Going Under Cover: Identifying the Different Parts of a Book

Going Under Cover: Identifying the Different Parts of a Book
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Divisions in a Book

Books are divided in to the following three distinct sections, each with their own purpose and sub-divisions:

  • Front matter - the pages at the beginning of the book; presents book, author, publisher and copyright information
  • Body - the main portion of the book
  • Back matter - contains the reference material, notes and other supplemental material

The Front Matter - Setting the Stage

The Front Matter includes a variety of pages and sections which shows all the the different parts of a book.

Pages in the front matter are usually numbered using lowercase roman numerals. The reason for this is so the remainder of the book does not have to be re-numbered in the event that a dedication page or other acknowledgment pages are added after the book has been completed and readied for printing.

Some of the pages and/or sections found in the front matter can include:

  • Half-title Page: contains the title of the book
  • Title page: title, sub-title, author and name & location of publisher
  • Copyright Page: publisher’s address, copyright notice, publication date & Country in which the book was printed, ISBN and ISSN (identification numbers)
  • Dedication: author’s inscription; who he or she has written the book for
  • Table of Contents: used in both fiction and non-fiction books; the Table of Contents lists all the parts of the book that follow it, including the title and beginning page number of each section or chapter of the book
  • List of Illustrations/Tables: used in reference books or genre books which might include elaborate maps or drawings; this section outlines the pages and titles of those items
  • Foreword: written by someone other than the author, often a collaborator or editor; usually signed with the author’s name, place and date. Forewords to later editions will explain how that edition differs from any previous one(s)
  • Preface: a statement from the author, and can include reasons for covering the topic or any important research notes
  • Acknowledgment: a notice to thank friends, family members or others who helped in editing or revising the text
  • Introduction: used when someone other than the author provides a lengthy introduction; otherwise the author may use this to describe the scope of the book or the format in which it is presented

Special Sections

Prologues: In some fiction books, authors use a prologue to include text that sets the story. The information usually highlights characters or events that have occured earlier than the main timeline of the story.

This page is usually found between the copyright page and table of contents.

Not all books will contain every one of the above sections. Some work better for non-fiction books, while others are more often used in fiction books.

The Bulk Of A Book: The Body


The body of a book is the largest and most important part. When books contain a large body, the content is divided into separate parts. Both fiction and non-fiction can use this style to organize its text.

Each Part usually includes at least two chapters, with the Part Opening Page listing the number and title.

Chapters can also be found in both fiction and non-fiction works, and can contain the chapter number, chapter title and sometimes a chapter subtitle

Closing Words: Epilogues, Afterwords and Conclusions

Similar to the Prologue, the Epilogue is used in a work of fiction with information to tie up loose ends or show the fate of the characters in the work.

Afterwords are similar, but they tend to show information that has happened a period of time after the closing of the book.

Conclusions are used in non-fiction works to provide closing arguments or to sum up the points made in the text.

The Back Matter - Condensing the Work

The section found after the body of the book is known as the back matter. Sections that are often found in the back matter include:

  • Appendices: a collection of supplemental documents, including summary material
  • Glossary: an alphabetical listing of unfamiliar terms, phrases or words found within the text, along with their meanings
  • Bibliography: a reference list of all works cited within the text; bibliographies can also include works the author utilized, even though they may not be referenced within the book
  • Index: a listing of all phrases, concepts, ideas, names, places and all other events found within the book, and their page numbers

Examining book design and layout can help you have a more enjoyable reading experience. By becoming familiar with the different parts of a book and how books are put together, you will be able to identify each part, understand how each section works to create a published book, and how you can use each section to locate the information you need.


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