I have a general question about back-matter pages:

Is it recommended to paginate the back matter pages differently from the body of the document and why?

Indeed, if we divide the document in three parts: front-matter pages, main-matter pages and back-matter pages and knowing that front-matter pages are generally numbered in lowercase roman numerals (via the book-class command \frontmatter), isn't it natural to paginate also back-matter pages differently from the body of the document? For example, with upper-case roman numerals?

I have read some recommendations on the internet and most of the time it is recommended to continue the pagination of the body of the document. The way the \backmatter command is defined in the book-class (and in other classes I suppose), goes in this direction, since it does not modify the pagination, unlike \frontmatter. The \backmatter command leaves 1 or 2 pages blank and disables the numbering of the chapters (by the way, since the appendices are numbered, should they be put before the \backmatter command? However, the appendices are not part of the body of the document.).

Other sources, much rarer, recommend on the contrary to restart the pagination with capital roman numerals.

Are there practical reasons for preferring one way over another? Or is it more a matter of convention or taste?

  • You're asking for opinion here...
    – Werner
    Dec 23, 2021 at 18:04
  • @Werner The point of my question is precisely whether it is just a matter of taste or whether there are objective reasons for choosing one way of doing things over another. If it is a matter of taste, then there is indeed no debate to be had. Most sources recommend not changing the pagination of back-matter pages, I haven't found a justification for this but perhaps there is one? Just as there is a reason for placing the caption before a table but after a figure when one might have thought (myself included before knowing the reason) that it was only a matter of taste.
    – B Legrand
    Dec 23, 2021 at 19:01
  • Using different numbering for the front matter had a practical reason, namelythat the front matter, typically, was typeset after the rest of the material. Adding page numbers to the main matter after knowing the size of the front matter was out of the question, for obvious reasons (cross references, for instance). With modern computer typesetting, the need is moot and, actually, using continuous numbering should be the recommended way. The back matter is, and has always been, a continuation of the main matter.
    – egreg
    Dec 24, 2021 at 9:18
  • @egreg I think it would be useful to turn your comment, which I totally agree with, into an answer. Dec 24, 2021 at 18:07

1 Answer 1


First of all, each page of a book must have an identifier, whether it's printed or not, including the internal frontispiece.

What this identifier should be is really unimportant, so long as it helps into navigating the book. In most books, there are different styles for these identifiers: Roman numerals for the front matter and standard numerals for the rest of the book.

The reason is inertia. This method for numbering pages is as old as typography and was born to solve a very practical problem.

After the approval of a manuscript for publication, the publisher passed it to a copy editor, who fixed errors and style, then handed it over to a typographer. The manuscript was annotated in such a way that the typographer could respect the publisher's style.

Next, front matter would be prepared. The author would write an introduction, for instance, or a preface would be requested to someone else. In subsequent editions of the book, more introductions or prefaces might be added.

What's the problem, then? That it is unknown how many pages the front matter would consist of, until it's in final form. It is essentially impossible to know this number in advance. Numbering pages in the main matter after having typeset the front matter would be impossible as well: cross-references would become wrong, for instance. In really old times, the preparation of the main matter required the longest time and folios were normally already printed when the front matter arrived.

Using a separate numbering style solved the problem. Well, not completely, because the front matter could not exceed 16 pages (how many were printed on a single sheet of paper for later cutting). This is the reason why sometimes you find blank initial pages.

The problem doesn't present with the “back” matter. And what numbering style would be used? I've unfortunately seen institutions that require the back matter to take on Roman numerals from where they ended in the front matter! Does this help in navigating the book? Not at all! Where on earth will page xxxiv be? At the beginning or at the end?

Uppercase Roman numerals? Why? There is no reason whatsoever.

Of course, with modern computer typesetting it's really easy to have continuous numbering from page 1 to the end, without distinguishing between front matter and the rest.

How do you do it in the book class? Simple: modify the declarations to be


and you're done.

My friend Ivan Valbusa's class suftesi does this and doesn't use Roman page numbers anywhere (we discussed about the problem). In my opinion, every class for book publications should at least provide an option for this style. Traditions are not to be blindly obeyed.

  • 1
    +1: It makes things also easier when navigating a PDF in a PDF reader. Having different numbering styles makes it easily inconsistent/confusing. Dec 24, 2021 at 18:42
  • @Dr.ManuelKuehner Sure thing!
    – egreg
    Dec 24, 2021 at 23:22
  • Hello @egreg, thank you for your clear answer! I didn't know why the front-matter pages were paginated differently. Knowing this, it seems that there is no longer any reason to do so.
    – B Legrand
    Dec 25, 2021 at 10:26

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