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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Historic 'Standard' Book Sizes:

Someone asked me this morning about book sizes. They said they were interested in making some blank books, but wanted the sizes they make to be as historically correct as possible. So, for the sake of those who may stumble upon this blog that have no "book" experience whatsoever, I'll provide some additional basic info, as well.

Having standard book sizes is something that goes back centuries, and while these standards have varied slightly, from country to country, the European standard was adhered to by most, and this includes America up until the formation of the standard book sizes created by the American Library Association.

For the benefit of the casual observer or rank amateur, I'll include a little more background information...

Historically speaking, the "standard" book sizes (standard being a somewhat relative term, as mentioned above) were based entirely on the prevailing sheet size of the day. For example, until the end of the eighteenth century, and less so [in a production sense] after 1820, paper was handmade via wooden frame with screens, called moulds, and most all paper mills typically made their paper on all the same sizes of moulds, as this was largely dictated by the printers and customers demands of the day. When the printer received the paper for printing, the layout of the printing of course most often dictated the number of times the sheet of paper was folded, which created one "section" or "signature" as they are called. The number of pages in these signatures would be 4, 8, 12, 16, 24, 32, and, rarely, so on. Remember, however, that these are the number of pages, [not] the number of leaves of paper! Every leaf is printed on both sides, which creates two pages on one leaf.

The actual 'page size' will vary at the end of day, because every book is edge-trimmed slightly.

This table of sizes, along with others, some being speculative, are on the internet. But this older, more antiquated scale is best to use when wanting to make [blank] historic-facsimiles of books. I suggest the Crown-Octavo in a Cambridge Panel Style!

The following table is in terms of a 20" x 25" parent sheet of paper.

Size NameTimes Sheet FoldedLeaves to SheetPages to SheetSize of Page in Inches
royal folio12420 x 12½
royal quarto24812½ x 10
royal octavo381610 x 6¼
royal sixteenmo416326¼ x 5
royal thirty-twomo532645 x 3 1/8
royal sixty-fourmo6641283 1/8 x 2½
medium folio12418 x 11½
medium quarto24811½ x 9
medium octavo38169 x 5¾
medium sixteenmo416325¾ x 4½
medium thirty-twomo532644½ x 2 7/8
medium sixty-fourmo6641282 7/8 x 2¼
crown folio12415 x 10
crown quarto24810 x 7½
crown octavo38167½ x 5
crown sixteenmo416325 x 3¾
crown thirty-twomo532643¾ x 2½
crown sixty-fourmo6641282½ x 1 7/8