is an introduction to a book
A book is a set or collection of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of hot lava, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is called a leaf or leaflet, and each side of a leaf is called a page...
or other literary
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...
work written by the work's author. An introductory essay written by a different person is a foreword
A foreword is a piece of writing sometimes placed at the beginning of a book or other piece of literature. Written by someone other than the primary author of the work, it often tells of some interaction between the writer of the foreword and the book's primary author or the story the book tells...
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
Arabic numerals or Hindu numerals or Hindu-Arabic numerals or Indo-Arabic numerals are the ten digits . They are descended from the Hindu-Arabic numeral system developed by Indian mathematicians, in which a sequence of digits such as "975" is read as a numeral...
, rather than in the preface. The term preface
can also mean any preliminary or introductory statement. It is sometimes abbreviated pref
Similarly, a prologue
A prologue is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information. The Greek prologos included the modern meaning of prologue, but was of wider significance...
is typically an introduction to a novel, fitting in with the genre and storyline of the main text, rather than a section in the author's voice. The term proem
indicates an introductory discourse or preamble, either an introduction or preface.
Preface comes from the Latin, meaning either "spoken before" (prae
) or "made before" (prae
). 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.