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In the English language, Foreword and Preface are different in meaning, and books frequently have both of those:

  • Foreword: another author endorses the book,
  • Preface: the author(s) tell how they came to write the book.

However, I am not sure how to make this distinction in German. The Vorwort seems to me to be more of a preface than a foreword.

How would these two different words be translated when they occur at the beginning of a book?

  • The distinction that you make between the English words "foreword" and "preface" is not correct. "Foreword" is not necessarily the work of another author. The two words are synonyms; the difference is that "preface" is a Latin loanword and "foreword" is a so-called "Saxonism", an artificial Englishing of a foreign word. – fdb Feb 23 '17 at 19:51
  • @fdb I added a link to an editor's explanation of the distinction who also cites the Chicago Manual of Style. Wikipedia agrees as well: "typically written by s/o else...". So while not strictly necessarily, the distinction generally holds in current professional use of English. – Felix Dombek Feb 23 '17 at 20:25
  • The linked article by the non-fiction editor does say “Different publishers and editors may define these elements of the front end of books differently”. I tend to have fairly similar expectations of a preface or foreword and assume they are worth reading before I get to the main text, whereas I am reluctant to read an introduction to a novel before the novel itself; with non-fiction I read an introduction beforehand too. In a novel a foreword is often and a preface sometimes a framing device and thus part of the work, while an introduction tends to be a commentary. Some statistics would help! – PJTraill Feb 23 '17 at 23:35
  • Vorwort and Einleitung perhaps? – DevSolar Feb 24 '17 at 19:09
  • @DevSolar Einleitung is Introduction and usually refers to the introductory part of the main body of the book -- not something “before“ the first chapter. So it's completely different – Felix Dombek Feb 24 '17 at 19:16
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Both are called »Vorwort« in German. When a book has both a foreword and a preface, then the preface is often called

Vorwort des Autors

Sometimes you also find

Geleitwort

when it is a foreword.

Here is an example, the German translation of the 6th edition of Design Patterns by Gamma, Helm, Johnson and Vlissides. In this book we have at the beginning, before chapter 1 (which is »1 Einführung«):

  • Vorwort des Übersetzers der 6ten Auflage
    (Foreword by the translator of the 6th edition)

  • Vorwort des Übersetzers
    (Foreword by the translator)

  • Vorwort
    (Preface)

  • Geleitwort von Grady Booch
    (Foreword by Grady Booch)

  • Leitfaden für den Leser
    (Reader's guide)

  • 1 Einführung
    (1 Introduction)

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