Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Page Numbering Revisited

Anyone who has read this blog very long knows that page numbering is a pet peeve of mine. Admittedly, I almost numbered a book wrong the other day, so I understand that mistakes can be made. My real issue is with people who number a book incorrectly with no intention of trying to do it correctly. There are several publishers out there who make no distinction between the front matter and the text other than that they may leave off the numbers for the front matter or use lowercase roman numerals, but the result is that the text of the book could end up beginning on page 7 or 11 or some strange number that seems out of place. I found one publisher, NESFA Press, that even says in their style guide that they do not start renumbering with the first page of the text. Their actual statement says, “We do not re-start numbering with the first story page. (If it really bothers the editor not to use Roman numerals on the front matter, OK, but the pages are still numbered consecutively in one series from the very front to the end. E.g., page 10 follows page ix.)” In other words they are saying, we’re doing it wrong, we know we’re doing it wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it.

But you might be wondering what right I have to say that it is wrong. I might not like the way other people number pages, but if they like it then maybe their opinion is as good as mine. To settle this, we go to the 15th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the defacto standard of how we ought to do things related to style. On pages 32 though 34 of this book, we learn how we ought to number pages. The paragraph related to this discussion is 1.103 which states:

The text begins with arabic page 1. If the text begins with a second half title or with a part title, the half title or part title counts as page 1, its verso counts as page 2, and the first arabic number to appear is the drop folio (3) on the first page of the text. If there is no part title or half title, the first page of the text proper becomes page 1. Page numbers generally do not appear on part titles, but if the text appears on a part title, a drop folio may be used.

In other words, the first page of chapter one is page one, unless we’ve divided the book into sections (one of which might be a section of lengthy front matter) and have used title pages to divide the sections. In that case, the title pages for those sections should also be included in our numbering scheme, but what the 15th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t call for is for the typesetter to number the text without restarting the numbering.

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