English paper sizes

in the nineteenth century

In the 19th century papers were designated by name rather than dimension, as were type sizes also. The following sizes are taken from Tomlinson's Cyclopedia of Useful Arts (1854). In Spon's Workshop Receipts, vol. 1 (1873), the fractional sizes are rounded, sometimes up, sometimes down.

In those days, a ream of writing or drawing paper was 480 sheets.

Writing and Drawing Papers
Name Dimensions (inches) Comment Weight
in pounds of
1 ream
Emperor 68 × 48 Not in Tomlinson.  
Antiquarian 52½ × 30½   236
Double elephant 39½ × 26½ Largest size in which writing paper was made. 140
Atlas 33 × 26   100
Columbier 34½ × 23   100
Elephant 28 × 23   72
Imperial 29½ × 21½ Largest size in which writing paper was ordinarily made. 72
Super royal 27¼ × 19¼   52
Royal 23½ × 19   44
Medium 22¼ × 17¼   34
Demy 19½ × 15¼ Smallest size in which drawing paper was made. 24
Extra large thick post 22¼ × 17¼   25
Extra large thin post 22¼ × 17¼   18
Extra large bank post 22¼ × 17¼   13
Large thick post 21 × 16½   22
Large middle post 21 × 16½   19
Large thin post 21 × 16½   16
Large bank post 21 × 16½   11
Extra thick post 19 × 15¼   25
Thick post 19 × 15¼   20
Middle post 19 × 15¼   17
Thin post 19 × 15¼   14
Bank post 19 × 15¼   7
Copy 20 × 16   17
Sheet-and-half foolscap 25½ × 13¼   22
Sheet-and-third foolscap 22 × 13¼   18
Extra thick foolscap 16½ × 13¼   18
Foolscap 16½ × 13¼   15
Pott 15½ × 12¼   10

"Cartridge paper" was sold in 53-inch wide rolls rather than sheets.

 Some of these named sizes continue in use, although the present-day dimensions are slightly different, perhaps reflecting trimming:

double elephant, 40 inches × 27 inches, 1020 mm × 690 mm;

royal, 20 inches × 25 inches, 510 mm × 675 mm;

imperial, 22 inches × 30 inches, 560 × 760 mm.

Drawing papers were sold as flat sheets; writing papers were customarily sold folded. Post paper was cut in half, folded and trimmed, forming quarto-post. Thus treated the extra large post sizes gave a quarto-post sheet very near the modern American 8½ inches × 11 inches letter-size sheet. Cutting and folding quarto-post gives octavo-post, also called notepaper. Cutting and folding octavo-post gives 16mo-post or small note. This process was carried on all the way down to 64mo post, lilliputian note-paper.

The sizes of English laid papers were commonly indicated by watermarks, so no matter what size a sheet was cut down to, the original size could still be identified. Post had a bugle, copy a fleur-de-lis; foolscap a lion rampant or Britannia, and pott the English arms. Wove papers have no watermark.

Printing Papers
Name Dimensions (inches) Weight range
lbs per ream
(ream = 500 sheets)
Large news 32 × 22 32–37
Small news 28 × 21 23–25
Royal 25 × 20 26–28
Medium 23½ × 18¾ 24–26
Demy 22½ × 18 15–21
Short demy for music 20½ × 14 25–28
Copy 20¼ × 16¼ 13–16
Crown 20 × 15 7–12
Foolscap 16½ × 13¼ 9–14
Pott 15½ × 12¼ 9–10½

The last three sizes were always manufactured double-size; for example Double Crown was 20 × 30.

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