Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Book Art: designing end papers

At the turn of the 20th century artists tried to reform the making of books. Books shouldn't only be printed on good paper, with the right type and illustrations fitting to the text, but also with an according book cover and beautiful end papers. This over all development in the book arts is mostly attributed to the Art Nouveau, but, on closer look, interest in the book as a "Gesamtkunstwerk" started much earlier and is to be found for example in the editions de luxe that were published in the "epoch" of Historism.
True is, that the specific design of end papers increased during the Art Nouveau, but even then it was not a common feature. Through my researches on illustrated fairy tales and sagas, that are often categorized as children's literature (which is only half true), end papers were rarely designed at all. Nonetheless there are a few examples of not only decoratively patterned endpapers but such that are illustrated with motifs that fit to the contents of the book.
Intent and approach differ from end paper to end paper and range from a rather decorative, to motifs that create a certain atmosphere according to the text, or belong to the telling of the story.

In 1921, Maximilian Liebenwein designed the end paper for an edition of Gottfried Kellers Spiegel, das Kätzchen (Zürich / Leipzig / Wien: Amalthea, 1921), the story of a cat with a repeating pattern of cats moving over rose garlands. The topic of the book is thus mirrored and transformed into a decorative pattern.

The same can be said for Gertrud Caspari's fairy tale figurines (Mein Märchen-Bilderbuch von Gertrud Caspari. Leipzig: Alfred Hahn, [1921]): showing central standard characters of the fairy tales the book contains, such as the king and queen and the old witch.

On the contrary, Willy Planck (it's not completely sure, that he designed the end paper, sometimes different artists were commissioned to do this, especially when the end papers were needed for later editions) designed a dark wood:

The books title Ins Zauberland (Into Wonderland, Sttutgart: Loewe, 1913) alludes to the content of the book: fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, including Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and other fairy tales in which the forest - dark, mysterious, dangerous - plays a significant role. By picturing an equally dark, mysterious and dangerous wood, the end paper creates a certain atmosphere that introduces the reader to the fairy wood.
This can be compared to the end paper of Wilhelm Roegge, designed for a collection of German folk and hero tales (Deutsche Volks- und Heldensagen. Stuttgart: Levy & Müller, ca. 1910), such as Barbarossa and Roland. The end paper depicts a medieval landscape: mountains, castles, and a river zig-zagging through the country. Rhine-Romantic is activated here, putting the reader into the right mind for the saga-material.

Anne Anderson's end paper (Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten und andere Märchen von Brüder Grimm. Leipzig: A. Anton & Co., [1930].) takes the possibilities of the end paper even further: she shows a fairy tale scene, that - though it has nothing to do with the Grimm fairy tales, but illustrates the story of the magical horse from the Arabian Nights - indicates clearly that the book contains a collection of fairy tales.

Walter Crane's Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from 1904 actually shows a scene from the fairy tale contained in the book: or two, to be more precise, the opening of the secret hide-out of the thieves and a long caravan transporting treasures through the desert.

Ruth and Martin Koser-Michaels end paper (Zwei Märchen der Brüder Grimm. Nürnberg: Seebaldus, 1948) do the same: the narrative of the illustrations is continued - or even commenced - in the end papers. Here, the boy from the The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was sets out for his search. To his left, there is the gallows where he stayed overnight, and at the end of the road, there is the haunted castle with the giant ghost with the white hair waiting and watching.

Considered the many possibilities the end papers presented the artists with, it is a shame, that end papers were (and still are) only rarely illustrated or specially designed.

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