The Architecture of a Book

“The book is an intimate communicator, revealing its secrets to those willing to move its pages and interpret its signs”
Anne-Catherine fallen, “In Context – Contemporary Artists’ Books and their Antecedents

The image is showing icons of a book, explaining its architecture
Terminologies of a book

book — A portable container consisting of a series of printed and bound pages that preserves, announces, expounds, and transmits knowledge to a literate readership across time and space.

codex — The physical form of Western books, i.e., printed leaves open at the right and bound together at the back edge.

cover — Thick paper or board that attaches to and protects the book block.

dust jacket — A protective paper sleeve around the cover of a book.

endpaper — The leaves of paper that are glued to the front- and backboards of a hardback book to strengthen the joint between the boards and the book block. They are often decorative.

french fold — A method of binding whereby a sheet of paper is folded in half and the open ends are bound into the spine so that the fold forms the fore-edge of the book.

fore edge — The outer vertical, trimmed edge of a book, opposite the spine.

head — The top of the book

hinge — A fold in the endpaper between the pastedown and the flyleaf

recto/verso — The two sides of a leaf in a codex. Recto is the right-hand, verso is the back of that same leaf, not the page facing to recto.

spine — Section of book cover that covers the bound edge. 

tail — The bottom of the book

For more details on book terminologies and book structures you can order a free copy of: Size|Format|Stock by emailing It is a booklet that was written by Justin Hobson from Fenner Papers in collaboration with Zoë Bather at Studio8. A great reference book for graphic designers and book makers.

Reference on the above terminology and further reading can be found here:
Fawcett-Tang, R. New Book Design. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2004
Haslam, A. Book Design. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2006
Smith, K. A. Structure of the Visual Book. New York: Keith Smith BOOKS, 2002
Stanley, R. Book Design, Systematic Aspects. New York & London: R. R. Bowker Company, 1979

Watch the Anatomy of a Book a short film by the New Yorker in which, antiquarian booksellers reel off the special language they use to catalogue a book’s condition and describe the methods for fixing its faults:

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