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The PreTeXt Guide

Section 4.24 Front Matter

A single <frontmatter> element can be placed early in your <book> or <article>, after some metadata, such as the overall <title>. It is optional, but likely highly desirable. The following subsections describe the items that may be employed within the <frontmatter>. Most are optional, and some may be repeated. An <article> differs in that it must contain a <titlepage> and then may only contain an <abstract>. Generally, these will get default titles, localized in the language of your document, but these defaults may also be replaced by giving a <title> element. None of these divisions themselves is numbered, precluding any content within that is numbered. So, for example, no <figure> may be included. But you could choose to include an <image>, perhaps within a <biography>.
If a component of the front matter cannot be numbered, how best to subdivide something like a <preface>? This is a good use of the <paragraphs> element. It allows for a (minimal) title, but cannot be subdivided further. See the later part of Section 4.6 for more about this exceptional element.
These elements must appear in your source in the order given below, and will appear in your ouput in the same order, which is a generally accepted order used in the production of books. So, for example, even if you author an <acknowledgement> between two <preface>, your output may (will?) place the Acknowledgement before the first Preface.
(We have not yet described the contents of these various elements in full detail.)

Subsection 4.24.1 (*) Title Page

Required. Since the entire <frontmatter> is optional, we assume that the front matter at least includes the appearance of the document’s overall <title>.

Subsection 4.24.2 (*) Abstract

Optional, and only available for an <article>.

Subsection 4.24.3 (*) Colophon

The front colophon. (There is also a back colophon, see Subsection 4.25.6). Sometimes this is also called the copyright page.

Subsection 4.24.4 (*) Biographies

Multiple <biography> elements, one per author.

Subsection 4.24.5 (*) Dedication

A single <dedication> element, that might include multiple dedications (perhaps by different authors).

Subsection 4.24.6 (*) Acknowledgements

A single <acknowledgement> element (note spelling), that becomes a division, and so can contain paragraphs, lists, etc. The Chicago Manual of Style [1, 1.52] suggests that if these are short, they may be contained in a preface.

Subsection 4.24.7 (*) Forewords

As of 2021-07-16 the <foreword> element is not fully implemented. Please make a feature request if you need it.
A <foreword> is written by somebody other than the author. The name of the writer of the foreword need to be included—at the end is a good location.

Subsection 4.24.8 (*) Prefaces

Multiple prefaces are a distinct possibility, and in this case providing a different <title> for each would be essential. Examples might include: “Preface to the Third Edition”, “How to Use this Book”, or “To the Student”. More ad-hoc material, such as a translator’s note, can be handled as a preface.

Best Practice 4.24.1. Understand the Role of a Preface.

Chicago Manual of Style [1, 1.49] begins with “Material normally contained in an author’s preface includes reasons for undertaking the work, method of research, …” Note that a preface is not introductory content and is not an introduction. It is written from the author’s point-of-view, and may include information about why they are qualified to write on the topic of the book. If there are several editions, the prefaces to the newer editions are placed first. See the related Best Practice 26.3.1.