The effect of digestion conditions (amount of effective alkali, digestion time) on the surface compositions of unbleached softwood (Pinus sylvestris) kraft pulp has been investigated by electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis (ESCA). The quantities monitored were the angular dependence of the total O/C ratio, the relative amounts of carbons in different states of oxidation and the adsorption of Al and Ca ions to the carboxyl groups in the surface. Examination of the angular dependence of ESCA intensities shows that the concentration of alkyl carbon is high in a very thin surface layer and that it decreases linearly with decreasing kappa number. The concentration of alkyl carbon is decreased by extraction of the fibres with dichloromethane, but the amount remaining in the surface after extraction still decreases linearly with decreasing kappa number (i.e. it decreases with increasing digestion time). It is suggested that the observed enrichment of alkyl carbon in the outermost surface layers most probably is due to reprecipitation of lignin. In pulp that has not been extracted, there is also strong enrichment of extractives in the surface. This amount increases with increasing effective alkali but is relatively independent of digestion time. ESCA analysis of the Al and Ca bound to the carboxyl groups shows that the amount depends on digestion time; the results are consistent with the notion that the reprecipitated lignin contains carboxyl groups.