• The architecturally adorned front wall or bay of a building or edifice. Also, an ornamental porch or pediment.

Information & Library Science

  • noun a picture at the beginning of a book opposite the title page

Real Estate

  • noun the principal facade of a building, treated architecturally as a separate element
  • noun a pediment, usually ornamental, above a window or door

Origin & History of “frontispiece”

The final syllable of frontispiece has no etymological connection with piece. It comes from *spic-, a root denoting ‘see’ which is also represented in conspicuous and spectator. here, as in the related auspices, its particular application is ‘divination by observation’. Added to Latin frōns ‘forehead’ it produced late Latin frontispicium, which originally meant ‘judgment of character through interpretation of facial features’. Gradually it weakened semantically through ‘face’ to simply ‘front part’, and when English first acquired it, it was used for the ‘principal façade of a building’ (‘an indiscreet builder, who preferreth the care of his frontispiece before the maine foundation’, Richard Brathwait, English Gentleman 1630). By the 17th century, however, the word’s modern meaning ‘illustration facing the title page’ was becoming established. (Spellings based on an erroneous association with piece, incidentally, occur as early as the 16th century.).