John Larrysson Column: Parts of a Book (1 of 3)

For the next three weeks I’ll cover what the different parts of a book are. Usually any one book will not have all of these parts, but all will have some. I will use the hypothetical The Ming Pao Book of Examples. For convenience I am dividing the parts into those added for reference and those that are introducing the book. This week I will cover the reference material and next week I’ll cover the introductions and the main text. In the third week I’ll cover the additions at the back of the book.


Title page



Table of contents

List of tables, illustrations, figures, maps etc…

List of abbreviations and acronyms

List of contributors


Now let's pretend we are opening up a new book. First we find the title page, The Ming Pao Book of Examples is written across the middle in big letters, there is a subtitle and the author and publishers. It also has volume numbers. Obviously, many books don’t have volume numbers, but all should have place and date of publication. It is surprising how many people think volume can only refer to loudness. A very large book is often split into several parts, called volumes. Each part is bound separately between its own covers and looks like a book. However the whole book is all of these volumes put together. Very large dictionaries and encyclopaedias often come this way.

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On the back of the title page we find the verso. It is legally important. It's where the copyright notice is placed. Also it may have the place and date of publication, print batch number, limits on where the book can be sold, contact information and any other significant information of a legal nature.


To prove copyright and public domain status you need to have a photocopy of the title page and verso. Remember in Hong Kong copyright expires, on January first, 50 years after the author’s death. If you have copies of these pages, and evidence of the date of death you know when you can legally start making copies.


(More technically recto is the front of a page and verso is the back. However, when people want to prove that copyright has expired they ask for TP&V, the abbreviation for "Title Page and Verso".)


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Next we see the table of contents, this is one of the most important parts of the book, aside from the main text. It is an ordered list of the chapters and any additional sections or appendices. Across from each chapter name is the page number. In large technical books, subchapters may also be listed. Being able to use this table is a key reading skill. It allows the reader to find specific information or choose one book from another.

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Next there are lists of tables, illustrations, figures, maps etc…: These are specialised tables of contents for specific types of material.

Then there is a list of abbreviations and acronyms: These are very important in technical books or those that assume specific knowledge. All speakers of Hong Kong English know that the MTR is a railroad system. However a book written for the rest of the world needs to explain what MTR means.

We may also find a list of contributors, which most books don't have. Some large books are collaborations and people wrote different chapters.

Next week we will look at the introductions and the main text.

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Related Articles: Parts of a Book (2 of 3)

Parts of a Book (3 of 3)

by John Larrysson

[email protected]

A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for more than a decade.