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What Are the Different Parts of a Book?

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 5 min read

When people think of book design, the first thing they’re likely to consider is the book cover. Perhaps they’ll study the back cover or flip through the pages of children’s books to examine the illustrations or read the inserts on the dust jacket. Yet between the front cover and the back cover is a whole world of book design elements. Determining the material to include in the front and back matter of your book is often among the final decisions you’ll make when publishing (or self-publishing) the book.



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What Is the Front Matter of a Book?

The front matter of a book is found at the front of the book and consists of everything that appears before the main text. This includes everything from the title of the book to the table of contents to the copyright information. Oftentimes, the front matter pages are marked by lowercase roman numerals and serve as an introduction to the book itself.

13 Parts of a Book’s Front Matter

Though most books will not contain all of these sections, the below are elements most commonly found in the front matter of books:

  1. Half title page: a page at the front of the book block that contains only the book’s title. Usually, this is the first page you’ll see when you open the book and is mostly blank save for the title.
  2. Frontispiece: an illustration on the verso (left page) that faces the title page. This illustration could be art related to the book’s subject matter or a portrait of the author.
  3. Series title page: a list of any previously published books by the same author. These are usually organized alphabetically by book title.
  4. Title page: a page which contains the book’s full title, including subtitles, and the author’s name.
  5. Copyright page: a page which contains the book’s copyright notice. Also known as the colophon, the copyright page includes the year of publication, copyrights, edition dates, and notes on typefaces used in the book. The colophon will also generally contain the publisher’s address, ISBN, and information about the printer and translations.
  6. Dedication page: an optional page in which the author may list the person or persons to whom the book is dedicated.
  7. Epigraph: a page containing a short quotation, poem, phrase, or song lyrics that in some way relate to the book’s themes or subject matter.
  8. Table of contents: Generally found in nonfiction books, the table of contents (or contents page) is used to delineate chapter titles and subheadings.
  9. List of illustrations or tables: When books contain illustrations or tables that provide context or information for the book, there will be a separate page that contains a list of all the illustrations or tables used and where they appear in the book.
  10. Foreword: a page containing an introduction to the book written by someone other than the book’s author. Forewords are usually found in nonfiction works.
  11. Preface: a page in which the book’s author provides additional context for the book, whether it’s the source of the book’s inspiration or notes on the creation of the book.
  12. Acknowledgements: a list of people or organizations that were helpful or inspiring during the course of the book’s writing. Sometimes acknowledgements are included in the preface, though they also might appear in the back matter.
  13. Prologue: Most commonly found in works of fiction, the prologue presents an opening to the story that sets the scene, establishes the tone, or otherwise provides the reader with helpful information about the book’s story. According to some style guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style, the prologue should be considered a part of the body of the book.
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4 Parts of the Body of the Book

The main body of the book contains the body text of the book itself. Additionally, the body may contain the following four elements:

  1. Second half title: If the frontmatter of the book is particularly long, some books may contain a second half title. The second half title is the same aesthetically as the first half title, but it comes after the front matter.
  2. Epilogue: Traditionally found in fictional works, the epilogue is positioned on the recto (the right-hand page) and provides a continuation or closure to the story of the book’s narrative.
  3. Afterword: Similar to the preface, the afterword contains a note from the author that provides additional context about the book or the inspiration that led to its writing.
  4. Postscript: additional information about the story or narrative that takes place after the main part of the story has concluded. This may be to raise additional questions or tie up narrative loose ends.

What Is the Back Matter of the Book?

The back matter of the book is everything found at the end of a book after the main story has been completed. The contents often provide supplementary information to aid in the general understanding of the book.


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6 Parts of a Book’s Back Matter

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A book’s back matter may contain:

  1. Appendix or addendum: The appendix or addendum includes supplemental information or data to help clarify or update the main text. This section may contain a list of references, background research, or sources. A chronology of important events in the book may be presented here or as its own section.
  2. Endnotes: Endnotes are ordered by chapter number and page numbers and provide references or comment for certain parts of the book. These are not to be confused with endpapers, which are decorative paper leafs that adorn the beginnings or ends of hardcover books.
  3. Glossary: The glossary contains a list of terms found in the book and their definitions. In the case of fiction, a glossary may also provide an alphabetized list of characters or locations.
  4. Bibliography: The bibliography serves as a complete list of every source cited in the book.
  5. List of contributors: If the book or parts of the book were written by multiple authors, the contributors’ names will be listed on a separate page.
  6. Author bio: The last pages at the end of the book will normally contain an author page, on which is printed a short biography of the author. This part of the book will usually list the author’s previous works, their best sellers, and the next book that the author is working on.

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