Bookbinding, and the Care of Books, by Douglas Cockerell

Chapter XI



Modern headbands are small pieces of vellum, gut, or cord sewn on to the head and tail of a book with silk or thread. They resist the strain on the book when it is taken from the shelf. The vellum slip or cord must be of such a depth, that when covered with silk it will be slightly lower than the square of the boards. The cut edge of the vellum always slants, and the slip must be placed in position so that it tilts back rather than forward on the book.

To start, ease the boards slightly on the slips and pull them down with the top edges flush with the top edge of the leaves. If this is not done the silk catches on the projecting edges as the band is worked. Stand the book in a finishing press, fore-edge to the worker, and tilted forward so as to give a good view of the headband as it is worked. The light must come from the left, and well on to the work. A needle threaded with silk is put in at the head of the book, and through the centre of the first section after the end papers, and drawn out at the back below the kettle stitch with about two-thirds of the silk. The needle is again inserted in the same place, and drawn through until a loop of silk is left. The vellum slip is placed in the loop, with the end projecting slightly to the left. It must be held steady by a needle placed vertically behind it, with its point between the leaves of the first section. The needle end of silk is then behind the headband, and the shorter end in front. The needle end is brought over from the back with the right hand, passed into the left hand, and held taut. The short end is picked up with the right hand, brought over the needle end under the vellum, and pulled tight from the back. This is repeated; the back thread is again drawn up and over the band to the front, the needle end crosses it, and is drawn behind under the vellum slip, and so on. The crossing of the threads form a “bead,” which must be watched, and kept as tight as possible, and well down on the leaves of the book. Whenever the vellum or string begins to shift in position, it must be tied down. This is done when the needle end of silk is at the back. A finger of the left hand is placed on the thread of silk at the back, and holds it firmly just below the slip. The needle end is then brought up and over the slip, but instead of crossing it with the front thread, the needle is passed between the leaves and out at the back of the book, below the kettle stitch, and the thread gradually drawn tight, and from under the left-hand finger. The loop so made will hold the band firmly, and the silk can then be brought up and over the slip and crossed in the usual way. The band should be worked as far as the end papers, and should be finished with a double “tie down,” after which the front thread is drawn under the slip to the back. Both the ends of silk are then cut off to about half an inch, frayed out, and pasted down as flatly as possible on the back of the book.

The band should be tied down frequently. It is not too much to tie down every third time the needle end of the silk comes to the back. To make good headbands the pull on the silk must be even throughout.

When the ends of the silk are pasted down, the ends of the vellum slip are cut off as near the silk as possible. The correct length of the headband is best judged by pressing the boards together with thumb and finger at the opposite ends of the band, so as to compress the sections into their final compass. If the band then buckles in the least, it is too long and must be shortened.

The mediæval headbands were sewn with the other bands (see Fig. 32), and were very strong, as they were tied down at every section. Modern worked headbands, although not so strong, are, if frequently tied down, strong enough to resist any reasonable strain. There are many other ways of headbanding, but if the one described is mastered, the various other patterns will suggest themselves if variety is needed. For very large books a double headband may be worked on two pieces of gut or string — a thick piece with a thin piece in front. The string should first be soaked in thin glue and left to dry. Such a band is worked with a figure of eight stitch. Headbands may also be worked with two or three shades of silk. As vellum is apt to get hard and to break when it is used for headbanding, it is well to paste two pieces together with linen in between, and to cut into strips as required.

Machine-made headbands can be bought by the yard. Such bands are merely glued on, but as they have but little strength, should not be used.

Where leather joints are used, the headbands may be worked on pieces of soft leather sized and screwed up. If the ends are left long and tied in front while the book is being covered, they may be conveniently let into grooves in the boards before the leather joint is pasted down. This method, I think, has little constructive value, but it certainly avoids the rather unfinished look of the cut-off headband.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52