied as the books themselves. Enjoy the pages in the Decker's collection, and reexamine the endpages of your own tomes to discover hidden gems within your own collection.

July 27 - August 15, 2015
Curated by Allison Fischbach

Circulation Policy for Books on Exhibit

Circulating books on display in the museum cases are available for check out at any time. Please see a staff member at the circulation desk to request a book from the cases. Titles, when available, may be checked out at any time from the MRC. For books on display from the Special Collections (Cage), please see a reference librarian.

Image Information

Thumbnail: An essay on the genius of George Cruikshank by William Makepeace Thackeray (NC 1479 .C77 T5 Cage) c. 1870s
This Page: Letters from Iceland by W.H. Auden (DL 313 .A7 Stacks) c.1937

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 52 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.