The colophon is that short text, usually at the end, noting the production details of the book. According to Wikipedia “the term colophon derives from the Late Latin colophōn, from the Greek κολοφών (meaning ‘summit’ or ‘finishing touch’)” The Millions has a nice piece on the subject, Praise for the colophon.

Knopf used to be the last publisher habitually adding a colophon to the end of their books, but it looks like they have stopped doing this in recent years. I suspect that if we are going to preserve the print book it will be as a de luxe object. To me this indicates that the colophon needs to be revived. The people we hope will care enough for a printed book rather than a cheaper e-book are exactly the people who will care about the typeface used, its history, the company that laid out the pages, the printer/binder etc. Information about the paper might be good, though this can of course change on a reprint, as can the printer/binder. If we are really dealing with de luxe items, then remembering to check this sort of thing shouldn’t be too heavy a burden on the few production workers remaining. Something about the designer and even the editor might be nice too. If we are going to be making collectibles, it would seem to me that saying something about why we think they are beautiful would be appropriate.

Here’s a handsome example from King Library’s copy of Wer ist Victor Hammer? by Rudolph Koch (1996).

Photo King Library Press, University of Kentucky

Photo King Library Press, University of Kentucky

I wrote about colophons in Making Book a few years back.