1590s, "decorated entrance of a building," from French frontispice (16c.), which is probably from Italian frontespizio and Medieval 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" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe"). Sense of "illustration facing a book's title page" first recorded 1680s. The English spelling alteration apparently is from confusion with unrelated piece (n.).
It forms all or part of: aspect; auspex; auspices; auspicious; bishop; circumspect; conspicuous; despicable; despise; episcopal; especial; espionage; espy; expect; frontispiece; gyroscope; haruspex; horoscope; inspect; inspection; inspector; introspect; introspection; perspective; perspicacious; perspicacity; prospect; prospective; respect; respite; retrospect; scope; -scope; scopophilia; -scopy; skeptic; species; specimen; specious; spectacle; spectacular; spectrum; speculate; speculation; speculum; spice; spy; suspect; suspicion; suspicious; telescope.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit spasati "sees;" Avestan spasyeiti "spies;" Greek skopein "behold, look, consider," skeptesthai "to look at," skopos "watcher, one who watches;" Latin specere "to look at;" Old High German spehhon "to spy," German spähen "to spy."
"to expurgate by eliminating indelicate or offensive passages," 1836, from Thomas Bowdler, English editor who in 1818 published a notorious expurgated Shakespeare, in which, according to his frontispiece, "nothing is added to the original text; but those words and expressions omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." Related: Bowdlerized; bowdlerizing; bowdlerization.
"collection of maps in a volume," 1636, first in the title of the English translation of "Atlas, sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi" (1585) by Flemish geographer Gerhardus Mercator, who might have been the first to use this word in this way. A picture of the titan Atlas holding up the world appears on the frontispiece of this and other early map collections.