The Copyright Page

Holding a book in my hand for inspiration, I started thinking about how I read. I turned the book cover open and realized that I didn’t start reading on the first page of the story.

For me, the first page of a book is the copyright page. I can’t remember when I started paying attention to it, but now, when I open a book for the first time, I always look at it.

 

Some are more interesting than others, but they provide me with a little introduction to the book.

Jhumpha Lahiri’s The Namesake, for example, gives us the subject terms by which the book is categorized: Young men—Fiction, Massachusetts—Fiction, Children of immigrants, etc.

I notice that she first published it as a novella in The New Yorker

 

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The copyright page of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road reminds me that the book was first published in 1961.

I learn that the author passed away in 1992.

 

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My French books are different. Natalie Sarraute’s Le Silence, for example, is very simple, only revealing the actual publication dates. The ISBN number and other information are found at the end of the book.

 

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If we are lucky, the page can be whimsical, part of the creative process itself. I particularly like the ones by book designer, Louise Fili, who wanted to move beyond the traditional look:

 

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The copyright page reminds us that we are holding someone’s creation, reminds us that we are about to read the collaborative work of an author, an editor, a book designer, etc. At its best it gives us insight into the creative process and an introduction to the story. At the very least, it tells us where and when the book was published, situating it in history.

 

note: Originally published on liesamalik.com

 

 

70 thoughts on “The Copyright Page

  1. I haven’t quite made it to a regular perusal of the copyright page (though these that you’ve shared are pretty interesting), but the more books that I read the more I find myself taking time to include the forward, the introductions, and, at the end, the acknowledgements in my reading habits. Definitely not something I bothered with a few years ago, but they don’t disappoint. I’m going to start paying more attention to the copyright pages now 🙂

  2. I like how they can be clues to a backstory for the book: An author’s real name, a short story/article origin or “with permission of” sources of quoted passages.

  3. I look at the copyright pages, too. And the “About the Author.” In fact, I think I read that first. But when I really love a book, I turn it over and over, hoping to make it last for one more word; to make sure I didn’t miss a single thing. It all adds to the story.

  4. I look at the copyright page too. For me, I think it’s because I am nosy about things like when the book was written, if there were different editions, etc… I feel like I can learn from it for my own books. Plus, it’s a whole page in the book so why waste it by not giving it attention? 😉

    • That last point made me giggle as it’s something we share, that passion to read, to read anything. You and I love words so much we will read every word in the book, haha!

  5. Your posts always provide so much for me to think about. When I was reading the biography of William Shakespeare (Peter Ackroyd) a few years back, sharing and copying from the works of others was considered the norm. Now, protecting intellectual property is becoming more and more difficult. Where does one idea begin; and how do we amplify that original idea. Most writing does not come with footnotes etc.. Perhaps, the first place to begin in the copyright page. I find the copyright debate fascinating for it speaks to the narrative of human history. Another wonderful post. Thank you.

    • You’re comments are always so kind and encouraging (and always give me a new book to read!). I have noticed that writing does come with less footnotes, less credits. I love how you phrase it “Where does one idea begin; and how do we amplify that original idea.”

  6. You always find a way of looking at a book in a new light Letizia, I do sometimes look at the page to find the publication date, but there are obviously other very interesting things on there too sometimes!

  7. They are fascinating pages, you never know what you find out, there is always the hope of finding you have a first edition too. I love the whimsical cuppa page, there should be more like this.

  8. I remember the coffee mug copyright page! Can’t remember when you shared it, but I thought that was so neat. (That was you, right?) 🙂

    I look at the copyright page too, but after I finish a book. I like to see the publication year to understand more about the time the author wrote it—what was going on in history to inspire them.

  9. That’s a great way to put it – that it’s a reminder that you’re holding someone’s creation. I love looking at the copyright page too, especially the ones from older books for some reason. That’s funny that the tea cup one was published by the Tea Council!

  10. Yes, I always review the copyright information also. I love the one my Louise Fili — how clever.

    I usually read through the acknowledgements as well. I find some interesting tidbits there from time to time. 🙂

  11. Love this! And I am totally with you – I always like to start right at the beginning of a book and take in every detail – it seems only fair to do it justice!! 🙂

  12. I’m with you. I read through books literally cover to cover. Each page carries bits of the author, publisher or designer that gives tiny scraps of information, setting up the first impression of the book in your mind. I especially love the dedication page, epigraphs, acknowledgements and the copyright page. They slowly ease you into the main body of the book. This is a such a thoughtful post.. I love the artsy Louise Fili design; what an aesthetic way to please and draw attention!

    • Yes, the whole book is a creation, and a collaboration, at times. Of course, the story is what we enjoy the most, but there is a lot more to the book in the end. So glad you dropped by and thank you for commenting!

  13. I rarely spend time on this page, unless I want to figure out exactly when a book was published. And I placed my own copyright page in my two books just because I ‘had to.’ This post has opened my eyes. And I love the creativity of the last copyright page you display here.

  14. I checked the copyright pages only when I had a vintage penguin edition. Most front pages read “This book is not available in the US for copyright reasons”. And of course, the inner page showed the first publication date. What a delightful thing it is to hold a 70 years old book in your hands.

  15. Pingback: The Copyright Page — reading interrupted. | Arrowhead Freelance and Publishing

  16. I too am a closet copy-write page lover… it puts the book – and the writer in context… and gives me signposts as to how to tackle the book … I love to know that there are others out there with the same habit, and that we are all, and always, part of a fellowship !!!!

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