ISO Paper Sizes
The ISO family of paper is commonly used in Europe. It uses a single aspect ratio for all sizes in its range. Most paper is in the A Series. It is defined by ISO 216.
A0 is one square meter, with the sides forming a ratio of 1:14142 (one to the square root of two). Each smaller size of paper is half of its predecessor, divided on the longer edge, retaining this ratio. The short side of one size becomes the long size of the next smaller one. This allows for consistent steps up and down. Enlarging or reducing on a copier makes for consistent steps with no blank space.
While it’s less common in the United States, I prefer it, if only for the geeky logic behind it. I also find that ISO paper sizes are what is typical for the most fountain pen friendly paper.
|A0||33.125 x 46.8125||841 x 1188||The origin. One square meter|
|A1||23.375 x 33.125||594 x 841|
|A2||16.5 x 23.375||420 x 594|
|A3||11.75 x 16.5||297 x 420||Close match to “tabloid” paper|
|A4||8.25 x 11.75||210 x 297||Close analog to “letter.” A bit narrower and taller.|
|A5||5.875 x 8.25||148 x 210||“Junior” size paper. Most journals are this size.|
|A6||4.125 x 5.875||105 x 148||Good pocket notebook size|
|A7||2.9375 x 4.125||74 x 105||A good, if smaller, notebook size|
|A8||2.0625 x 2.9375||52 x 74||ISO-sized business card|
Hypothetically, you can keep halving the paper until you reach some atomic size.
The B series is used to fill some gaps in the A series. It uses the same ratio, but based on geometric mean of two a sizes. It has the same It’s used to fill gaps between sizes of A. It’s less common, but does come up for some stationary.
|B0||1000 x 1414||39.4 x 55.7|
|B1||707 x 1000||27.8 x 39.4|
|B2||500 x 707||19.7 x 27.8|
|B3||353 x 500||13.9 x 19.7|
|B4||250 x 353||9.8 x 13.9|
|B5||176 x 250||6.9 x 9.8||Books, some journals|
|B6||125 x 176||4.9 x 6.9||Books, some journals|
|B7||88 x 125||3.5 x 4.9||Passports ISO 7810, ID-3|
|B8||62 x 88||2.4 x 3.5||Playing cards|
|B9||44 x 62||1.7 x 2.4|
|B10||31 x 44||1.2 x 1.7|
The C series is the geometric mean between the A and B series of the same number. It is used for envelopes. C4 is a bit larger than A4, and can fit a sheet unfolded. A C5 envelope can hold an A4 sheet folded in half, and so forth.
|C0||36.1 x 5.11||917 x 129.7|
|C1||25.51 x 36.1||648 x 917|
|C2||18.03 x 25.51||458 x 648|
|C3||12.76 x 18.03||324 x 458|
|C4||9.02 x 12.76||229 x 324|
|C5||6.42 x 9.02||163 x 229|
|C6||4.49 x 6.38||114 x 162|
|C7||3.19 x 4.49||81 x 114|
|C8||2.24 x 3.19||57 x 81|
|C9||1.57 x 2.24||40 x 57|
|C10||1.1 x 1.57||28 x 40|
North American Paper Sizes
Unlike the ISO standards, the North American sizes have no real rhyme or reason. Rather, they are based on a quixotic choice made by paper makers a long time ago. Generally, you will encounter Letter size, with most “journals,” like Moleskine are roughly half-letter sized.
|Letter||8.5 x 11.||215.9 x 279.4|
|Legal||8.5 x 14.||215.9 x 355.6|
|Tabloid/Ledger||11. x 17.||279.4 x 431.8|
|Junior Legal||5. x 8.||127. x 23.2|
|Half-Letter||5.5 x 8.5||139.7 x 215.9|
|Government Letter||8. x 1.5||23.2 x 266.7||Perscribed by Hoover; Reagan went back to “normal” letter.|
|Executive||7.25 x 1.5||184.15 x 266.7|
|Business Card||3.5 x 2.||88.9 x 5.8|
This covered the most common, general purpose paper sizes. There are some that are unique to different countries, or are proprietary to a specific offering of a planner.
What Do I Use?
In an ideal world, I’d use ISO series exclusively. The logical progression appeals to me, even if I don’t do a lot of reducing or enlarging. As a baseline, the most fountain pen-friendly paper tends to come in ISO series. For writing, I buy A4 and A5 pads, and favor A5 journals. These pads are either A4 before being stapled together (so the page torn out is slightly shorter than A4), or made to give a full A4 page when removed.
However, I live in North America, so the most common sizes of paper are letter and legal. This means most binder and notebook parts (covers, dividers, etc.) are built around this format (typically letter), as it most paper for printers. I have to live in that world.
As a consequence, my personal notebook, based on a combination of Levenger Circa and Staples Arc, is a hybrid. The main parts are North American sized, and a fair amount of things get added that are letter size from my printer. However, for the actual fill, I harvest paper from A4 pad. Often, I need to trim the paper so it fits in with the rest of the notebook.
All of this excludes some of the random pads and paper I have floating around from various give-aways and samples. These tend to be either half-letter or A5.
I’m probably going to incorporate a version of this into the reference section on my stash. But some recent discussion on Facebook, I though it was worth posting on my blog as well.