These sizes were amalgamated from different lists, and the sizes sometimes varied (I may have added some more errors, of course!) Some may be paper sizes and some book sizes.
Folio meant cut in half, quarto cut in quarters, sixmo cut in sixths and octavo cut in eights. For example:
Imperial = 30" x 22"
Imperial folio = 15" x 22"
Imperial quarto = 15" x 11"
Imperial octavo = 7.5" x 11"
You can also have Double (twice the size), Quad (four times the size) or Double Quad (eight times the size). I've given the base sizes to the left, you can work out the other sizes for yourself! Or look at this website:
Traditional English Paper Sizes
Foolscap was so called because it used to have a watermark showing a fool's head and cap. The most common paper sizes in offices were Foolscap (this was Foolscap folio 13.5 x 8.5 in) and Quarto, which was shorter than Foolscap but slightly wider. The following table is taken from a book printed in 1962. From this, it must have been Medium Quarto.
|There are many different ranges of imperial paper sizes, each in a different proportion. Each smaller size is half the previous, but these also lead to different proportions. Metric paper have its sides in proportion 1:root 2. When you cut this in half for the next smaller size, the sides remain in the same proportion. This is obviously more sensible, and metric paper sizes were adopted throughout Britain without any fuss at all.
A0 is a square metre in area. A4 is the size of paper that photocopiers and computer printers use. 160,000 sheets of A4 would cover a hectare. Also the length of A4 paper is (as exactly as we can calculate from the evidence that has come down to us), precisely the length of the ancient Roman foot. Coincidence, of course!
As well as the metric "A" paper sizes, there are "B" and "C" sizes as well. B0 is 1414mm by 1000mm, and C0 is 1297mm by 917mm. They halve in the same way as the "A" sizes. See International standard paper sizes
|American paper sizes|
A correspondent, Rich, has come up with an interesting point. "Is there a naming convention when describing the size of a book or magazine? Ie: Is a book, or magazine that is 10" wide and 14" long, a 10x14 or a 14x10 object? Cards and photographs for sure appear to be length first, but paper sizes are width first."
Please email me (see homepage of this site) if you have an opinion! Computer printing software uses the terms Portrait and Landscape to describe orientation, and apparently these terms came originally from printing. Portrait paintings are taller than they are wide, and landscapes are wider than they are high.
I've had the following comment about this from Richard Doorbar:
"With regard to your question about width or depth when referring to the printed page or printed sheet.
It was accepted in the repro and printing industry that the depth was always quoted first, i.e. Crown = 20x15 inches (20 inches deep x 15 inches wide) Double Crown = 30x20 inches (30 inches deep x 20 inches wide) etc., these measurements would have been for portrait sizes. For landscape sizes the smaller measure would have been quoted first i.e. A4 landscape = 210x297mm.
In the case of paper size the depth is still written first i.e. SRA2 = 450x640mm, viewing sheets for sheet fed presses as landscape sheets. The way page sizes were written would confirm whether they were landscape or portrait. This practice does not seem to have been adopted by computer software programmers who from my experience in most of the programmes I use place the width before the depth.
Most of the old conventional practices and definitions from the industry, especially Letterpress blockmaking and type composition, have either been completely lost or are now applied in different ways. Before computing the terms and reference we used in the industry and the traditional way that measurement was applied was understood by all in the industry, leaving less room for error."
Russ sent the following about another industry: "Found your comments invited in response to your correspondent Rich, regarding naming conventions for books & magazines. I'm a hologram designer by day & when we refer to end product use we always use North/South first, then East West measurement to descibe a product- there's my 2 cents worth!" That means presumably that the depth is given first, then the width.
Harry Molloy gives a more technical answer raising a new point: "Having spent 45 years in print I was always trained and indeed I have always trained others that the standard way to describe plain paper as 450x640mm refers to standard 'long grain' paper therefore 640x450mm would be supplied as 'short grain'. Likewise plain A4 is normally cut from SRA2 as 210x297mm, however if cut from SRA1 it would revert to 297x210mm to indicate the grain direction on that material. Grain direction can and does have an effect on some laser printers, so its best to be aware. On bottle labelling it is essential that labels are produced with grain running left to right, if produced head to tail would cause labels to peel off bottles. Grain direction is also important when producing printed cartons as if printed wrong grain will create a tube , rather than a box. These are some of the reasons unprinted material must be properly specified so as to identify whether long or short grain is being supplied.
On all printed matter it is correct to measure the head to tail measurement first followed by the left to right.
297x210mm = portrait 210x297mm = landscape
The naming problems in print only began in the computer age some 30 years ago when US made graphic arts programs (Adobe Stuff) consistently showed width x depth - which is the American way - NOT the British way. Likewise envelopes should be measured from the open edge down, thus a Wallet is 110x220mm and a pocket is 220x110mm Provided everyone in the UK- graphic artists and print production students are properly educated then it will be easier for all concerned, and much less confusion resulting from wrong naming conventions."
From a correspondent:
"Until the size system we have today came in in the late 1960's it seems as though manufacturers had a free rein. I have found a reference to postal letters being no smaller than 4 x 2 3/4 ins, presumably they might otherwise get lost. The John Dickinson Lion Brand envelope catalogue for March 1961 suggests sizes of 3 1/8 x 5 3/8, 3 1/2 x 6 which seems to have been made in a large range of papers and colours, 4 1/4 x 5 3/8, 4 x 6, 4 x 9.
Window envelopes 3 1/2 x 6 and 3 3/4 x 6 1/2 also 4 x 9.
Business Banker envelopes were in a variety of sizes from 4 x 9 up to 8 x 9
and pocket envelopes from 9 x 4 up to 15 x 10."
The metric quire has 25 sheets rather than 24 (making the ream 500 sheets rather than 480).
My dictionary defines a 'printer's ream' of 516 sheets. It seems that a printer's ream is different from a writer's ream. Perhaps printers wanted to have some spare for wastage!
A quire originally meant 4 sheets of paper or parchment folded over and sewn to make 8 leaves. These bundles of paper are then sewn together in their turn to make the whole book. As paper became thinner, the quires could be made larger and larger, so now quires can be 26 or more leaves.
|Paper type||Basic sheet size|
|17 in x 22 in|
|25 in x 38 in|
|Cover||20 in x 26 in|
|Tag Stock||24 in x 36 in|
|Index||25.5 in x 30.5 in|
|Depth of type face||Type size indicated by name|
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