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September 17th, 2014

Book Headbands and Endbands

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by David Rogers

Endbands

While we looked into book headbands and endbands briefly in our article on hardcover books, we wanted to delve a little deeper into the popular option available for case bound and case wrapped hardcover books.

What are Headbands?

First thing’s first: endbands are the thin, usually multi-colored strip of fabric at the top and the bottom of the spine of many hardcover books, as illustrated by the black and white strip on the book below.

Endband

As for the terminology, the band on the top of the book is the headband, while the one of the bottom is the tailband. Both are called endbands.

For the sake of clarity, we will just use the term endbands throughout the remainder of this article.

History of Book Endbands

Endbands originated centuries ago as a functional way to reinforce the strength of the spine of a book. The endbands tied into the other parts of the sewn binding and produced stronger tops and bottoms that were less prone to fraying. The two (and sometimes more) colors seen on endbands today originated from two or more colors of thread being used to sew the original endbands.

The crafts blog From Hell to Breakfast has an in-depth, photo illustrated guide to producing your own endbands. Even if you have no plans to do so, the article is worth checking out to get a in-depth look at how the bands work and the purpose they serve.

Endbands Today

If you take a look at the endbands of most modern books you’ll see that they are no longer sewn into the binding. Therefore, today’s endbands are purely aesthetic and decorative.

This does not, however, mean that today’s books are weaker than older books.

These days, most hardcover books are glued together rather than sewn. Because this glue is applied to the entire length of the spine, it provides more than enough strength to hold the book together for a lifetime.

The endbands are also glued into the book to provide a classic, dignified look. While not necessary, many authors, readers and designers prefer the look of endbands.