As many of you many know, I have an interest in endpapers (unusual or attractive ones, anyway), as my recent piece for the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, and my creation of the Facebook group We Love Endpapers will show. I am currently preparing to exhibit at the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair the week after next, and here is one of the books I shall have on my stand:
First published in 1776, Vyse’s New London Spelling Book was an educational bestseller, with countless editions through the eighteenth and well into the nineteenth century. ‘In this Edition all the useless Matter has been expunged, such as many Tables of Monosyllables; for they are dull, dry, and tiresome, both to the Child and to its Teacher’ (Advertisement). Among the improving reading at the end of the book are Gray’s Elegy and five extracts from Shakespeare (‘All the world’s a stage …’, Hamlet’s soliloquy, two from Henry IV, and Henry V’s Agincourt speech), intended to be ‘useful and agreeable to Youth, as they will serve to give a Variety to their Talks, and to bring them acquainted with the higher and more poetical Style of their own Language’ (p. 160).
Another feature included here is the illustrated alphabet showing various peoples of the world (dated 1800, and presumably new to the edition of that year), from Arabian, Chinese, and Hottentot, via Kamchadal, Mexican, ‘Otaheitean’ (i.e. Tahitian), Quaker, and Russian, to Zealander (i.e. Maori). In this copy, the plate has been employed as the rear free endpaper and pastedown:
I have not been able to ascertain whether this is an early example of a publisher’s printed endpaper, or simply the work of an innovative binder. The binding here seems original, but I have not been able to trace another copy of an edition with the plate that uses it in the same way.