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




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.




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.




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:




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