The Anatomy of a Book
Updated: Aug 1, 2022
When telling a story, the traditional view is to start at the beginning and finish at the end. Most authors, and indeed readers, are familiar with this concept, however, although the beginning of a book does start on page 1, there are always a bunch of pages that go before page 1 and invariably material that goes at the end.
Interestingly there are actually quite a lot of parts and I thought it would be a useful reference to list the parts of the book and what goes on each page.
Note, when I use the term “publisher”, I’m referring to the entity that is doing the publishing, i.e. making the book. So that could mean a traditional publisher or a self-publisher. They are the same in this context.
The first pages of the book (i.e. what comes before page 1) are known as the “prelimns” or “front matter.” Personally, I prefer the term “prelimns.” The pages after the main text of the book ends, are known as the “end matter.”
I’m going to list the pages here in the order that I usually typeset books, but of course each publisher will have their own rules and it’s important to understand that these are guidelines. Most books will need to fit into a signature and thus might need to be a multiple of 16 pages. In this case, a publisher will probably bend some rules in order not to have a book with 14 blank pages at the end.
All of the below pages (with the exception of the copyright page) are typically set on the recto (right-hand page). In a Hebrew or Arabic book, the recto is the left-hand page.
Frontispiece – always the verso opposite the Title page.
Copyright page – this page will always be a verso
Dedications – not to be confused with “dedication”
Lists, list of illustrations, list of abbreviations
The book – This will always start on a recto and on page 1
About the Author
Half-title page. It’s usually a very basic page with the title of the book set in the size of the body text of the book. Centered and towards the top of the page. It’s main purpose is really to ensure that the title page is opposite a blank page of the same paper (as opposed to the end papers). Recently I added a calligraphic images that was commissioned by the publisher and placed it on the half-title page. This page is often the first to go when trying to make a signature.
Frontispiece. Often blank and since it sits on the verso opposite the Title page, can can only exist if there is a half-title page. It’s usually a decorative image or a pictures of the author. Today, where most books have color covers, this page is usually not utilized.
Title page. There is much written on the design of the title page beyond the scope of this blog post. Traditionally the typesetter would design the title page, but more recently, many publishers like to have a version of the cover art made into the title page. Either way, the normal contents of this page are the actual title of the book, the author and the name of the publisher. If the publisher has an insignia then this will often go on the title page, but I have seen it on the half-title too. In some works, the author name isn’t appropriate or there are other significant contributors, then other names may appear such as the editor, translator, illustrator or the author of an introduction.
Copyright page. This page always follows the title page and is on a verso. The is where the copyright information is included. Typically, this will be where outside vendors are credited such as jacket designer, typesetter, photographs and any permissioned texts that need attributing. The ISBN number as well as Library of Congress information (if exists) is also printed on this page. The publisher will typically put in contact details.
Dedications. Many books today will have “dedications” that are sponsored pages by people who are helping sponsor the book.
Dedication. Usually a line or perhaps a few, mentioning to whom the book is dedicated to.
Acknowledgements. Often acknowledgements, preface and introduction are all rolled into one.
Contents. The table of contents of the book. Typically, a book will have one table of contents, but I have typeset books that have had a simple table of contents and a more full table of contents. In a regular book, there is normally no need for a separate list of illustrations and/or abbreviations, but of course, this depends very much on the nature of the book. A recent archaeological book that I typeset was filled with full colour photographs, and there were several pages of contents listing each one and their respective locations.
Next come the Preface and Introduction and finally, we arrive at page one.
Page one of the book must always start on a recto. Subsequent chapters, if long, should preferably start on a recto. However, if the book has very short chapters of only a few pages, then subsequent chapters can fall either on the verso or the recto.
Not all books have a Glossary or Bibliography, but the final section of the book is the Index. The index can be prepared in essentially two different ways. One, is that the index is created in Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign can read those index entries and create an automatic index. Often an index created in Word will not suffice and a professional indexer must be used. However, the indexer will not be able to prepare the pages of the index until the manuscript is “press-ready.”
In order to get to this stage, after there are no more author corrections, the typesetter will “balance” the pages. This is the process whereby the length of the recto and verso of each particular spread are the same length. This sometimes requires shortening the length of the pages by a line or perhaps subtlely massaging the tracking of the paragraph. It is after this stage that bad breaks can be checked for a final time and then the final version can be made press-ready.
The very final page of the book that might be included is the About the Author page. This is not part of the book proper and could be put on the dust jacket of the book. Often, if this page exists, an author photo is included.
If you have a book that needs typesetting, then please feel free get in touch with us to discuss your requirements.