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Paper Sizes and Paper Weight: Metric and US Standards


Paper sizes are all related to letter size, because this is a convenient size for handling. In most of the world, letter size is A4 size or 210 by 297 millimeters. In the United States, letter size is A size or 8 1/2 by 11 inches. Paper sizes are organized into series based on folding a standard, large sheet of paper into a smaller letter size or book page size. Originally, there were many standard sizes. In reprographics there is now one standard series in the metric world, and one standard series in the United States.

Sheets of Paper

Originally paper was hand made, one sheet at a time. It was also hand printed, one sheet at a time. Now paper is made in a continuous web or ribbon up to 20 feet wide. Paper is also printed on a continuous web in newspapers and other high speed printing processes in which the paper may move at up to 60 miles per hour. Because each paper roll must have an end, the paper handling equipment can automatically splice the end of one roll to the beginning of the next roll while the paper is moving through the press at 60 miles per hour. Laser printers that print at up to 700 pages per minute also uses paper rolls, but currently the printers must be stopped to load a new roll.


The speed at which hand fed presses can be operated is limited. Historically, once the maximum feeding speed was reached, the only way to increase efficiency was to increase the size of the sheet being printed with each printing impression. To accommodate the need for a manageable book size, the printed sheet was folded. An unfolded sheet has two sides, a sheet folded once has four sides and is called a folio.


The folded sheets are called signatures which are gathered and sewn together into a book. A book of folio signatures is called a folio edition.

Book Production

As described above, books are printed on large sheets of paper, called broadsheets or broadsides, reducing the number of printing impressions required. Each of the large sheets is then folded. Each folded sheet forms a signature. The signatures are gathered and sewn together to form a book. After binding the bolts are trimmed (cut) on three sides. The bolts are the uncut edges of the book, called the head, the fore-edge, and tail or foot. This trimming leaves the bound spine and forms the bound leaves of the book. (Uncut broadsheet sheet sizes are given as untrimmed sizes; cut letter and page sizes are given as trimmed sizes.) After trimming the book is free to be opened. In a book opening the verso or back side of a cut page or leaf appears on the left and the recto or front side of a cut leaf appears on the right.

Book Size

Two things affect the size of the pages of a book, the size of the original sheet of paper, and the number of times the sheet of paper is folded before trimming. Books bound from once folded signatures are called folio editions. Quarto editions are bound from twice folded signatures. Octavo editions are bound from thrice folded signatures. Sextodecimo or sixteenmo editions are bound from signatures folded four times, and thirty-twomos from 5 folds and sixty-fourmos from 6 folds. Interestingly, it is not possible to fold a piece of paper more than 7 times.

In England, there were dozens of standard sheet sizes. In the Metric world, for reprographics, there is one standard sheet size. In the United States, for reprographics, there is one standard sheet size (trimmed), and one old standard sheet size (untrimmed). In England, in the metric world, and the in United States, there are still a variety of sheet sizes used in commercial printing.

Aspect Ratio

An aspect ratio is the ration of one side of a sheet to the other side. A sheet that is 4 by 2 inches has an aspect ratio of 2. A sheet of paper that is 8 by 4 has an aspect ration of 2 as well. A television screen has an aspect ratio of 4 to 3 which is often referred to as the golden ratio, and is the same aspect ratio as the 12 by 9 inch A size sheet that is the basis for the old (untrimmed) United States paper size series. HDTV (High Definition TV) has an aspect ratio of 16 to 9. When giving an aspect ratio as two numbers, the horizontal dimension or width is always given first, and the vertical dimension, or height is given second.

An aspect ratio greater than 1 is called a landscape aspect ratio because most landscape paintings are wider than they are tall. An aspect ratio less than 1 is called a portrait aspect ratio because most portrait paintings are narrower than they are tall.

English Paper Sizes in Inches

As can be seen, English paper sheets come in a wide variety of sizes. English paper sheets also come in a wide variety of aspect ratios.

English Paper Sizes in Inches

Name Untrimmed Sheet Size Folded Quarto Size
Pot 12 3/4 x 15 1/2 6 3/8 x 7 3/4
Crown 15 x 20 7 1/2 x 10
Double Crown 20 x 30 10 x 15
Quad Crown 30 x 40 15 x 20
Double Quad Crown 40 x 60 20 x 30
17 1/2 x 22 1/2
8 3/4 x 11 1/4
Small Demy 15 1/2 x 20 7 3/4 x 10
Double Demy
(Music Demy)
22 1/2 x 35 11 1/4 x 17 1/2
Quad Demy 35 x 45 17 1/2 x 22 1/2
Foolscap 13 1/2 x 17 6 3/4 x 8 1/2
Small Foolscap 13 1/4 x 16 1/2 6 5/8 x 8 1/4
Double Foolscap 17 x 27 8 1/2 x 13 1/2
Quad Foolscap 27 x 34 13 1/2 x 17
Imperial 22 x 30 11 x 15
Medium 18 x 23 9 x 11 1/2
Double Medium 23 x 36 11 1/2 x 18
Post 15 1/2 x 19 1/4 7 3/4 x 9 5/8
Large Post 16 1/2 x 21 8 1/4 x 10 1/2
Sheet and 1/2 Post 19 1/2 x 23 1/2 9 3/4 x 11 3/4
Double Post 19 1/2 x 31 1/2 9 3/4 x 15 3/4
Double Large Post 21 x 33 10 1/2 x 16 1/2
Royal 20 x 25 10 x 12 1/2
Super Royal 20 x 27 1/2 10 x 13 3/4
Double Royal 25 x 40 12 1/2 x 20
Elephant 23 x 28 11 1/2 x 14

The Old (Untrimmed) United States Paper Size

As described, the old United States paper size was based on a 9 by 12 inch piece of paper. This was trimmed to 8 1/2 by 11 which became the new basis for the standard paper size. In reprographics and records management, as well as digital imaging, the older paper sizes must be accommodated because the older records are still on the older size sheets.

Folded Sizes

As can be seen, an E size sheet once folded is D size, twice folded is C size, thrice folded is B size, and folded 4 times, is A size.

Varying Aspect Ratio

In the United States System, when enlarging page size from 'A' Size to 'B' Size, the aspect ratio changes. That is, when you enlarge an 8 1/2 x 11 inch image to 11 x 17 inches, it does not fit exactly. The Europeans who established the metric paper sizes engineered a paper size series in which the aspect ratio is the same for all paper sizes. The only aspect ratio for which this is possible is the square root of two. In the metric world, when an image is enlarged from one paper size to another, the image fits exactly.

United States Paper Sizes in Inches, New (Trimmed) and Old (Untrimmed)

Name New Size Old Size Name New Size Old Size
A 8 1/2 x 11 9 x 12 F 28 x 40 varies
B 11 x 17 12 x 18 G 11 x (22 1/2 to 90) varies
C 17 x 22 18 x 24 H 28 x (44 to 143) varies
D 22 x 34 24 x 36 J 34 x (55 to 176) varies
E 34 x 44 36 x 48 K 40 x (55 to 143) varies

Metric Paper Sizes

The basic size of metric paper is one square meter, which is the area of an A0 sheet of metric paper. This size, taken along with the aspect ratio, fully determines the size and shape of metric reprographics paper.

For a given sheet size, United States paper is a little wider than metric paper in the short dimension, and a little shorter than metric paper in the long dimension.

As can be seen, A0 size folded once is A1 size, folded twice is A2 size, folded thrice is A3 size, and folded 4 times is A4 size.

Metric paper also has a B series of sizes for posters and wallcharts and a C series of sizes for envelopes.

Metric Trimmed Paper Sizes

Metric Name Metric Size in mm Size in Inches United States Size Size in Inches
A8 53 x 74 2.07 x 2.91 Business card 2 x 3 1/2
A7 74 x 105 2.91 x 4.13 3 x 5 3 x 5
A6 105 x 148 4.13 x 5.83 Microfiche 4.13 x 5.83
A5 148 x 210 5.83 x 8.27 5 x 8 5 x 8
A4 210 x 297 8.27 x 11.69 A 8 1/2 x 11
A3 297 x 420 11.69 x 16.54 B 11 x 17
A2 420 x 594 16.54 x 23.39 C 17 x 22
A1 594 x 841 23.39 x 33.11 D 22 x 34
A0 841 x 1189 33.11 x 46.81 E 34 x 44
2A 1189 x 1681 46.81 x 66.22    

Weights of Paper

The weight of metric paper is given in grams per square meter (gms). As written above, by definition, one square meter is one A0 size sheet or 16 A4 size sheets. The weight of United States letter size paper is given in pounds per 500 sheet ream of uncut C size paper. For the letter size paper, a sheet is cut into 4 pages so that a cut ream of letter size paper, 500 letter size sheets, weighs 4 pounds if the paper is nominally 20 pound paper.


Paper sizes are based on what is convenient to handle. Reprographics paper sizes come in series that are related by folding from or to a base size. In the metric world, the base size is A0, which produces a letter size of 210 x 297 mm (millimeters). In the United States the equivalent letter size and base size is 8 1/2 by 11 inches. [Article 006v22]


FUD is a computer acronym that stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

In mid-1998 Microsoft released a listing of the Y2K (Year 2000 millennium bug) dependencies of its products at While Office 97 and Windows 95 are said to have no serious problems, it seems prudent to use the 98 versions (or later) of the Microsoft products which have been checked to ensure that they provide a smooth transition to the new millennium. [Article 006v22]

Updates and More Detailed Descriptions

When using the information in this article, please check the website for updates. The version number for this article is located at the end of the article and in the Note to Editors section below. The website also has articles that provide more details on some of the terms and concepts in this article.


Please let us know how you like this paper, or if you had any questions. What would you like to see in the future? For more, and the most recent version of this article, please visit our web site at We also have the articles in Microsoft Word format which prints on far fewer pages than the HTML version. Also, please let us know where you saw this article.

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Reprinted from Archive Planning, Volume 2, number 7, 1998, Archive Builders' analysis newsletter for document management.


All trademarks are the property of their respective holders.

Note to Editors

Article 006v22

We will continue to update these articles as we get comments. Please contact us for the most current version before you publish and please request permission to publish the article. Permission will be given freely for most purposes. Also, please send us a copy of the publication when you publish the article. The articles are also available in a Microsoft Word format that can be printed on many fewer pages than the HTML format.

Steve Gilheany
Archive Builders
1147 Manhattan Avenue, Suite 322
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Tel: +1 (310) 937-7000 Fax: +1 (310) 937-7001


Steve Gilheany, BA in Computer Science, MBA, MLS Specialization in Information Science, CDIA (Certified Document Imaging System Architect), AIIM Master, and AIIM Laureate, of Information Technologies, CRM (Certified Records Manager, ARMA) has seventeen years experience in document imaging and is a Sr. Systems Engineer at Archive Builders.


Steve Gilheany is a Sr. Systems Engineer at Archive Builders. He has worked in digital document management and document imaging for seventeen years.

His experience in the application of document management and document imaging in industry includes: aerospace, banking, manufacturing, natural resources, petroleum refining, transportation, energy, federal, state, and local government, civil engineering, utilities, entertainment, commercial records centers, archives, non-profit development, education, and administrative, engineering, production, legal, and medical records management. At the same time, he has worked in product management for hypertext, for windows based user interface systems, for computer displays, for engineering drawing, letter size, microform, and color scanning, and for xerographic, photographic, newspaper, engineering drawing, and color printing.

In addition, he has nine years of experience in data center operations and database and computer communications systems design, programming, testing, and software configuration management. He has an MLS Specialization in Information Science and an MBA with a concentration in Computer and Information Systems from UCLA, a California Adult Education teaching credential, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His industry certifications include: the CDIA (Certified Document Imaging System Architect) and the AIIM Master, and AIIM Laureate, of Information Technologies (from AIIM International, the Association of Information and Image Management, (, and the CRM (Certified Records Manager) (from the ICRM, the Institute of Certified Records Managers, an affiliate of ARMA International, the Association of Records Managers and Administrators, (

Tel: +1 (310) 937-7000
Fax: +1 (310) 937-7001

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