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A table of contents ( IHV for short ) is a list of keywords . It gives an overview of the content of a medium .

The sense and necessity of a table of contents

The meaning of a table of contents is derived from its function of providing an overview of the respective work quickly or with one or a few glances. It depicts the relevant subject areas, shows the "red thread" and sometimes the core ideas, and also makes it easier to search for sections of particular interest. The necessity depends largely on the volume of the book.

Philipp Manes, The German fur industry and its associations 1900-1940 - An attempt at a story (Volume 2, content) .jpg
Table of contents scientific work

During the preparatory work for a book, it is usually decided whether it should have a table of contents or not. A selection criterion often results from the type of book . For example, a table of contents will be dispensed with in a short novel, but it will usually be added to a volume of poetry to enable quick access to the individual poems. The table of contents is a summary of the chapter headings, although other sub-headings are also possible that are not included in the table of contents before or after.

Scientific publications always have a structure . The structure provided with page numbers is the table of contents; sometimes subordinate levels are omitted in order to reduce the IHV and z. B. only the top three levels are listed in the IHV. Most scientific publications also have additional directories, e.g. B. Bibliography , list of figures or list of abbreviations. The directories serve as orientation within the work and its thematic classification.

Wikipedia articles also have automatically generated tables of contents, depending on their size. This can also be hidden. In contrast to printed matter, this directory does not contain any page references, but links to the sections. The advantage of a table of contents is not only to give an overview of the article and to reflect the structure, but also the individual sections can be directly addressed and linked in other articles on Wikipedia and also on external websites. If the generation of a table of contents is suppressed, such a link is not possible.

Position of the table of contents

“Tables of contents are in the front or back of the book. They should be where the reader seeks them; in any case right at the front, directly after the main title, or right at the back, under no circumstances after the foreword or at the end of the book in front of a series of advertisements. "

Like the title page , the table of contents is also on a recto page, often on page 5. In a reference work , the table of contents is usually at the end of the book with the index , document attachment, time table or other overviews. A table of contents at the end has advantages for the manufacturer, for example: If a manuscript or parts of it are printed before the table of contents is created, the printer has to put the title sheet on hold for a previous list. He can only complete the title sheet when he has the table of contents. If the directory is at the end of the book, the printer is spared this additional work. Another advantage of the rear standing table of contents that "together with register provides the last opportunity to image directory and other surveys, by compressing or another shooting through the set , by changing the font size to make and another, the book on the desired extent." In addition to poor preparatory work and inaccurate scope calculations, the reason for this can also be a belated change request.

Set of table of contents

If a table of contents is to be usable, it must be particularly clear. Also, the type area has some difficulties: Will he leave in the size of the rest of the book, there are often large gaps between chapter title and page numbers, which are often filled with dots.

If the size of the type area is now changed, it should be ensured that the width of the sentence and the text are in an appropriate ratio to one another. “The typographer's job is to fit this narrow column harmoniously into the book.” There are many options for doing this: The directory can be placed on one edge of the type area, but also - if it is particularly long - in two columns. The book designer decides whether “table of contents”, “table of contents”, just “content”, “page”, “page number” or something similar should appear above the columns. The page number is usually listed after the keyword, in rare cases also before it.

In scientific books, the table of contents is often subdivided in order to present the topics listed clearly. This can be achieved with different markup fonts, in bold or italics, with additional lines, with spaces and indented lines. In order to keep the table of contents clear, it is usually limited to a maximum of three levels. If additional levels are required, a more detailed directory can be added at the beginning of each chapter.

Some books do not require a table of contents. These are, among other things, reference works. In the case of these books, the index or the running title takes on this task.


  • Helmut Hiller, Stephan Füssel: Dictionary of the book. 6th edition. Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-465-032209 .
  • Jost Hochuli: Book design in Switzerland. 2nd Edition. Pro Helvetia, Swiss Cultural Foundation, Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-908102-10-3 .
  • U. Rautenberg (Hrsg.): Reclams Sachlexikon des Buch. 2nd, improved edition. Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-15-010542-0 .
  • Rolf L. Temming: Suggestions for modern book design. 1st edition. Polygraph Verlag GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 1967, OCLC 18142022 .


Since 2002, mainly in the German-speaking countries and in the USA, millions of tables of contents of mostly scientific and non-fiction books have been digitized and made searchable by and for libraries. The term catalog enrichment has established itself for this. Tables of contents can now be found in thousands of library catalogs and special search systems. The tables of contents of journals are evaluated in and for libraries under the keyword “Current Content” or “Online Content”. The GBV in Göttingen ( joint library network ) centrally records this content for Germany.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Rolf L. Temming: Suggestions for modern book design . 1st edition. Polygraph Verlag GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 1967. OCLC 18142022 , pp. 49, 48 and 52
  2. ^ Databases of the GBV - Online Contents - OLC