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Illustrated Guide to Book Anatomy

This guide is intended to be a brief overview for the layperson, and is by no means comprehensive. We welcome feedback on this and other portions of our Website.

Click on an image to see a larger view. This will open in a new window.

Dustjacket The first thing you see on most hardback books is the dustjacket - DJ for short. Some people call it a dustwrapper. Either way it's that sometimes annoying paper slipcover that never wants to stay on and that many people throw away as soon as they get the book. Just know that in the case of collectors, that annoying piece of paper can easily double the value of the book.
The DJ consists of the front and back panels on the outside of the book, and the flaps which fold over and tuck inside the covers.
Boards and Spine After the DJ is removed, you can see the hardcovers of the book, called boards. The front and back boards meet at the spine, that part you see when the book is on the shelf. This book happens to be quarter bound, which means the spine and the boards are covered in different material. The top end of the spine is called the head, and the bottom is the tail.
The covers of paperback books are called wraps, or wrappers.
Text Block and Edges The pages of the book are known (collectively) as the text block. When the book is closed (like here), the exposed edges of the text block are called edges. The edge opposite the spine, where you open the book, is the fore edge. The top edge is at the top, and the bottom edge is at the bottom. This book has a deckled fore edge. In this photo you can see the top corners of the boards, which are called, of course, corners. Not all of this is complicated.
Endpapers When we open the book, the first thing inside the covers are the endpapers. One part is glued to the inside cover of the book, that is the pastedown. Opposite the pastedown is the free endpaper. This is the front of the book, so these are the front pastedown and front free endpaper (or FFEP). The ones in the back are the rear pastedown, etc. The place where the pastedown and FEP meet is called the gutter, and is the point of highest stress in the book, and where it is most likely to crack.
Half Title Typically, the first page that has printing on it is the half title. This simply has the title of the book, without the author. This is a throwback to when books were sold without covers (collectors would have them bound themselves), and for whatever reason this is still with us.
The half title is sometimes called the bastard title.
Title Page The title page is where the good stuff starts to happen. The author gets credit here, and often the publisher's name shows up along the bottom.
Copyright Page If you are a collector, the copyright page is where it is at. This is on the back (or verso) of the title page, and gives the copyright and publishing information. Here is where you look to see if a book is a first edition, first printing, or a later copy.
Edition refers to the content of the text, the words, illustrations, etc. The printing is the quantity of books that are physically printed at the same time, or the print run.
A first edition may not necessarily be a first printing; many print runs can take place without changing the edition.
Printing Information Different publishers show the edition and printing in different ways. This book states it is a first edition. The number line is the series of numbers, usually 1-10, toward the bottom of the copyright page. The last number listed is the printing number. In this case it is a '1', indicating a first printing.
Sometimes the number line uses letters instead, and some publishers may not use a number line at all.

Content by KnC Books, 2006