I was sitting in my workshop the other day and as I was starring around procrastinating pointlessly my eyes fell on the sewn headband of a half finished book. I decided to make this my next post as I love headbands (seriously WHO in his right bookloving mind doesn’t?) so here we are!
Headbands (or endbands) are those pattern-colored horizontal lines that protrude upwards at the back end of the upper and lower edge of a book. It makes an awkward description so look at the pics! Most commercial bindings nowadays dont have headbands at all. When they do actually have headbands they are almost always just a cloth stripe hastily glued at the book spine with no other reason than to resemble ones from old bindings (as is the case with many features of commercial bindings).
In the early bindings headbands performed an important role, they assisted in pulling the book out of the shelf as volumes those days were usually big and extremely heavy due to the wooden core of the covers and the parchment pages. They were strongly attached to the whole book structure in order to be successful in their task. This remains their main purpose although a great deal of notice has always been given to their decorative character. A finely sewn headband of silk thread, even the simpler one, is a joyous sight for the eyes of those who value bound books.
Headbands are basically a thread looping around one or more round cores in a way that creates motivs and patterns. The whole structure is secured by having the thread going through the pages frequently as the sewing progresses. After it is backed with glued layers of paper that run along the book spine it becomes strong and solid. Headbands vary totally on their difficulty to be produced, easy patterns with few colors and a single core dont pose a serious challenge whereas elaborate ones like in the first picture at the top may take many hours. The possibilities are endless!
A binder can use ready made cloth headbands if he wants to save time or if the book isn’t of high value. He can also make pretty ones made of leather in the cost of some extra time. A volume bound in a fine manner though comes usually along with a beautiful handsewn headband. Below you can see two I’ve made, one rather simple and the other a bit more complex! And that concludes our talk about headbands!