A colophon is a publisher’s emblem, usually printed on the title page of a book. In olden times, it meant an inscription at the end of a book or a literary composition—often naming the author and scribe (who copied it) and the printer, with the place and date of execution, etc.—as happens on a title page today.
A logo is a modern way of describing an emblem—a visual representation of a brand. A company’s trademark includes a logo, slogan and the font used. Some of the best-known publishers’ colophons or logos are the birds of Penguin Books and its imprint Puffin Books (children’s non-fiction) and Pelican (adult non-fiction)
Of more recent publishers, I’m fond of the Galley Beggar Press demon:
I’ve seen colophons used to mark chapter and section breaks, such as this:
In modern times, with the rise of self-publishing, it makes sense for authors to add a logo to their brand. After all, think of how musician Prince used a visual image, or glyph, to defy his record company Warner Brothers and to denote his identity.
There are some great examples of designs for author colophons in this article.
I’ve already got an emblem, which I intend to use when I return to self-publishing. It came to the Whybrow family courtesy of our Wyber ancestors, who were among the invading Norman army in 1066. Wyber means ‘mighty castle’ in the ancient Norman language, and curious about this, in the 1970s I traced the location of the original castle in Normandy—which had been reduced to few scattered stones covered in poo in a field of sheep! I also traced my forebears’ family crest, which was the commonly found castle turret, sheep and bags of wool (a source of medieval wealth), one sack of gold and a strange red heart with a devil’s tail.
I don’t know what happened to the sack of gold, but I’ve used the demonic heart as a symbol on motorcycle crash helmets for 40 years. I briefly self-published under the pen name Augustus Devilheart, but reverted to my own name, as it was too much fuss to remember who I was!
What symbol would you use for your books?