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Paper sizes

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How do paper sizes work?

Metric paper sizes begin with with one of 3 basic sheets, named A, B and C, each of which has a particular purpose

In the case of the A sheet, A0 has an area of 1 square metre, and the sheet is then folded (halved along the longest side) to give A1. A1 can be folded in the same way, to give A2, and so on through A3, A4 etc. 

A series - A sizes

The most familiar of the paper sizes, given in millimetres.

Size Height Width
A0 1189 841
A1 842 594
A2 594 420
A3 420 297
A4 297 210
A5 210 148
A6 148 105

 

The chart below lists the common book page size aspect ratios. If you are a perfectionist you can adjust the margins to match the paperback size you want.

Known as Height Width Aspect ratio
B 203 127 1.59
Demy 216 140 1.54
Pinched Crown Royal 224 172 1.30
special 229 152 1.51
Royal 234 156 1.50
Crown Royal 246 186 1.32
special 280 210 1.33
A4 297 210 1.41

B series - B sizes

Untrimmed metric paper sizes, used for posters and charts, given in millimetres.

Size Height Width
B0 1414 1000
B1 1000 707
B2 707 500
B3 500 353
B4 353 250
B5 250 176
B6 176 125
B7 125 88
B8 88 62
B9 62 44
B10 44 31

C series - C sizes

The C series is used for envelopes. Sizes given in millimetres.

Size Height Width
C0 1297 917
C1 917 648
C2 648 458
C3 458 324
C4 324 229
C5 229 162
C6 162 114
C7 114 81
C7/6 162 81
DL 220 110

Paper quantity units used in printing:

Unit Relationship Sheets
1 quire   24 
1 ream 20 quire 480
1 bundle 2 ream 960
1 dozen   12
1 gross 12 dozen 144
1 great gross 12 gross 1,728

The names of book sizes are based on the old paper sizes and methods of printing. The technology may have moved on, but the traditional names are still widely used. The size-names derive from the fraction they represent of the large sheet of paper on which the book was printed, not dissimilar to metric paper sizes.

To appreciate the range of sizes you have to understand how books used to be printed. Page images would be printed on each sheet in a very special order. An even number of leaves always results when a sheet is folded, so the page count is divisible by 4, 8, 16 etc. The full sheet is then folded so that the pages appear in proper sequence. The outside edges are cut so that the book will open.

The name of each book size has two components:

• The name of the paper sheet e.g. ‘Royal', ‘Imperial'.

• The fractional part of the sheet e.g., quarto (2 folds, 4 leaves, 8 pages), ¼ of a sheet; octavo (3 folds, 8 leaves, 16 pages), 1/8 of a sheet.

However, cut sizes are always greater than the final, trimmed book. The customary trim is 1/8 inch at the head and tail of the book, which will reduce the height of the text block by ¼ inch. The dimensions of books are measured from head to tail and from spine to fore edges of the cover.

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