Book Words for Book Worms

July 30, 2017
From amanuensis to author, foreword to frontispiece, there's more to books than just reading them. Here are some of the words we use to talk about books, book parts, and book people.
In the days before dictation software, in fact before software of any kind at all, there was the amanuensis. An amanuensis is someone who writes down everything that is said. Often it is easier for someone not used to being a writer to speak their thoughts aloud. The amanuensis captures this free-flowing speech on the page, so it can then be organized and edited into a finished work.
My amanuensis sits at the table, and I sit near him, or lie on the sofa, and dictate the stories which I publish.”
Although such frantic commercial output led to uneven quality, Cooper sketched career blueprints for ambitious American authors who followed him.
A bibliophile is a word that literally means “book lover.” It is important to distinguish a bibliophile from a bibliomaniac. A bibliomaniac is someone whose hobby of collecting rare books has gotten out of control. Most bibliomaniacs are collectors first and don’t even read the books they buy, but when you call someone a bibliophile you’re talking about their love of reading first and foremost.
She ends up at Scroll, a company whose mission is “to reinvent reading the way Starbucks reinvented coffee” by creating lounges for bibliophiles.
Over the years a book has come to mean radically different things — a magazine can be called a book, a play script or the collection of the dialogue in a musical play is called a book there are betting books and rule books. If the physical book is in jeopardy from computers and e-books, the word book is not going anywhere, because it is too handy a shorthand for a collection of writings.
Umar Bukhari, who felt books about his native Pakistan relied on stereotypes, wrote a tale about a Pakistani child who wanted to win a race.
Colophon is a Greek word originally meaning "finishing touch". Today it refers to a publisher's emblem or logo that can be seen on the spine and title page of most books.
To lend grace to their colophons, or sometimes as a substitute for them, the early printers and publishers often used a woodcut containing their mark, sign, or device.
Many long stories have epilogues because the reader has been following the characters for so long that they will simply have to know what happens to their favorite characters after the story ends. Epilogues were a tradition in the ancient theater, as the last bit of dialogue spoken — usually it contained a lesson the author wanted to leave their audience with.
From there the novel veers into an epilogue set many years in the future, following the collapse of Gilead. 
If a novel takes the form of a series of letters written between two (or occasionally more) people, then it can be called an epistolary novel. Epistola is Latin for "letter".
“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is both an immigrant novel and a work of autofiction; it is also an epistolary novel, written, loosely, as a letter to the narrator’s mother, which she will never read.
The foreword is by Zadie Smith, adapted from a tribute she wrote soon after the Nobel laureate died in August at age 88.
Besides being an illustration at the beginning of a book — children's books will often have them — frontispiece can also refer to an architectural feature framing the entrance to a building. It's a great word, in that it pretty much tells you exactly what it means: this piece is in front.
It opens with the display of a book of that title, published in 1906, with a Sherman photograph as its frontispiece.
In the prologue to “Romeo and Juliet,” the chorus tells the audience that the tale will unfold within “the two hours’ traffic of our stage.”
To call a book a tome is to say that it is a very large book, long in page count. Growing up, it was a while before I could rightly call any book I read a tome , but these days young readers who have completed the Harry Potter series can rightfully say they have read a tome or two. Some of those Harry Potter books were extremely long!
Some readers will be aghast that chapters end with bullet-point summaries and questions, evoking the worst of unctuous business tomes.
Volume is a very old word, dating from the 14th century, when it meant “any roll of parchment containing writing.” The fact that the writing was on a scroll is important to the name, as volume comes from Latin words meaning “that which is rolled” and “to turn around, revolve.”
At the time of his death in 1851, at age 62, he was envisioning a volume about the past and future of New York City.

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