The Parts of a Book and the Elements of Content

an open book with the pages flipping

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Nowadays, a book may be published traditionally or self-published or not even published in print at all. But most book content is arranged in a traditional, prescribed manner. The elements of this content share a common structure, and each element appears in a similar location in every book. The most common are outlined below. Some may not always appear, but when they do, they are in the same place in every book.

A Book's Front Matter

Front matter is the information that appears in the very beginning of a book. The front matter contains the nuts and bolts of the book’s publication—information such as title, author, publisher, ISBN, and Library of Congress data. The front matter pages usually aren’t visibly numbered. However, if they are, the numbers appear as Roman numerals.

The typical parts of a book's front matter include the following:

  • Half Title (Sometimes Called Bastard Title): Actually, this is just the title of the book.
  • Frontispiece: This is the piece of artwork on the left (otherwise known as “verso”) side of the page opposite the title page on the right (otherwise known as “recto”) side.
  • Title Page: The title page is the page that contains the title of the book, the author (or authors) and the publisher.
  • Copyright Page: This includes the declaration of copyright—meaning, who owns the copyright ( generally the authors)—and other types of credits such as illustrator, editorial staff, and indexer. Sometimes, this page has notes from the publisher and copyright acknowledgments—for books that contain reprinted material that requires permissions, such as excerpts, song lyrics, etc. The edition number (the number that represents the number of the edition and of the printing) is also on the copyright page. Some books will specifically note they are a “first edition.” With others, the edition is represented with a number. In those cases, a first edition would look like: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. A second edition would look like: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.
  • Dedication: The dedication page is where the author honors an individual, or individuals, by declaring that the labor of the book is dedicated “To” (and the name, or names, are filled in).
  • Acknowledgments: This page is where the author thanks those who contributed their time, resources, and talent towards the effort of writing the book.
  • Table of Contents: This page or pages outline what is included in each chapter of the book.
  • Foreword: ​The forward is what is referred to as the “set up” for the book—typically written by someone other than the author.
  • Preface or Introduction: The introduction is another “set up,” but it's generally written by the author.

A Book's Body Matter

Body matter is the core contents of the book—or what is called the “story.” The core content is most often divided into discrete segments, most commonly chapters. Chapters may be part of larger divided chunks, called parts or sections. The body matter is numbered with Arabic numerals beginning with the number “1” on the first page of the first chapter.​

A Book's End Matter

End matter is the material at the back of the book, generally optional.

  • Glossary: The glossary is a list of term definitions used throughout the book that might be unfamiliar to the reader.
  • Bibliography: Most often seen in non-fiction like a biography or an academic text, a bibliography lists the references and sources used in researching or reporting the book.
  • Index: An index is an optional but highly desirable element for non-fiction works. Placed at the very end of the book, it acts as a map to the mentions of and references to major topics and people throughout the work, indicating the specific page numbers on which they appear. A long index entry often breaks down with terse descriptions the mentions: It might list an individual's name, then indicate "birth of," "education of," "marriage of," followed by the corresponding pages. An index is arranged in alphabetical order.