Friday, February 11, 2011


Before I worked at BTD, I had never heard of a headband. Have you? Take out one of your lovelier hardbound books and look at the top of the spine. See that little strip of cloth that's between the signature pages and the spine itself? It's called the headband. It helps attach the edges of the folded paper to the spine, and keeps your book spine from cracking and the pages spilling out. There are even sample books that show you different headbands you can specify when you're designing a book, like these from Talas:

I recently received a fascinating catalog of books about bookmaking from Oak Knoll Press/Oak Knoll Books, and even though I knew about headbands, I was surprised to find an entire book devoted to them, titled Headbands: How to Work Them, and they're not talking about Pat Benatar or Jane Fonda, Bjorn Borg or Olivia Newton John.

Further googling about headbands yields some really interesting book conservation materials...worth a look!


Beth Tondreau said...

I have to do more research, but in trade books—or most manufactured books these days—headbands are more ornamental than functional. Cynical production people say they cover up the glue in perfect bound books. Marshall Lee, that old school book guy, wrote in Bookmaking that "Headbands are the decorative strips of colored cloth that protrude slightly at the back on top and bottom." Not so technical, eh? To be continued.

Beth Tondreau said...

In his article about Gerhard Steidl for T Magazine, write Jim Lewis echoes you almost exactly, Suzanne, in his opening paragraph:

"I'm pretty sure you don't know what 'head and tail bands' are. I didn't anyway. I had never heard the term before, and if I'd ever seen one, I hadn't noticed it. They're the tiny strips of cloth that lie at the top and bottom of a book, between the back of the paper and the spine. They were originally meant to cover up imperfectly hand-cut pages, but not that commercial bookbinding is done by machine, they've become mostly decorative, and most books don't have them anymore."


Cue music for "Twilight Zone" right now! Anyway, some trade books still have head bands. And, as your examples noted, some hand-bound books may use headbands as a structural element.

Beth Tondreau said...