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Parts of a Book

How many of these elements does your book design have?


Parts of a book

How many parts of a book do you recognize?

© Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com

Most books will have at least a front and back cover, title page, and body text but usually there will be many more parts of a book design. Explore the physical components of hardcover and softcover books as well as the design elements that make up the text portion of most books.

“In a badly designed book, the letters mill and stand like starving horses in a field. In a book designed by rote, they sit like stale bread and mutton on the page. In a well-made book, where designer, compositor and printer have all done their jobs, no matter how many thousands of lines and pages, the letters are alive. They dance in their seats. Sometimes they rise and dance in the margins and aisles.” ― Robert Bringhurst
  1. Text Block
    The Text Block or Book Block is everything between the covers of the book including the endpapers. It is composed of pages, leaves, sheets, and signatures. One sheet of paper, folded in half is two leaves and four pages. One half of each sheet of folded paper is a leaf. Each side of each leaf is a page. A signature is two or more sheets of paper (2 leaves/4 pages) stacked and folded as a group. Several signatures are bound together with adhesive or stitching to form most books.


    Each printed page of the text block contains an area known as the type page - the area of a printed page excluding non-printing areas (margins, gutter) as well as some printed areas including headers, footers, and page numbers.



    • Front Matter
      So called because it is 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.


    • Body of the Book
      The body of the book is where you'll find the story, the description, the main text of the book. This is the main portion of the publication. In longer books and manuals the body is often sub-divided into chapters or sections.


    • 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 of these end of the book components including an index and an appendix.


  2. Case Components and Book Binding
    A basic knowledge of the parts of a book and how a book is put together can help the designer envision the finished product. The boards, spine, and cover material make up the case which is created separate from the text block and attached to it.


  3. 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, numbers indicating alphabetical or subject organization of the text. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and Bibles may have a thumb index where a series of half-circular notches or tabs are cut into the fore-edge of a 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 need to be larger than the other pages of the book.


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In the Classroom: Back to School With Desktop Publishing
Make Something: Things to Make Using Desktop Publishing
Use Templates: Templates for Print and Web Publishing
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