Endbands: To Roll or to Sew?

I wanted to write a short post about making new endbands when repairing a rare book.

Situation 1: When there is no original endband present.

Sometimes there are no endbands present. There are no remnants of endbands present. In this case, if the book is not a prized jewel of the collection, I usually make a rolled paper conservation endband.

the top portion of a spine of a damaged book, some of the leather removed, two fingers holding the remaining leather in place.
The endbamds at the head and tail of the book are missing.

In the book pictured above, I could not tell what the original endbands had looked like. There is a textile fragment adhered at the top of the spine but I am not really sure what that tells me about the endbands… Any ideas out there?

Well, let’s get back to what I do know. A rolled paper endband is quick and easy to make. Once dry, it is durable and supports the original endcap nicely, making no claims of authenticity. Its appearance clearly states: “a conservator made me, I am not original.”

Materials: Linen cord, Moriki Japanese tissue (50 gsm) and wheat starch paste.

The rolled endband can be made of a neutral color paper, which blends in with the rest of the binding without calling undue attention to itself.

Once the endband dries, it can be trimmed to fit the spine of the book.

In the book below, I “faced” the fragile original leather before lifting it. I used 9gsm machine-made tengujo Japanese tissue with a 4% solution of Klucel G in ethanol. After adhering the endband to the spine, I molded a new endcap using the same paper and paste.

1. The rolled paper endband is attached to the spine of the book at the head, using paste.
2. The endcap is molded on top of the endband. An overhanging lining is added. The lining has hinges that will tuck under the lifted pastedowns on the interior of the boards.
3. The hinges are tucked in and the original leather is ready to be re-adhered to the spine and the boards.

Once the leather was re-adhered, I removed the tengujo “facing”, using a small amount of ethanol applied with a brush. In order to make the appearance of the repaired binding more cohesive, I toned the exposed paper repairs with acrylics to mimic the color of the original leather. Since the rolled paper endbands already blended in well, I left them as they were.

The new endband and endcap after conservation treatment.

Situation 2: One of the endbands is present, the other is partially missing.

In the case below, the tail endband and endcap were intact but only half of the head endband was there. The core of the endband was brittle and completely inflexible. I have found that when a fragment of the endband can no longer bend, it will not function well if joined with a newly constructed fragment. As the book is opened repeatedly, the connection between the old and the new endband fragments will eventually break.

Half of the head endband is tenuously attached.
The red edge speckling pattern is less faded where the other half of the endband used to be.

My solution was to save the original fragment as a small artifact and to make a whole new head endband. Luckily, I had a lovely original fragment and an intact tail endband to reference.

The colors of thread on the tail endband appear more faded.

The silk thread on the interior side of the endband was barely faded, retaining vibrant colors of green and red. On the exterior side, which was exposed to light, the environment and pollutants, the colors of the thread had faded significantly. The resulting aged color combination was closer to a muted mauve and a faded blue-green. The silk ribbon bookmark had faded to a similar green.

A fragment of the original endband, removed from the book.
The original fragment compared to the new sewn endband, which is made of linen fabric and dyed silk thread.

I dyed white silk thread with diluted acrylic pigments to match the endband that was visible and intact at the tail of the book. I followed the same two-color single bead pattern, except I sewed through fabric, not through the textblock.

Comparing the original tail endband with the new sewn endband intended for the head of the book.

After I adhered the new endband to the spine with paste, I noticed how much flatter the curve of the spine was at the head. At the tail of the book, the spine was much more curved. I had no plans to alter the uneven curve, it was just an observation that made me go: “huh…”. Not something to contemplate correcting.

The new sewn endband underneath the new head endcap.

I also observed that the new endband sat higher over the head edge of the textblock than the original endband had.

This outcome was ok with me. First, because my new endband was not sewn into the textblock like the original had been. Second, because achieving the perfect match was never my goal. I wanted my endband to be similar enough to avoid standing out.

Repairs before toning.

I molded the new head endcap with Moriki tissue and paste, trying to mimic the shape of the existing tail endcap. After the original leather was re-attached, I toned the paper repairs in the exact same way I did in Situation 1 of the rolled endband.

Repairs after toning.

I stored the fragment of the original head endband in the enclosure with the book. I put the fragment into an archival polyethylene zip-locked baggie and attached it to a small piece of 20pt board, using cotton twine. I inserted the board with the baggie into the cutout on the interior of the lid. The little package can be popped out and back in order to examine the original fragment more closely.

An extra piece of corrugated board is attached to the interior of the lid. There is a cutout made in it to house the endband fragment.


  1. This was really helpful and the pictures were really informative! Was the molded Moriki only treated with acrylics to achieve the appearance of leather or did you add something on top for extra shine to match the surrounding worn leather? It’s such a good match!

    1. Emilie, I am so glad that the pictures were helpful in illustrating the process. Yes, I do coat the Moriki paper with acrylics. For a medium brown leather bindnig, I set out a pallet on a piece of Mylar: little globs of raw sienna, burnt sienna, raw unber, burnt umber, payne’s gray, yellow and oxide/yellow ochre. Van dyke brown and mars black can be helpful too. Then I use these earth tones to mix the browns that I want for toning, thinning out the acrylics with water to a consistency of a bottled yoghurt smoothie (Chiobanni?). Oftentimes, different parts of the binding will call for a slightly different mix from the pallet. After the acrylics are dry, the toned area is occasionally too matte in comparison to the original leather. To increase the sheen, I coat the toned area with a 1:1 mix of SC6000 and 2% Klucel G in ethanol. Just brushing on this coating will usually add sufficient sheen. If the original leather is very shiny, as it sometimes is in 18th century bindings, you can increase the sheen by lightly burnishing the coated area with a bone folder. But that will make it REALLY shiny, so proceed with caution…. You have inspired me to write about toning and coating in my next blog post! I will take pictures of my pallet and provide all the technical details. Thank you so much for your feedback, Emilie. Hope you are doing well.

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