A breakdown of what’s what in the first few pages of a book

Older woman sitting in a chair reading the front matter of a book.
Have you always wondered what all of the
pages at the beginning of a book mean?
Our editors help make sense of front matter.

Maybe you've flipped through the first few pages of a book and wondered what all that information is about, or maybe you've always just skipped those pages. Either way, the material that appears at the front of a book before the actual content is called front matter, and it actually contains some very important information!

What is front matter?

Front matter is the first section of a book and is generally the shortest; it is also sometimes called the prelims, or preliminary matter. It can be as simple as a single title page, or it can include multiple title pages, foreword, a preface, and much more. What is included in front matter really depends on the type of publication, so let's go over some of the possibilities.

Examples of front matter

Half title: A half title is a page that has only the main title of the publication. The subtitle and author’s name are omitted in this page of the front matter.

Title page(s): A title page has, at a minimum, the full title of the work, including the subtitle (if any), and the name of the author and—if applicable—illustrator. Everything else depends on the type of book, but may include:

-          Publisher’s name and address

-          Copyright information

-          ISBN

-          Edition notice

-          Date of publication

-          Number of printings

-          Disclaimers

-          Warranties

-          Safety notices

Dedication: A dedication is a part of the front matter that is written by the author and includes the names of the person/persons for whom the publication was written.

Epigraph: An epigraph is a quotation included by the author that is relevant but not essential to the text.

Table of Contents: A table of contents is typically in the middle of the front matter. It may be a very simple listing of what is in the book, or it may be very detailed and include descriptions of each chapter or section.

Errata: An erratum is a correction to the document. Errata are commonly added shortly after the first publication. The errata are sometimes found in the back of the book (called the back matter).

Foreword: A foreword is an essay, or short piece of writing, written by someone other than the author. It often explains the relationship between the writer of the foreword and either the author or the story being told.

Preface: A preface is an introduction to the book that is written by the author. It usually covers how the publication came into being, where the idea for the book came from, etc.

Acknowledgements: Another part of front matter is an acknowledgement, which is written by the author and acknowledges those who have helped him/her in the writing of the publication.

Introduction: An introduction lists the goals and the purpose of the book.

Prologue: A prologue is the opening of a story and usually provides the background details and setting of the story; it is typically located immediately prior to the first chapter.

Front matter may also contain a list of the figures, illustrations, or tables in the book, a list of abbreviations, a frontispiece, a list of contributors, and endpapers. An author does not need to be concerned with many of these elements, as they will be written by the publisher; however, the author is generally responsible for writing the preface, acknowledgement, introduction, dedication, and prologue. If you need help perfecting any of these documents, our manuscript editing experts are available 24/7 to lend a critical eye to your work.

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