Understanding the Various Parts of a Book

How many of these elements does your book design have?

Close-Up Of Book Against White Background
Thomas M. Scheer / EyeEm / Getty Images

Books have at least a front and back cover, title page and body text, but there are much more parts of a book and its design you may need to know about if you are producing the design for a book. Brush up on the physical components of hardcover and softcover books, the terminology and the design elements that make up most books to work confidently on your next book design.

Front Matter

The front matter of a book is so named because it consists of all the material that appears at the front of the book before you reach the actual body content.

The front matter may be as simple as a single title page or table of contents or it could have multiple title pages, a detailed table of contents, and several pages for the preface and foreword.

  • Title Page. At a minimum, the title page normally displays the title of the book and the name of the author. Other information depends on the type of publication. Technical or software manuals may include information on the specific products covered, safety notices and warranties, while a book of poetry may have only copyright and publisher information. In addition, you may see the publisher name and address, copyright information, the ISBN or Library of Congress number, date of publication, disclaimers and safety notices.
  • Table of Contents.  A table of contents may be as simple as listing all the main chapter titles and the page where they start or be multilevel with sub-chapters and descriptions.
  • List of Figures / Illustrations. Some books have a separate table of contents for the illustrations, photos, charts, and graphs that might give the name or source of the illustration, a title or description of the illustration and the page number.
  • Preface. The preface entices the reader to read the book by briefly describing the contents and the intended audience. For example, a software manual may be aimed at beginners or power users. 
  • Foreword. Often written by an acknowledged expert in the field or genre covered by the book, the foreword is sometimes a testimonial by the author.
  • Dedication. A dedication section is a separate page that briefly names one or more persons of special significance to the author, often a loved one or someone else the author holds in high esteem.
  • Acknowledgment. An acknowledgment page is where the author acknowledges the contributions of organizations and individuals who helped with the book.
  • Frontispiece. Also called a frontis, this is an illustration typically found opposite the title page or elsewhere in the front of the book.

Body of the Book

The body of the book is where you'll find the main text of the book. This is the largest part of the publication. In longer books and manuals, the body is often sub-divided into chapters or sections.

  • Introduction. The first chapter of the book may serve as an introduction, or it can be a separate section that precedes Chapter 1. Often shorter than other chapters of the book, the introduction is similar to or may replace the preface that describes the contents and purpose of the book.
  • Body Chapters. Chapters divide the action or the subject matter of the book into small sections. The length can vary but each chapter usually follows the same general format in terms of the style and layout of the page elements.
  • Title. The book title typically appears on the book cover and spine and on the Title Page near the beginning of the book.
  • Chapter Heads. Titles that identify each chapter may appear on a page preceding the body text or the text of the chapter may start on the same page.
  • Subheads within each chapter divide the chapter into smaller sections.
  • Headers and Footers, also known as running heads, are repeating text—often the title of the book or the specific chapter within the book—that appear at the top (header) or bottom (footer) of each page or every other page in a book design. The page number is sometimes incorporated with the running headline or footer.
  • Bylines. When the book has multiple authors, such as a compilation of short stories, the byline is a short phrase or paragraph that indicates the name of the author for an individual story or chapter. The byline commonly appears between the chapter head and start of the chapter.
  • Page Numbers.Page numbers can appear at the top, bottom or sides of pages although the bottom of the page is the most common in book design. Numbering in Arabic numbers may start with the front matter, although Roman numerals are sometimes used for the front matter with Arabic page numbering starting with the first chapter. Material at the end of the book, such as an appendix, may have a separate numbering system such as A-1, A-2, etc. for Appendix A.
  • Notices. Outside the main text, notices may take the form of tips, alerts or trivia related to the main discussion. These are generally small chunks of text set apart by font, color or position and are often identified with a distinctive header or icon. Notices may be placed within the body of the text, or the page layout may include an extra column such as a wide outer page margin where such notices appear.
  • Photos and Illustrations. A book design layout may contain photographs, drawings, charts, graphs or clip art. Software manuals typically contain screenshots, charts, and icons. Illustrations may appear on their own page or be integrated into the text. To save money, a book's text may be printed in black and white but include a section of pages in the middle or at the end of the book that groups all full-color photos together.
  • Footnotes. Often found in scholarly publications or textbooks, footnotes are notes usually found at the bottom of a page of a book that cites a reference or provides additional explanations for a designated part of the text. Subscript numbers adjacent to the designated text coincide with the same notations found in the footnotes. Footnotes can appear at the end of a page before the footer or at the end of a chapter. They may be consolidated into a section of pages at the end of the book, where they are called endnotes.
  • Epilogue. Also called an afterword, the epilogue is a short section following the last chapter that reveals what happens to the characters after the conclusion of the main story. Computer books, manuals and other types of books that don't involve a storyline don't normally have an epilogue.

End-of-the-Book Components

The number and type of sections that follow the final chapter vary by the type of book. Technical publications generally have more end-of-the- book components including an index and an appendix.

  • Appendix. Material that doesn't fit within the body of the book is often included in an appendix. In a software manual, a table of shortcuts might appear in an appendix. A craft book might have an appendix listing names, addresses and other contact information for craft supplies and other resources mentioned in the book. A technical manual that must include lengthy warranty information might put it in an appendix.
  • Bibliography. Often found in scholarly publications, the bibliography is a list of resources related to the subject of the book. The bibliography may list other books, magazines or specific articles and websites.
  • Endnotes. When footnotes are consolidated at the end of a chapter or at the end of the book, they are called endnotes.
  • Glossary. The glossary lists acronyms, words, and phrases relevant to the subject of the book along with a brief definition. 
  • Index. Arranged alphabetically and by subject with page numbers, the index breaks the book down into all the many sub-topics and ideas covered in the body of the book. Publishing software can often handle the creation of simple index pages. Complex indexing is often accomplished with specialized software or the services of a professional indexer.
  • Teasers / Excerpts. Fiction books, in particular, may have pages that look like ads describing other books by the same author or the same publisher, sometimes with ordering information. Excerpts or the first chapter of the author's next book or the next book in a series may appear at the end of the book.

Case Components and Book Binding

A basic knowledge of the parts of a book and how a book is put together can help a designer envision the finished product. The boards, spine and cover material make up the case which is created separately from the text pages and attached to them. A book jacket or slipcase is also created separately from the case and text. The designer may be directly involved in the design of some parts, such as the book jacket, slipcase, paperback covers and cover art.

  • Board. The material, such as millboard, that provides stiffness or rigidity for hardcover books. The boards are usually covered with cloth or leather.
  • Cover. The outside of a book that wraps around (with the spine) the text pages and protects the pages is the cover. Hardcover books are those bound in cloth or leather over boards. Softcover or paperback books have covers without boards usually made of heavy paper or other flexible material. The front cover usually contains the book title, author, and other information. Hardcover books usually have blank back covers or they may display a logo from the publishing company. Paperbacks and book jackets often carry book descriptions, promotional blurbs, excerpts, quotes by reviewers, barcode, ISBN number and photo of the author.
  • Hinge or Joint. The indented line along the front and back covers of a book that bends as the cover is opened and closed.
  • Spine. The spine is the outer portion of a book that typically shows when a book is placed on a bookshelf. It's the part of the binding that conceals the bound edges of the text pages and connects the front and back covers. The book title, author, library call number, publishing company, and logo may be imprinted or attached to the spine.
  • End Sheet or Endpaper or Endleaf. Thicker than the other pages of the book, half of the end sheet is affixed to the inside front or back cover with the other half forming the first or last page in the book. In some books, the end sheets may be a decorative print or contrasting color from the rest of the book pages. In some books, the end sheet may be printed with artwork, diagrams, maps or other illustrations connected to the subject of the book. The half of the front or back end sheet not glued to the cover is the flyleaf. The half of the front or back end sheet glued to the front and back covers is the pastedown.
  • Fore-Edge is the unbound edge of the book's pages opposite the spine. Older books and special editions may have gilded or painted fore-edges. When present, tabs or a thumb index tabs are affixed to the fore-edge.
  • Binding Edge. The binding edge is the edge of the pages that are attached to each other. They may glue together with a strip of cloth or paper or in paperback binding the edges may be glued directly to the spine and cover.
  • Head and Headcap. The top edge of the boards, spine and text pages when a book is upright on a shelf is the head. The headcap is the upper portion of the spine.
  • Tail and Tailcap. The bottom edge of the boards, spine and text pages that the book rests on when it is sitting upright on a shelf is the tail. The tailcap is the lower portion of the spine.
  • Book Jacket (Dust Jacket). Hardcover and some softcover books have a separate paper wrapper that covers the book and protects the cover. The book jacket may mimic the cover or include additional information such as the title, author, illustrations and promotional blurbs. A synopsis of the book contents and author's biography typically appear on the book jacket flaps —the part of the book jacket that wraps around to the inside covers.
  • Slipcase. A cardboard box designed to hold, protect and display one or more volumes (such as a book series) is a slipcase. The slipcase is open at the front so that only the book spines show.

Miscellaneous Parts of a Book

The designer may be involved in the selection and design of several additional parts of a book including:

  • Bookplate. A plain or decorative paper label glued to the inside of the front cover or front endpaper that indicates the name of the book owner. It may include a space for writing the name with a pen, or bookplates can be printed and affixed to all the book owner's collection. Decorative bookplates may include fancy type, personal quotes or illustrations.
  • Fillet. A decorative line or band impressed on the book cover
  • Inlay. An illustration or other decorative element set into the cover of a book or inset in a border or frame of paper
  • Onlay. A decorative panel of paper or other material superimposed onto the book cover
  • Tabs / Thumb Index. Often seen in reference books, tabs are small pieces of paper, card or fabric attached to the fore-edge of a book and stamped or printed with letters, words or numbers indicating an alphabetical or subject organization of the text. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and Bibles may have a thumb index that consists of a series of half-circular notches or tabs that are cut into the fore-edge of the book.
  • Throwout. A wider than normal leaf folded so that the reader can fold it out for viewing. A throwout may contain maps, tables, diagrams or photographs that are larger than the other pages of the book.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "Understanding the Various Parts of a Book." ThoughtCo, Sep. 18, 2017, thoughtco.com/basic-design-of-a-book-1077295. Bear, Jacci Howard. (2017, September 18). Understanding the Various Parts of a Book. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/basic-design-of-a-book-1077295 Bear, Jacci Howard. "Understanding the Various Parts of a Book." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/basic-design-of-a-book-1077295 (accessed February 24, 2018).