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1590s, "decorated entrance of a building," from Middle French frontispice, probably from Italian frontespizio and Late Latin frontispicium "facade," originally "a view of the forehead, judgment of character through facial features," from Latin frons (genitive frontis) "forehead" (see front (n.)) + specere "to look at" (see scope (n.1)). Sense of "illustration facing a book's title page" first recorded 1680s. The spelling alteration is apparently from confusion with piece.