By Katerina Williams, Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies, specialising in Books and Library Materials
A tale of curiosity, determination (stubbornness) and working with what you’ve got.
It’s April 11 2020, and the world has all but come to a standstill. Buildings have been shut and those deemed non-essential, temporarily closed. So, as a conservation student, stuck in her dorm room, what is she to do? Obviously embark on a quest to decipher… understand… attempt to gain a slight understanding of the construction of the famed Armenian endband. With the help from carefully sourced texts and eager, experienced individuals on various social media platforms, I managed to gain a better understanding of the multiple core structure that comprised this aesthetically pleasing, compound endband.
Just one minor issue.
My previous endband experiments were created using archival card, and some millboard pasted on one end to act as a base for the primary core. The Armenian endband, as I was soon to realise, comprised four cores in total, with three as the secondaries.
I am pretty creative when it comes to using found materials, but in order to even start the first secondary endband it would have been impossible without the use of a textblock.
So, step 1. Sew the text block.
Thankfully, my sagacious self had a few sections made before the studios shut, allowing me to feasibly create a text block for the endband. The sewing of the text block incorporated double support cords to create a herringbone stitch which I found quite interesting as supported sewing structures were unusual in this region.
Whilst Greenfield’s and Hille’s Endbands from East to West provides some instructions and line diagrams on the endband’s construction, I found it easier to follow the more precise instructions and photographs of Hille’s and Merian’s article, The Armenian Endband: History and Technique. I am not going to describe exactly my process in this blog post, but merely the challenges that had to be overcome, as
1: The materials that I possessed were not sufficient in recreating a replica;
2: My experience regarding the creation of complex endblands is minimum, to say the least.
Board-less Woes and the Primary End Band
The Armenian endband is both structural and decorative and the book’s boards are integral to both the endband’s structure and support. The primary core is created by Helical sewing where the core is tied down to the boards via three drilled, staggered holes, and subsequently twice through each section of the text block. My supposed sagacious self completely overlooked the need for boards when packing things from the studio, so I had to do without.
Without the boards, the first and last sections were used as the anchor points, which although relatively successfully served that purpose, also became problematic as the holes in the sections weren’t large enough to accommodate the multiple number of threads that were soon to come.
Semi Successful Secondaries
Once the primary endband was tied-down, the first secondary endband, with a thinner core was added, starting with the first colour in the sequence, black. The beginning of a pattern formation is always the most difficult, and this applies no less to the creation of endbands. I’m not going to admit the number of times that I had to redo just the first black threading, but many deep breaths were needed. Once the formation of the first diagonals was created, the addition of the subsequent colours was relatively straightforward, moving across the head of the spine from black to white, black, red and another red to fill in the gap.
The addition of the second secondary endband followed the same pattern as the first, with the threads continuing along to the end of the core. As the diagonals were created by the thread wrapping the core, skipping five tie-downs and inserting below the sixth, a problem began to develop towards the end of the second secondary. The first section, as it was both acting as a section and the board substitute, became slightly overcrowded, and with the addition of the coloured threads, obscured the primary’s tie-downs. This posed a challenge because if the second secondary coloured thread was threaded below the tie-down as it was meant to, it would dislocate and shift the tie-downs of the coloured threads. My solution was to incorporate the coloured thread tie-downs with the primary’s allowing for the pattern to continue.
The final stage of the endband required a third, thicker core. Unfortunately, my core choices were limited, so I used the cord that was the same thickness as the primary. With the coloured tie-downs in the text block sections, the diagonals of the chevron weren’t able to begin immediately, causing some gaps in the pattern. This was exacerbated by the inability for the first black to fully create diagonals across the length of the core, possibly also due to the size of the core, eventually causing minor overlaps of the successive colours.
In retrospect, a third looping of the red could have filled the gaps, but the black would still be slightly out of alignment.
All in all, the experimental creation of this Armenian endband, working with what materials were immediately available, proved to be successful. I was able to pinpoint the problems that were being experienced and link them to certain aspects in the creation of the endband, thus leading to a more in depth understanding of the structural elements and their purposes in the Armenian endband.
Greenfield, J. and Hille, J., (2017). Endbands from East to West: How to Work Them. New Castle, Delaware. Oak Knoll Press.
Hille, J. Merian, S., (2011). The Armenian Endband: History and Technique. The New Bookbinder. 31(n.a), Unknown.
The Graduate Diploma provides the theoretical and practical knowledge and experience necessary to start your career as a conservator and to begin to develop an area of specialisation.
Find out more about specialising in Books & Library Materials at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation here.