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Book elements

Created by: Tea Alberti – Reviewed by: Pablo Cosgaya, Natalia Fernández, Juan Gallelli – Supervised by: Natalia Pano
  Artículo en proceso de traducción

A book is a reflection of the culture of a nation, its people, a time. It represents all the cultural values of the men who are part of its history. It is ultimately the silent witness which persists regardless of generations.

The designer has one responsibility towards the author, its text and then towards the hidden client, i.e., the reader, since only by putting them in touch a direct or editorial service to the client will be provided. In editorial design the process goes from the inside to the outside: first, the inner content is adequately planned, and then the external wrapping will be its logical consequence. Several difficulties will then have to be overcame in the various parts of the book, which, though different parts of the same edition, must work as a whole. Each page will be treated in its usual order of appearance, in relation to the book as a whole.

There is a tradition as regards how each page of the book is treated and the order in which they are arranged; though at the same time there is freedom when dealing with a new problem of editorial design.

Book edges

Every book has three edges, the top or head, the bottom or tail and the fore edge which is the one opposite to the spine. The fore edge may be flat (if so is the spine) or take a concave shape when the spine is round. This shape is called double rule.

Estructura interna de un libro
Estructura interna de un libro
Márgenes y calidad de la publicación
Márgenes y calidad de la publicación
Estructura del libro
Estructura del libro

Book cover

It makes the book dignified, as when covering it, it grants it the typical characteristics of the typography and of the binding. It is a precious place for true personality features; it is the consequence of the book internal design.

Estructura externa del libro
Estructura externa del libro

The spine of the book is part of the cover, and its purpose is to make it easier to find the edition in the shelves of a bookcase. It may include the author’s name, the title of the piece, the corresponding volume number in a collection and data regarding the publisher (who organizes, maintains, produces and distributes books, newspapers, magazines or other instruments of editorial communication.)

Special attention should be paid to the elements that make up the spine, the reading direction (horizontal, ascending vertical or descending vertical), legibility, type size, its relation with the rest of the title, etc.


It is the wrapping designed to protect the book cover. Its characteristics are closely related to the cover.

In our consumer society, the jacket has become an example of advertising means, so they include images and huge size typography.


They are sheets of paper which the bookbinder places folded in half to bind the book to the cover. Generally, they are of a paper different than that used in the body of the book, both in grammar and color.


It is a white sheet placed at the beginning and at the end of the book. On deluxe or special editions, they are two o more flyleaves.

Title Page

It was first used to protect the true title page from getting dirty and it was also useful to identify the book.

It is the first printed page of the book, and it normally includes only the title (if it is a collection, the title and publisher of the collection), and from which pagination (which is not printed) of the preliminaries begins.

Preliminaries (title page and copyright page)

The title page with the copyright page make a confronted double page. In the beginning, the copyright page was an engraving often printed in a separate process (intaglio, steel engraving, chromolithography) and inserted by the bookbinder confronting the title page.


Little by little, if became acceptable to include in this page a list with other titles by the same author or books of the same collection. If a better use of this copyright page is not found, it is better to leave this page blank, with the title page devised as a self-sufficient design.

The title page is the main entrance to the book. It was a poster, a door and many other things before the endpaper and the flap appeared and shared the burden of attracting the crowds. The title page shows the topic of the book and how it is organized throughout the layout. The lines that appear in that page are information units introduced in a visual manner and as such they are not subject to the grammar rules of sentence structure and punctuation.

The information includes the title of the book (also the subtitle, if any), the name of the author and publisher and the number of illustrations it contains, if this information is relevant for the edition. The designer establishes a hierarchy for each element and assigns it a value, for example, determines the author’s category or the importance of a subtitle in relation to the title, before thinking about possible type sizes and type face families, as well as the grouping, order and refurbishment of those elements in the page.

Legal or credit page

It is made up of the text which due to regulatory reasons appears at the back of the title page and which has become larger in the last years.

Legally speaking, the following information must be included: publication information not mentioned before, edition number, translators, illustrators, photographers, designers and other collaborators which took part in the edition. Copyright, intellectual property right (an international convention sets the terms and duration of such property; publishers of the countries which recognized it must indicate this in the publication, with the symbol ©, the day of publication and the name of the copyright owner), the isbn (International Standard Book Number), created by initiative of the unesco, and which numerically codifies the country of edition, the publisher and the subject matter of the book.


Nowadays, personal dedications usually occupy the first odd page after the title page, though frequently the even page facing the text is considered as an alternative the idea is not to waste space.



From both the author as the editor for the people who collaborated in the compilation or edition of the material.


It is a complimentary note from an authority on the subject. It must be placed in the preliminary pages.


Text where the author explains its reasons for writing the book, and which may include the acknowledgments; it should be placed after any prologue and before the introduction.


It is an account of the topics, objectives, structure and conventions of the book, it is indivisible from the text and it constitutes its opening chapter.


The table of contents reflects the structure of the book. It describes the chapters or main divisions of a book in brief. An analytic table of contents can be included at the end of the book where the proper names and the most important concepts are enumerated, alphabetically arranged and also a table of contents describing the visual material included in the book.



They are symbols or other signs containing special information that allow for the understanding of the text.

Here, the errata may be included, where the errors and mistakes in the book may be clarified and corrected.

Titles of parts and chapters

They are communication tools established from the title page towards the text, and which continue within the text, in a descendant order, with the headlines, epigraphs, sub epigraphs, etc.

Apertura de capítulo
Apertura de capítulo
Continuación de capítulo
Continuación de capítulo
Cierre de capítulo
Cierre de capítulo


They are as valuable as lighthouses, as they are a useful tool for locating information and navigating throughout the book, which go unnoticed in the page during reading. It is the line which appears on the head margin of the pages and which are not the headlines of the chapters. It may include the title of the book, of a part, chapter, section or any other reference. It is frequently combined with the page numbers, sharing the same line.

Main Text

Printed material which will be part of all the pages of the book, it is the fundamental element of the designer’s work which will help him decide about the layout, typeface families, variables, edition length, etc.

Type case

It is the area of the grid where the printed area is.


Some authors abundantly use other author’s quotes, both in prose texts as well as in poems. The reader needs to see that there is a change from the main text to the quotes, and then go on reading normally.

How quotes are treated depends on their nature, importance and frequency of appearance throughout the piece. They may be marginal quotes or footnotes, but may also be put together at the end of the chapter or edition; for this it is necessary to analyze their frequency of appearance.

Page number

Numbering of a book’s pages, they have similar typographic characteristics to those used in the text, and are generally placed outside the type case.

Final pages

The right order of the final pages should be: appendixes, notes, abbreviations, glossaries, bibliography, acknowledgments, table of contents and colophon; though this is the correct arrangement almost exclusively in academic editions.


It is text which adds data about what may be seen in an image (picture, illustration, etc.).


They are footnotes at the end of a page, chapter or at the end of the book.


Small dictionary of the edition.


List of recommended readings.


A page is included at the end of the book, to mention where and when it has been printed. It includes the name of the printing shop, its address and date of publishing. Sometimes some information as to special publishing circumstances is added.

Related Links

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