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FORWARDING: Head-Bands, Single & Double

Edge gilding:

Edges may be "full gilt," "gilt in the rough," or only have the head gilt. Full gilt edges are not in common use; this style is mostly used in religious books and in very elaborate, showy publications. "Gilt in the rough" means that the rough edges of band-made paper are gilded untrimmed. Valuable editions, etc., are not trimmed, but gilded in the original sizes. This gilding is done before sewing. The style most popular is to have the head gilt, which is done principally for the purpose of catching the dust as the book stands upright on the shelves and allowing it to be easily rubbed off. The head should be gilded just after the boards are laced in and the head has been cut.

Gilding the head:

Throw the boards back, place gilding boards on each side of the head flush with the surface to be gilt; screw up very tightly in the press. (A regular gilding press is made, which has metal instead of wooden screws, which exert much greater pressure. The amateur can, however, get along with the lying press.) The head is scraped and sand-papered. Take a piece of gilder's red chalk, rub with water on a stone, to make a somewhat thick paste, which must be thick enough not to run between the leaves. Apply it with a stiff brush (with short bristles). When dry, brush again with a stiff brush, which removes the superfluous chalk and polishes the edges somewhat. Glaire the whole, or part of it, and apply the gold-leaf (previously cut to proper size), and let it dry. In an hour or two it may be burnished with the agate burnisher. It is well to lay an oiled paper on the gold when beginning this operation. It may also be finished through this thin paper; it will then not be so bright, but rather of the "dead gold" order.

In commercial work, and also in much work done by private binders, edge-gilding is usually sent out to be done by houses which devote their entire time to this special work. I advise the beginner not to gild the edges of his own books for the time being, but to have it done by experts in that particular line. It is much more satisfactory, as a rule, than to do it ones self.


This is one of the most troublesome operations which confront the beginner, and it is almost impossible to learn to become proficient in it without some personal instruction, or at least seeing some one else do it. The silk used for head-banding should be what is known as buttonhole twist, heavier than the ordinary. No. B E is not too heavy. The simplest head-band is made as follows: Two strips of vellum are cut (using very sharp knife and rule) slightly longer than the round of the back. The height of the strip should be a shade less than the width of the squares at the head and tail. These strips are made to assume the curve of the back by drawing them between the finger and a rounded surface, such as a lead pencil. The silk used for covering these strips of vellum is usually of two colors, though more colors may be used as one becomes expert. For the purposes of explanation, however, we will assume that two colors, red and white, are used. The book is to be placed in the finishing press or other convenient press, the head up, with the fore edge slanting toward the operator (see illustration).

bookbinding book in press for headband

Two threads of silk are knotted together, and the red one threaded in a sharp pointed needle. Slip a bone folder between the leaves about five pages from front of book and pass needle through the back of book, just below the kettle-stitch. (The place where the needle is passed through the back is usually about one-half section from the front of the book.) As the thread is drawn through the back the knot is drawn between the leaves (to the front of the kettle stitch). The needle is then brought up over the head to the front, again passed through the same place, thus leaving a loop over the head of the book.

bookbinding starting sewing simple headband

Through this loop is passed the little strip of vellum, the lower edge setting snugly on the head of the sections. The loop is then drawn tight, and this, aided with the finger holds the vellum strip upright in its proper position. By reference to the cuts it will be noted how the vellum strip may also be supported by sticking a pin or needle upright in the first section. We now bring the needle to the front again, which brings the red silk for the second time over the head-band alongside the first turn. By placing the forefinger of the left hand on this strand and holding it down on the head of the book (a little distance from the head-band), it is kept taut; with the right hand the white silk (coming up between the sections in front of the headband) is drawn over to the right over the red silk, slipped under the right-hand end of the vellum and drawn snugly down until the red silk, where it is crossed by the white, is drawn down to the junction of the edge of the strip and the head of the book. Still holding the red silk under slight tension with one finger, another finger of the left hand may be placed on the white silk (where it passes over the vellum) to hold it in place, while the end is again brought forward and again slipped under the vellum and the end brought over and down against the head of the book (as the red silk was); the red silk is then carried to the right, above the white, and slipped under the vellum as before, thus drawing the white silk to the junction of the vellum and the head of the book; then it is again brought forward and slipped once more under the right edge of the vellum, thus making two loops of red silk. The loose end of the red silk is brought forward and held to the head of the book, as before; the same operation is now repeated with the white and red silk alternately, until the head-band is finished.

bookbinding sewing simple headband

The principal points to be observed in this work are, to keep both silks under constant slight tension and to see that the bead formed, where the vellum rests on the sections, is regular and not tight. If any one portion does not seem regular, it may be pushed down with the edge of a folder. From time to time it is necessary to fasten the head-band to the book. This is done every one-half inch or so, by running the threaded needle down in the section and under the kettle-stitch and bringing it out through the back and up over the head-band, as in the beginning. This takes the place of one of the turns just described, and does not interfere with the general operation of making the head-band. When the right-hand edge of the back is reached the needle is passed below the kettle-stitch (within four or five pages of the end of the book) twice, just as it was in beginning the head-band. After the needle has come out at the back the second time it is passed under the two strands of silk which now extend from the head-hand to the kettle-stitch, on edge of the back, and then down through the loop which is formed, drawn tight, and cut off. The remaining end of white silk is drawn under the right-hand end of the vellum (between the lower edge of the vellum and the head of the book) and passed through the loop of red silk just before it is drawn tight. This holds both ends snugly. That they may not slip, a bit of glue or paste may be rubbed over them at this time. When this head-band is finished we find alternate rows of red and white silk (two threads each) with a beaded margin at the base, covering the junction of vellum and sections.

Double head-band:

This may be made of vellum or cord, as desired. The upper band should be the smaller both in height and thickness. Begin by making a loop (as in simple head-band) into which the lower cord or band is slipped, the thread then being drawn tight.

bookbinding beginning sewing double headband

Place the upper segment in position, tying the left-hand ends together to hold it. Pass the needle between the two bands, make two turns about the upper band, leaving the needle end projecting between the bands (in front). Holding it taut, draw the other end across it, passing above and to the right and under the lower band. This draws the needle end down to the junction of the lower band and the sections and commences the "beading."

bookbinding second step in sewing double headband

Now bring the end which has just passed under the band to the back, between the two bands, to the front, then once around the upper band, thus coming out again in front, between the two bands. The needle end is now passed across the loose end (above it) and towards the right, repeating this process as in the single head-band until it is finished.


bookbinding third step in sewing double headband

This style of head-band is fastened to the book in the same way as was described for the single head-band. The fastening down can only be done when the needle is brought in front, between the two bands, just after it has been wound about the upper segment. Pass the needle through the section coming out on back just below the kettle-stitch; bring it up and forward between the two bands and then wind around the upper segment. At the end, after the last fastening down, the two ends are drawn under the lower strip, cut off, frayed out a bit and pasted down.

bookbinding fourth step in sewing double headband

There are many varieties of head-bands, some made with several colors of silk, others made of two pieces of vellum; of a piece of vellum and a piece of catgut, lying in front of it.

The various illustrations give a fair idea as to how the silks are handled in making both single and double head-bands. Lining back: After the head-band has been made and fixed by rubbing a little glue on it at the back (thus fixing the threads to each other and the band to the upper edge of the back), the back is usually "lined." This is for the purpose of strengthening it, and also, when false bands are used (when the book is sewn on sunken cords) to make a surface to which the bands may be glued. Place the book in the finishing press, cut a piece of paper (somewhat firm, like cartridge paper) an inch longer than the book and about five times the width of the back. Dampen one side by sponging slightly with water. Glue the back (head-bands and all) with thin, very hot glue; put the paper on the back, leaving exposed on one side a strip of the back about one-eighth inch wide; smooth the paper down well, fold it over the back again (the folded edge of the paper coming exactly at the edge of the back and parallel with the cover) the paper being smoothed down will also stick along the other edge of the back because of the strip of glue which was left uncovered in the beginning. Fold again at this edge, brush the back again with glue, and draw the paper again across the back. It is now well smoothed down with a folder and the remainder cut off smoothly along the joint. Thus we have three thickness of paper on the back, two thickness, however, lying against each other not glued. This is for the purpose of forming what is known as a "hollow" back. This arrangement allows the back to open without bending the leather and thus prevents the tooling being injured. After a short time the parts projecting, beyond the head and tail are cut off.

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