Monday, April 5, 2010

All About Front Matter

Let's learn all about front matter, won't that be fun?

By front matter I don't mean brain matter in the frontal lobe, no, I mean the stuff at the front of a book. Each piece of the front matter has a specific function, and if you're planning on writing a book, you had better learn about each one.

The front matter consists of all material that appears at the front of the book, before the reader reaches the actual body content. Front matter may be as simple as a title page and table of contents or multiple title pages, a detailed table of contents, and several pages for the preface and foreword.
Title Page(s)

As a minimum the title page would normally have the title of the book and the name of the author and illustrator. Other information may depend on the type of publication. Technical or software manuals may include more information on the specific products covered, safety notices, and warranties, while a book of poetry may have only copyright and publisher information.

  • Publisher Name and Address

  • Copyright information

  • ISBN

  • Library of Congress number

  • Edition Notice

  • Date of publication

  • Number of printings

  • Disclaimers

  • Warranties

  • Safety Notices

Table of Contents

A table of contents may be as simple as listing all the main chapter titles and the page they start on or be multi-level 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 (if there are multiple contributors / sources), a title or description of the illustration, and the page number.

The preface gets the reader to read the book by briefly describing the contents, purpose of the book, and explaining who the book targets. For example, a software manual may be aimed at beginners or power users. The preface might describe the terminology or special conventions used in the book, such as symbols used for warnings, tips, and trivia.

Often written by an acknowledged expert in the field or genre covered by the book, the foreword is something of a testimonial for the author or the book itself.

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.

An acknowledgment page is where the author acknowledges the contributions of organizations and individuals who he or she feels helped with the book.

The errata is a list of corrections that describes the error, where it occurs, and what the correct text or illustration should be. Generally added as a separate slip of paper somewhere in the front matter, it might be bound into the book.

Also called a frontis, this is an illustration typically found opposite the title page or elsewhere in the front of the book. These are rarely seen nowadays.