Self-Publishing Basics: Book Pagination For Fun and Profit

POSTED ON Oct 2, 2009

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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The post continues the series begun in an earlier post, and is Part of the Book Construction Blueprint, which provides reliable guidance to anyone taking on the construction of a book that must conform to generally accepted practice.

Having looked at the parts of a book, we have already imposed a sequence or order on the elements that will make up your book. How to lay out the individual pages, and how to number them properly, is the next element of book construction.

What Is Pagination?

Pagination can be considered the way in which the information on a book’s pages is laid out. It’s often used to mean the consecutive numbering of the pages, which indicates their proper order. This was rarely done in documents before 1500, when they were written by scribes, who numbered only the right-hand side pages, if they bothered to number them at all. Since these were the front sides of the paper folios that make up a book, this practice is called foliation.

Different Sorts of Page Numbers

Now book pages are numbered consecutively, and all pages (except any endpapers if they are present) are counted whether page numbers appear on them or not. In book pagination the page numbers are referred to as folios, and they may appear almost anywhere on the page. If they are at the bottom of the page, they are called drop folios. Since all pages are counted in the pagination, but some pages don’t have folios on them, a page number that doesn’t appear on its assigned page is known as a blind folio.

Pages that are inserted separately from the pages that make up the book, such as a section of illustrations or photographs printed separately, are not paginated, and therefore don’t have page numbers on them.

Roman Numerals Anyone?

In the United States it is common practice to paginate the front matter of a book with lowercase roman numerals (i, ii, iii). This is helpful in the production process because some of these pages may be enlarged or inserted at the last moment. If the book were paginated with arabic numerals from the very first page, any change in the front matter would necessitate renumbering the entire book. This way, the front matter can be adjusted at will without affecting the body of the book.

Display Pages Are Special

There are numerous pages in a book that are considered display pages. These include the half title(s), title page, copyright, dedication, and epigraph. If a part title page has no text on it, it is usually considered a display page as well. No page number appears on these display pages. Typically a drop folio (or no folio) is used on the opening page of each part of the frontmatter. It’s also important to remember that blank pages should be entirely blank, and that means no pages numbers.

Numbering the Text Pages

The first page of text begins with arabic page 1. If the text opens with a second half title, or if the book uses part titles, and the text begins with the title for Part I, the half title or part title counts as page 1, its reverse (verso) is (page) 2, and the first arabic number that would appear is the drop folio (page) 3 on the first text page. If text appears on the part title, a drop folio (page) 1 can appear also. If there’s no part title or half title, the first page of the text becomes page 1. Usually, page numbers (and running heads) are left off pages that have only illustrations, charts or tables, unless the book has an extended number of pages dedicated to a long sequence of figures or tables or similar content.

Paginating Chapter Openers and Back Matter Sections

The chapter opening page of each chapter, and the section opening page of each section in the back matter is paginated either with a drop folio, or with no page number.

What About Multivolume Works?

In 2-volume works, the publisher will decide how to paginate volume 2: they’ll either start with page 1 on the first page of text, or they’ll continue from where the page numbering left off in volume 1.

When an index to a 2-volume work appears at the end of volume 2, it makes more sense to paginate both volumes as one so that any reference, like an index, does not have to quote both volume and page.

On the other hand, works with more than 2 volumes really ought to be paginated volume by volume to keep the page numbering within reasonable limits. In this case any reference to a particular page has to include both the volume and page number.

Foliated Back Matter Anyone?

Regardless of the pagination scheme used in works of more than one volume, the front matter in each volume still starts with page i. If back matter has to be added to volume 1 late in production, use lowercase roman numerals, continuing the page numbering from where the front matter in that volume left off. If the front matter ended on page xiv, the back matter would start with page xv.

Watch for the next installment in the Book Construction Blueprint, Elements of the Page

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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