Book Structure

Modern books are paginated consecutively, and all pages are counted in the pagination whether or not the numbers appear. The page number, or folio, is most commonly found at the top of the page, flush left verso, flush right recto. The folio may also be printed at the bottom of the page, and in that location it is called a drop folio. Drop folios usually appear either centered on each page or flush left verso and flush right recto.

Front Matter

Front matter (or preliminaries; shortened to “prelims”) comprises the first section of a book, and is usually the smallest section in terms of the number of pages. Front-matter pages are traditionally numbered in lower-case Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.), which prevents renumbering the remainder of a book when front-matter content is added at the last moment, such as a dedication page or additional acknowledgments. Page number is omitted on blank pages and display pages (i.e., such stand-alone pages as those for the half title, frontispiece, title page, colophon, dedication, and epigraph), and it is either omitted or a drop folio is used on the opening page of each section of the front matter (e.g., table of contents, foreword, preface). Front matter generally appears only in the first of a multi-volume work, although some elements (such as a table of contents or index) may appear in each volume.

The following table defines some common types of front matter, and the “voice” (or point of view) in which each can be said to be given:

Name Voice Purpose
Half title Publisher Usually a single line in capital letters, precedes the title page, and only contains the title (as opposed to the author, publisher etc. found on the full title page) with a blank verso.
Frontispiece Author or publisher A decorative illustration on the verso facing the title page. It may be related to the book’s subject, or be a portrait of the author.
Title page Publisher Repeats the title and author as printed on the cover or spine.
Colophon Printer Technical information such as edition dates, copyrights, typefaces and the name and address of the printer. In modern books usually on the verso of the title page, but in some books placed at the end (see Back matter). Also known as the Edition notice or Copyright page.
Dedication Author A dedication page is a page in a book that precedes the text, in which the author names the person or people for whom he/she has written the book.
Epigraph Author A phrase, quotation, or poem. The epigraph may serve as a preface, as a summary, as a counter-example, or to link the work to a wider literary canon, either to invite comparison, or to enlist a conventional context.
Table of contents Publisher This is a list of chapter headings, and nested subheadings, together with their respective page numbers. This includes all front-matter items listed below, together with chapters in the body matter and back matter. The number of levels of subheadings shown should be limited, so as to keep the contents list short, ideally one page, or possibly a double-page spread. Technical books may include a list of figures and a list of tables.
Foreword Some person other than the author Often, a foreword will tell of some interaction between the writer of the foreword and the story or the writer of the story. A foreword to later editions of a work often explains in what respects that edition differs from previous ones.
Preface Author A preface generally covers the story of how the book came into being, or how the idea for the book was developed. This is often followed by thanks and acknowledgments to people who were helpful to the author during the time of writing.
Acknowledgments Author Often part of the preface, rather than a separate section in its own right, it acknowledges those who contributed to the creation of the book.
Introduction Author A beginning section which states the purpose and goals of the following writing.
Prologue Narrator (or a character in the book) A prologue is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information. As such, it is generally considered part of the body in modern book organization (cf. Chicago Manual of Style).

The structure of a work—and especially of its body matter—is often described hierarchically.

  • Volumes
    A volume is a set of leaves bound together. Thus each work is either a volume, or is divided into volumes.
  • Books and parts
    Single-volume works account for most of the non-academic consumer market in books. A single volume may embody either a part of a book or the whole of a book; in some works, parts encompass multiple books, while in others, books may consist of multiple parts.
  • Chapters and sections
    A chapter or section may be contained within a part or a book. When both chapters and sections are used in the same work, the sections are more often contained within chapters than the reverse.
  • Modules and units
    In some books the chapters are grouped into bigger parts, sometimes called modules. The numbering of the chapters can begin again at the start of every module. In educational books, especially, the chapters are often called units.

The first page of the actual text of a book is the opening page, which often incorporates special design features, such as initials. Arabic numbering starts at this first page. If the text is introduced by a second half title or opens with a part title, the half title or part title counts as page one. As in the front matter, page numbers are omitted on blank pages, and are either omitted or a drop folio is used on the opening page of each part and chapter. On pages containing only illustrations or tables, page numbers are usually omitted, except in the case of a long sequence of figures or tables.

Back Matter

The back matter, also known as end matter, if used, normally consists of one or more of the following components:

Name Voice Purpose
Epilogue The narrator (or a character in the book) This piece of writing at the end of a work of literature or drama is usually used to bring closure to the work.
Extro or Outro The conclusion to a piece of work; this is considered the opposite of the intro. These terms are more commonly used in music.
Afterword The author, or some other real person An afterword generally covers the story of how the book came into being, or of how the idea for the book was developed.
Conclusion Author
Postscript A postscript (P.S.) is an afterthought, thought that’s occurring after the letter has been written and signed.
Appendix or Addendum Author This supplemental addition to a given main work may correct errors, explain inconsistencies or otherwise detail or update the information found in the main work.
Glossary Author The glossary consists of a set of definitions of words of importance to the work. They are normally alphabetized. The entries may consist of places and characters, which is common for longer works of fiction.
Bibliography Author This cites other works consulted when writing the body. It is most common in non-fiction books or research papers.
Index Publisher This list of terms used in the text contains references, often page numbers, to where the terms can be found in the text. Most common in non-fiction books.
Colophon Publisher This brief description may be located at the end of a book or on the verso of the title page. It describes production notes relevant to the edition and may include a printer’s mark or logotype.