Colophon (document)

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Valerius Maximus , printed in Mainz by Peter Schöffer , July 18, 1471: Colophon (or also: Explicit ) with printer's mark and printer's mark

A colophon ( Greek κολοφών 'summit', 'top', 'end') or a subscription ('postscript', but compare the more common word meaning of subscription ) is a paratext element of a book, which is usually placed at the end of the manuscript or of the printed matter and contains information about the content, author, place, time, manufacturer, client and production details of the publication.


Colophons, which provided information about the client, the scribe or the origin of the text, already appeared on the handwritten scrolls from papyrus in antiquity, later in manuscripts bound to books and were probably common in valuable books. A colophon made around AD 180 indicates significant activity in improving the text. Poggio found it in 1417 in a manuscript by Ciceros De lege agraria . It read:

Statilius Maximus rursum emendavi ad Tironem et Laecanianum et Domi (tium) et alios veteres III. Oratio eximia.

“I, Statilius Maximus, have improved [the text] a second time after Tiro, Laetanianus, Dom [itius] and 3 other ancients. An excellent speech. "

From today's perspective, colophones are valuable for dating (example: Codex Cairensis ).

The term explicit has become common, especially for the time of early book printing , based on the incipit , not only in printed books, but also in medieval manuscripts .


In the printing industry, the colophon usually contains information on the fonts used and often also the names of the designers; Paper type, color, details of the book binding and methods of book creation can also be mentioned. In the case of books with technical content and corresponding representations, a colophon can list which software was used to make text and diagrams ready for printing. Detailed colophons are a characteristic of bibliophile editions or limited editions. In oriental manuscripts, the colophon is often an inverted triangle that contains information about the calligrapher, the place of origin and the time of origin.

The colophon can appear either like the imprint on the back of the title page or at the very end of the book. Title pages were not used in old books . The information on the title, place and date of publication were therefore summarized in the colophon at the end of the book. The first printed colophon in the psaltery by Johannes Fust and Peter Schöffer has come down to us from 1457 . The colophon is related to the explicit (opposite: incipit ), as it was often at the end of a book. In the course of book history development, it has largely given way to the imprint. Even today, however, colophons are still printed in books, usually as one of the other quality features of high-quality editions.

Web pages can also have a colophon, which often contains information on (X) HTML , CSS , the programming languages ​​used , program libraries or frameworks , user friendliness and links for validating the page.


  • Birgit Althaus: The book dictionary - reference work for book makers and book lovers . Area Verlag, Erftstadt 2004. ISBN 3-89996-256-7
  • Helmut Hiller, Stephan Füssel: Dictionary of the book . Klostermann, Frankfurt / Main 2002. ISBN 3-465-03220-9 , p. 168
  • Ursula Rautenberg (Hrsg.): Reclams Sachlexikon des Buches . Reclam, Stuttgart 2003. ISBN 3-15-010542-0 , p. 301

Web links

Commons : Colophon  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Quoted from: Handbuch der Latinischen Literatur der Antike. Munich 1997. p. 257.