We all know what headbands look like before they are applied to our books. They consist of a canvas backing about 1/4″ wide with some silky colored thread stitched on to one edge. ecru_cotton_1Here’s an example (from Hollander’s website).

But hang on a minute — like so much in the book making world these are merely the convenience-version of the original product, which had to be sewn onto (and into) the book block after it had been folded. collated, had the endpapers applied, and been rounded and backed. Obviously this hand sewing took a lot of time (money) and unsurprisingly was mechanized away quite quickly. Hand binders call these machine-made headbands “faux headbands”.

Bookbinder’s Chronicle has this charming instructional video which will enable you to do the job properly on your next de luxe project. It lasts for about 20 minutes but its zen-like quality makes time fly.

We always have a slight difficulty in naming the headband which goes at the bottom of the spine. Is it a footband? Or maybe a tailband? We do seem able to say head and foot bands, or head and tailbands, so I guess we can use either in the singular too. In Britain, we would tend to do an edition with headbands only i.e. bare at the bottom of the spine — that was before we stopped using them at all of course! And why are headbands used? Originally the headband, as shown in the video added some strength to the edges of the spine which would help with pulling the book off the shelf. You will no doubt have noticed the tendency for things to fall apart here. So we add these glued on bits of cloth merely as a gesture toward the solid book-making methods of the past.

For the addict, here’s sewn headbands II, constructing a French Double headband. Just as fascinating.