“This (therefore) will not have been a book.”*
Some of the most enigmatic sentiments that we can find in a book (let alone its introductory sentence): (1) for it to proclaim its otherness to itself; (2) for the book to begin with a conclusion; (3) for it to begin by referencing itself. But then again, there is a sort of perfection here, in this line, if not every line, for this essay is a meditation on prefacing, and the preface.
This sentence, like the preface itself, is exemplary of how a reader interacts with a preface. The preface frames the book. It is usually written by author after the book has been completed, and is read by the reader before he reads the book.
It, in a sense, begins by representing the book. It prefigures several aspects of what you-the-reader are going to see. In this statement is the compressed essence of the rest of the essay.
In order to make this argument, a thinker would have to construct a definition of the book which was something other than what Derrida is claiming his own work as. I have a copy right next to me. It's shaped like a book. If I referred to it as a book, people would certainly know what I was talking about. Even if there was great distance between me and the book. So what's the issue here? Why is Derrida self-excluding his own work from book-hood?
Well, what have we so far is:
2. Conclusion at the end
And that is just the first sentence! Derrida goes on to deny that this (now ambiguous) thing on my desk is a collection of three essays (despite appearances). No, Derrida prefers the term assemblage and thrusts upon us another nerve wracking instance of self-reference: that this is a meditation (my term) on presentation, or perhaps more to the point, presenting.
So the quality we are dealing with here is verbal in nature, and we should be paying special attention to the treatment of nouns in Derrida's essay; particularly the nominalization of verbs or action words.
*Barbara Johnson translation