A preface ( /ˈprɛfɨs/ PREF-iss; adjectival form: "prefatory") is an introduction to a book or other literary work written by the work's author. An introductory essay written by a different person is a foreword and precedes an author's preface. The preface often closes with acknowledgements of those who assisted in the literary work.
A preface generally covers the story of how the book came into being, or how the idea for the book was developed; this is often followed by thanks and acknowledgments to people who were helpful to the author during the time of writing.
A preface is usually signed (and the date and place of writing often follow the typeset signature); a foreword by another person is always signed. Information essential to the main text is generally placed in a set of explanatory notes, or perhaps in an "Introduction" that may be paginated with Arabic numerals, rather than in the preface. The term preface can also mean any preliminary or introductory statement. It is sometimes abbreviated pref.
Preface comes from the Latin, meaning either "spoken before" (prae + fatia) or "made before" (prae + factum). While the former source of the word could have preface meaning the same as prologue, the latter strongly implies an introduction written before the body of the book. With this meaning of stated intention, British publishing up to at least the middle of the twentieth century distinguished between preface and introduction.
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Famous quotes containing the word preface:
“I suspect by the account you give me of your garden, that you mean a surprise. As good singers always preface their performance by complaints of cold, hoarseness &c.”
—Thomas Jefferson (17431826)
“Rice and peas fit into that category of dishes where two ordinary foods, combined together, ignite a pleasure far beyond the capacity of either of its parts alone. Like rhubarb and strawberries, apple pie and cheese, roast pork and sage, the two tastes and textures meld together into the sort of subtle transcendental oneness that we once fantasized would be our experience when we finally found the ideal mate.”
—John Thorne, U.S. cookbook writer. Simple Cooking, Rice and Peas: A Preface with Recipes, Viking Penguin (1987)