Book title

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A book title denotes the work title of a book , but also of a scroll (see Sillybos ) under which it appears (is published ) and is included in title lists . Often, additional information is added to the main title in a subtitle or secondary title .

Features and types of book titles

Based on Karl Bühler and Roman Ossipowitsch Jakobson, Philipp Erchinger differentiates between four basic functions of the book title:

  • the referential or communicative function, which consists in the fact that the title refers to the content, the subject or the topic of the main text by specifying the time or place, naming the name of the protagonist or the genre.
  • the appeal or effect function , which is often emphasized by an elliptical , suggestive or praising language. Titles create expectations and try to arouse attention and curiosity.
  • the expressive function emerges above all in literary texts, for example through "demonstrative exposure of individual craftsmanship", an "idiosyncratic manner" or through " intertextual references".
  • Closely related to this is the poetic function , the “attitude to the MESSAGE as such” (Roman Jakobson) evoked by the conspicuous use of language. In the case of literary works, it can serve to identify these works as literary in the first place.

Gérard Genette distinguishes in his book paratexts according to the topic and comment between thematic and rhematic book titles. Thematic titles are accordingly those titles that relate to the “content” of the text, rhematic titles that mostly designate it by the genre.



Book titles in the form they are used today were not yet common in antiquity . It is true that the references to the titles of works for dramas and epics are attested early on in the ancient sources, but this is not the case in prose . Many of the titles by which the ancient texts are known today are probably not from the author himself, but from copyists and librarians .

In the Middle Ages, the colophon or the incipit were used to identify the book. The separate title page as an integral part of the book thus named and identified as a self-contained work was only created with the introduction of book printing at the time of the Renaissance . During the Renaissance, the title's appeal function was of great importance because printed products were in competition with one another. The choice of the book title is usually not a matter for the authors, but rather the publisher, who develops a number of topical formulas for promoting the book.

In the 17th century, titles were increasingly used in manuals on rhetoric and poetics . The brevity of book titles required in these books is rarely taken into account in Baroque journalism . In 1668, De ineptis librorum titulis appears, the first independent treatise on book titles that lists and criticizes various "unsuitable" book titles.

In comparison to the previous period, book titles became considerably shorter on average in the 18th and 19th centuries. The programmatic formula for this turning away from the tradition of the sweeping Baroque titles is provided by Lessing in his Hamburgische Dramaturgie (1767–1769): “The title does not have to be a kitchen slip. The less it reveals the content, the better it is. ”The media function of the title as an instance between text and audience is later emphasized by Arthur Schopenhauer , who compares the book title with the inscription on a letter. The main purpose of the title is to “bring the book to the part of the public to whom its content may be interesting”. It fulfills this task best when it is "concise, laconic, concise and possibly a monogram [outline] of the content". In the middle of the 20th century Theodor W. Adorno rejected precisely this concentration of content in the title for reasons of literary theory .

Islamic countries

In the Islamic countries where the Arabic language served as the literary language , rhyming titles became popular from the 10th century. They dominated the plant names for almost a millennium, only to recede in the course of the 19th century.

The rhyming Arabic book titles, some of which were also used for works in Persian , Ottoman-Turkish and Urdu , are in Sadschʿ and, according to Arne A. Ambros, usually consist of two parts, a lead phrase , “which does not provide any information about the content of the work and should only serve to bring about a positive attitude to the book in question in the reader ”, and a topic phrase that is introduced with “ about, concerning ”, rhymes with the lead phrase and forms a kind of subtitle. As an example of this title structure, Arne Ambros refers to the titles Kifāyat al-fuḥūl fī ʿilm al-uṣūl “The Sufficiency of the Masters, About the Science of the Basics of Legal Theory ” and al-Ǧauhar aṯ-ṯamīn fī siyar al-ḫulafāʾ wa-s -salāṭīn "The precious jewel about the biographies of the caliphs and sultans", which he picked arbitrarily from the history of Arabic literature by Carl Brockelmann .

Legal Aspects

In principle, a trademark right to a book title arises with the publication of the work. In order to protect the title before it is published (e.g. development and production), the right to so-called early title protection can be made known by a title protection notice.

This advertisement has the same effect for a limited time as the publication of the work. The planned work must, however, come onto the market within a “reasonable period”, otherwise the earlier work title protection will expire. The appropriate deadline depends on the type of work (e.g. six months for print media ).

Title protection advertisements can be published for a fee in the title protection magazine , title protection notice and title protection journal (all advertising papers) in accordance with Section 5 (3) of the Trademark Act. This may also in financial newspaper of the German Book Trade Börsenverein be switched. There is also an arbitration board for disputes there. Title protection ads can also be placed directly on the Internet; however, there is still no final judgment on its effectiveness.

To be worthy of protection, a title must have a minimum of distinctive character. Kafka would not be a title worth protecting, Kafka - the years of decisions do .

There is no authority or other institution for registering title protection. The principle "first come, first served" applies.

Grammatical aspects of book titles

If a book title is quoted in a text, it should be inflected. If the book title contains an article that is changed by inflection, it is not in italics or in quotation marks. Based on the novel The Trial (Franz Kafka) some examples:

… beim Lesen des Processes …
Sie gab ihm den Process.
Sie kaufte eine Lektürehilfe zum Process.

If the title of the book is to be given unchanged, it is advisable to embed it in a formulation that does not require inflection:

… beim Lesen von Kafkas Werk Der ProcessDer Process hat beim Lesen …


  • Philipp Erchinger: Title, in the Historical Dictionary of Rhetoric . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2009, Vol. IX, pp. 581–590.
  • Gérard Genette : Paratexts. The book about the accessories of the book . From the French by Dieter Hornig. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / Main 2001, pp. 58-103.
  • Arne A. Ambros: Observations on the structure and functions of the rhyming classical Arabic book titles. In: Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 80 (1990), pp. 13–57.

supporting documents

  1. Erchinger: title. 2009, Vol. IX, p. 582.
  2. Genette: Palimpsests . 2001, p. 79f.
  3. Erchinger: title. 2009, Vol. IX, p. 583.
  4. Erchinger: title. 2009, Vol. IX, pp. 584f.
  5. Erchinger: title. 2009, Vol. IX, pp. 585f.
  6. Quoted in Erchinger: Title. 2009, Vol. IX, p. 586.
  7. Quoted in Erchinger: Title. 2009, Vol. IX, pp. 586f.
  8. Quoted in Erchinger: Title. 2009, Vol. IX, p. 587.
  9. ^ Ambros: Observations. 1990, p. 15.
  10. a b Ambros: Observations. 1990, p. 13.

Web links

Wiktionary: Book titles  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Title Pages  - collection of images, videos and audio files