Friends, a colleague of mine showed me a book with a intriguing chapter structure:


I was wondering how we could achieve something similar. I understand that this unusual numbering will break the counters, and I don't expect the chapter numbers to be set automatically, but I'd like to see how it could work even with a manual chapter numbering assignment.

As a minimum working example, I wrote a single code with some chapters added:





\chapter{Before the beginning} % Chapter -1


\chapter{Much ado about nothing} % Chapter 0


\chapter{Small is beautiful} % Chapter 0.000000001


\chapter{All is one} % Chapter 1


\chapter{Murdering irrationals} % Chapter \sqrt{2}


\chapter{Golden Phi} % Chapter \Phi



Any ideas?

  • The book looks interesting. Can you please tell me what is the name of the book?
    – Mia
    Apr 16, 2017 at 19:54

3 Answers 3



Use \label and \ref for the chapters with some care.

A definition in the preamble is preferable, since it forces the user to express the argument, without forgetting \renewcommand before \chapter. Moreover it provides a hook for enhancements of various type.

Don't forget to redefine \thesection, since "as we saw in section e.5" can be funny.

  • 1
    That's funny, I tried with \label and \ref and they worked perfecty! =) Jun 1, 2011 at 12:19
  • Thanks, it's a nice solution for this question! BTW, I totally forgot about sections, glad you mentioned! Jun 1, 2011 at 14:37

The chapter counter is of course numeric but the display of it is controlled by the \thechapter macro. You could simply redefine it manually before every chapter. You could also map the chapter counter values to strings (see the link in Seamus answer), but in this case I don't think it would be worth the effort.


\clearpage% to flush out last chapter page with correct header and footer
\chapter{Small is beautiful}
  • I forgot that the chapter is just a macro that you could redefine. This is much simpler...
    – Seamus
    Jun 1, 2011 at 11:57
  • Pretty straightforward code, Martin! I had no idea I could do that. Jun 1, 2011 at 12:21

This is interesting, because the chapter number counter is an integer, so you couldn't just reset the counter to what you wanted before each chapter. I guess you could make a new enumeration scheme that just listed your chapter numbers in order like in this answer: Greek numbering

  • That's a very interesting approach, Seamus. I like the idea of iterating through an enumeration. =) Jun 1, 2011 at 12:16

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