Anatomy of a Book: The Physical Parts

How to Identify and Define the Different Parts of a Published Book

We all are aware that a book is a collection of printed pages bound together and surrounded by a cover. But there is more to a book than that. Let’s take a closer look at the elements that go into making a published book.

Starting from the outside

Dust Jacket:

This is a paper that wraps around the cover of a hardback book, with ends folded inside the book itself. The original idea was to protect the cover, which might have been made of fine leather and linen cloth, from dust and scratches. Now the jacket might be more important than the cover, as it is designed by an artist to be eye-catching and to project a conscious and subconscious message about the contents.

Front cover:

On a hardback book, the actual cover sans dust jacket might be rather plain. It is likely made of paper-covered cardboard rather than leather and linen.  On a paperback, the front cover takes the place of the dust jacket as a sales piece to communicate information about the book. As such, it is designed by an artist and usually printed in full color.

Spine:

This is the left side of the book (in the West) where the pages are bound. It is often the only part of the book that is visible in the bookstore where most books are shelved, rather than displayed face out. The spine usually contains the book’s title (but maybe not the subtitle), at least the last name of the author, and the publisher’s identity, usually by including their logo because there is not enough room for their company name or imprint.

Back cover:

Further sales information about the book is found on the flip side of the book, on either the dust jacket or the back paperback cover. Included here might be the author bio and photo, further sales info about the contents of the book, advance critical acclaim for the book or endorsements of the book or the author.

Signatures:

Quality hardback books are made up of several signatures that are sewn together to create the whole book. You can see these if you examine the page edges at the top or bottom of the book spine.  A signature is a portion of the book with the number of pages being a multiple of 16. Each signature is bound individually, and then all are bound together collectively. If the text of the book does not run into an even multiple of 16 pages, the publisher might add blank pages at the front and back of the book to fill out the signatures for printing purposes.

Fancy End Paper:

On a quality hard cover book, the paper glued inside the front cover and back cover might be a heavier weight and either printed with a design or perhaps dipped into oil paint floated on water and then stirred to make a swirled design.

Copyright 2006-7 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

Also read:

Anatomy of a Book: The Contents

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