The foundation of elements and parts of a book we know today can be found in Johannes Gutenberg’s fifteenth-century invention of mechanical movable type. In his time, books had no universally accepted format. Yet, as the publishing industry matured and the industries of graphic design and typography emerged throughout the centuries, a system developed for the conventions we see today.
Both fiction and nonfiction books are, generally, divided into three parts, each of these parts containing elements understood to be critical in a “real” book: Front Matter, Body, and End (or Back) Matter, each of which containing specific elements. Such elements became conventions not only for their aesthetic appeal, in the vein of a frontispiece, but also for organizational necessity.
Containing the technical details, the front matter is the first thing a reader is greeted with when opening a book.
Half title—Commonly called the Bastard Title, the half title only contains the title of the work, lacking the name of the author, publisher, etc.
Title page—Includes the title of the book, the subtitle, the series name, the author’s name, and often includes the publishing house name and logo, as well as the year published.
Copyright page—Most commonly located on the reverse of the title page, this page lists the ever-important copyright notice, edition information, publication information, bibliographic cataloging data, legal notices, and the ISBN/LCCN/CIP numbers.
Dedication—While not always included, it falls after the copyright page.
Epigraph—An epigraph is a quotation the author believes to have particular meaning to the book. Normally placed following the dedication page, epigraphs may also be included before the first chapter, or even at the heads of each chapter.
Contents—If the book is broken up into chapters, the contents (or Table of Contents) page will include the chapter number and title, should there be one, and the page number in the book on which the first page of the chapter falls.
List of Figures—In books with numerous figures (or illustrations) it can be helpful to include a list of all figures, their titles and the page numbers on which they occur.
List of Tables—Similar to the List of Figures above, a list of tables occurring in the book may be helpful for readers.
Foreword—Usually a short piece written by someone other than the author, the Foreword may provide a context for the main work. Remember that the Foreword is always signed, usually with the author’s name, place and date.
Preface—Written by the author, the Preface often tells how the book came into being, and is often signed with the name, place and date, although this is not always the case.
Acknowledgments—The author expresses their gratitude for help in the creation of the book.
Introduction—The author explains the purposes and the goals of the work, and may also place the work in a context, as well as spell out the organization and scope of the book.
Second Half Title—If the front matter is particularly long, a second half title identical to the first, can be added before the beginning of the text. The page following is usually blank but may contain an illustration or an epigraph.
The body is the core content of the book.
Part—In particularly large works, most authors find it beneficial to utilize parts. In order from largest to smallest: Volume→Part→Chapter→Section.
Chapter—For the sake of organization, most fiction and nearly all nonfiction books are broken up into chapters. While most chapter openings may fall on the verso or recto, the first chapter always begins on the recto with a blank verso.
Epilogue—An ending piece, generally not in the author’s voice, serving to offer closure to the work.
Afterword—May be written either by the author or another. Often, it serves to offer the reader a view on the book in a wider context, or offer information on the origin of the book.
Postscript—From the Latin post scriptum, “after the writing,” meaning anything added as an addition or afterthought to the main body of the work.
Appendices—Added to the end of a book, containing information important to, but not the main idea of, the body text.
Glossary—An alphabetical list of definitions for terms included in the book.
Bibliography—A list of books, articles, or websites which have been cited in the body of the book, or which the author believes to offer additional information not included in the work.
List of Contributors—Most common in works of academic nonfiction, some anthologies also include a list of contributors in the end matter. However it is far more common to find the contributors listed in the front matter in a work of fiction.
Index—Alphabetical listing of people, places, concepts, et cetera with page numbers included where they can be found within the main text.
Errata—A note to the reader from the publisher of an error in the text, most commonly caused within the production process of the book.
Colophon—The notice at the end of a book listing information on the design and art direction of the book, containing information on the typeface(s) used throughout and crediting the designers and illustrators.