Book size

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Comparison of some book sizes based on American Library Association. Comparison book sizes.svg
Comparison of some book sizes based on American Library Association.

The size of a book is generally measured by the height against the width of a leaf, or sometimes the height and width of its cover. [2] A series of terms is commonly used by libraries and publishers for the general sizes of modern books, ranging from folio (the largest), to quarto (smaller) and octavo (still smaller). Historically, these terms referred to the format of the book, a technical term used by printers and bibliographers to indicate the size of a leaf in terms of the size of the original sheet. For example, a quarto (from Latin quartō, ablative form of quartus, fourth [3] ) historically was a book printed on sheets of paper folded in half twice, with the first fold at right angles to the second, to produce 4 leaves (or 8 pages), each leaf one fourth the size of the original sheet printed – note that a leaf refers to the single piece of paper, whereas a page is one side of a leaf. Because the actual format of many modern books cannot be determined from examination of the books, bibliographers may not use these terms in scholarly descriptions.


Book formats

In the hand press period (up to about 1820) books were manufactured by printing text on both sides of a full sheet of paper and then folding the paper one or more times into a group of leaves or gathering . The binder would sew the gatherings (sometimes also called signatures) through their inner hinges and attached to cords in the spine to form the book block. Before the covers were bound to the book, the block of text pages was sometimes trimmed along the three unbound edges to open the folds of the paper and to produce smooth edges for the book. When the leaves were not trimmed, the reader would have to cut open the leaf edges using a knife.

Traditional book sizes/formats used in English-speaking countries. Based on the 19-by-24-inch or 482.5-by-609.5-millimetre printing paper size, which equals two folio leaves, four quarto leaves, eight octavo leaves, etc. For comparison, common American letter size is shown in green. Traditional book sizes.svg
Traditional book sizes/formats used in English-speaking countries. Based on the 19-by-24-inch or 482.5-by-609.5-millimetre printing paper size, which equals two folio leaves, four quarto leaves, eight octavo leaves, etc. For comparison, common American letter size is shown in green.

Books made by printing two pages of text on each side of a sheet of paper, which is then folded once to form two leaves or four pages, are referred to as folios (from Latin, foliō, ablative of folium, leaf [3] ). Those made by printing four text pages on each side of a sheet of paper and folding the paper twice to form a gathering containing four leaves or eight pages are called quartos (fourths). Similarly, books made by printing eight pages of text on each side of a sheet, which was then folded three times to form gatherings of eight leaves or sixteen pages each, are called octavos . The size of the resulting pages in these cases depends, of course, on the size of the full sheet used to print them and how much the leaves were trimmed before binding, but where the same size paper is used, folios are the largest, followed by quartos and then octavos. [4] :80–81 The proportion of leaves of quartos tends to be squarer than that of folios or octavos. [5] :164

These various production methods are referred to as the format of the book. These terms are often abbreviated, using 4to for quarto, 8vo for octavo, and so on. The octavo format, with eight leaves per gathering, has half the page size of the quarto format before trimming. Smaller formats include the duodecimo (12mo or twelvemo), with twelve leaves per sheet and pages one-third the size of the quarto format, and the sextodecimo (16mo or sixteenmo), with sixteen leaves per sheet, half the size of the octavo format and one quarter the size of the quarto. The vast majority of books were printed in the folio, quarto, octavo or duodecimo formats. [4] :82

There are many variations in how such books were produced. For example, folios were rarely made by simply binding up a group of two leaf gatherings; instead several printed leaf pairs would be inserted within another, to produce a larger gathering of multiple leaves that would be more convenient for binding. [5] :30–31 For example, three two-leaf printed sheets might be inserted in a fourth, producing gatherings of eight leaves or sixteen pages each. Bibliographers still refer to such books as folios (and not octavos) because the original full sheets were folded once to produce two leaves, and describe such gatherings as folios in 8s. Similarly, a book printed as an octavo, but bound with gatherings of four leaves each, is called an octavo in 4s. [5] :28

In determining the format of a book, bibliographers will study the number of leaves in a gathering, their proportion and sizes and also the arrangement of the chain lines and watermarks in the paper. [4] :84–107

In order for the pages to come out in the correct order, the printers would have to properly lay out the pages of type in the printing press. For example, to print two leaves in folio containing pages 1 through 4, the printer would print pages 1 and 4 on one side of the sheet and, after that has dried, print pages 2 and 3 on the other side. If a printer was printing a folio in 8s, as described above, he would have to print pages 1 and 16 on one side of a leaf with pages 2 and 15 on the other side of that leaf, etc. The arrangement of the pages of type in the press is referred to as the imposition and there are a number of methods of imposing pages for the various formats, some of which involve cutting the printed pages before binding. [4] :80–110

See Further reading for more on imposition schemes.

Modern book production

As printing and paper technology developed, it became possible to produce and to print on much larger sheets or rolls of paper and it may not be apparent (or even possible to determine) from examination of a modern book how the paper was folded to produce them. For example, a modern novel may consist of gatherings of sixteen leaves, but may actually have been printed with sixty-four pages on each side of a very large sheet of paper. [6] :429 Similarly, the actual printing format cannot be determined for books that are perfect bound, where every leaf in the book is completely cut out (i.e., not conjugate to another leaf as in gatherings) and is glued into the spine. Modern books are commonly called folio, quarto and octavo based simply on their size rather than the format in which they were actually produced, if that can even be determined. Scholarly bibliographers may describe such books based on the number of leaves in each gathering (eight leaves per gathering forming an octavo), even where the actual number of pages printed on the original sheet is unknown [4] :80–81 or may reject the use of these terms for modern books entirely. [note 1]

Today, octavo and quarto are the most common book sizes, but many books are produced in larger and smaller sizes as well. Other terms for book size have developed, an elephant folio being up to 580 mm (23 in) tall, an atlas folio640 mm (25 in), and a double elephant folio1,300 mm (50 in) tall.

Paper sizes

During the hand press period, full sheets of printing paper were manufactured in a great variety of sizes which were given a number of names, such as pot, demy, foolscap, crown, etc. [7] [8] These were not standardized and the actual sizes varied across countries and times. [4] :67–70,73–75

The size and proportions of a book depend on the size of the original full sheet. If a sheet 480 by 640 mm (19 by 25 in) is used to print a quarto, the resulting untrimmed pages, will be approximately half as large in each dimension: width 240 mm (9+12 in) and height 320 mm (12+12 in). An octavo page, oriented a quarter turn from the full sheet, would have height 240 mm (9+12 in)12 in × 19—and width 160 mm (6+14 in)14 in × 25. The sizes of books of the same format will differ in proportion to the full sheets used to print them. For example, a typical octavo printed in Italy or France in the 16th century is roughly the size of a modern mass market paperback book, but an English 18th-century octavo is noticeably larger, more like a modern trade paperback or hardcover novel[ citation needed ].

Common formats and sizes

United States

The following table is adapted from the scale of the American Library Association, [1] [9] which uses a basis sheet of 19-by-25-inch (483 by 635 mm) [10] which is, confusingly if not explained by the source, half the text/book stock sheet of 25-by-38-inch (635 by 965 mm), and in which size refers to the dimensions of the cover (trimmed pages will be somewhat smaller, often by about 14 inch or 5 mm [2] ). The words before octavo signify the traditional names for unfolded paper sheet sizes. Other dimensions may exist as well. [8] [11] US Trade size corresponds with octavo and is popular for hardbacks. Mass market paperback corresponds with duodecimo.

US book formats and corresponding sizes
NameAbbreviationsLeavesPagesApproximate cover size (width × height)
inch × inchmm × mm
folio or fo2412 × 19305 × 483
quarto or 4to489+12 × 12241 × 305
Imperial octavo or 8vo8168+14 × 11+12210 × 292
Super octavo 7 × 11178 × 279
Royal octavo 6+14 × 10159 × 254
Medium octavo 6+12 × 9+14165 × 235
octavo 6 × 9152 × 229
Crown octavo 5+38 × 8137 × 203
duodecimo or twelvemo12º or 12mo12245 × 7+38127 × 187
sextodecimo or sixteenmo16º or 16mo16324 × 6+34102 × 171
octodecimo or eighteenmo18º or 18mo18364 × 6+12102 × 165
trigesimo-secundo or thirty-twomo32º or 32mo32643+12 × 5+1289 × 140
quadragesimo-octavo or forty-eightmo48º or 48mo48962+12 × 463.5 × 102
sexagesimo-quarto or sixty-fourmo64º or 64mo641282 × 351 × 76

United Kingdom

A common paperback size in the UK is B-format, which is used, for example, by Penguin Classics. This contrasts with A-format, which is slightly narrower than ISO B6, and C-format. [12]

British paperback sizes
Formatmm × mminch × inchAspect ratio
A110 × 1784+38 × 7ϕ∶1
B129 × 1985+18 × 7+341.53
C135 × 2165+38 × 8+128∶5

Formerly the descriptions octavo, quarto, duodecimo, etc. were used (see table under United States above).


In book construction, Japan uses a mixture of ISO A-series, JIS B-series, and several traditional Japanese paper sizes. A- and B-series signatures are folded from a sheet slightly larger than ISO A1 and JIS B1, respectively, then trimmed to size. The most commonly encountered sizes are listed below.

Japanese book formats and corresponding sizes
NameTranslationLeavesPagesApproximate cover size (width × height)Notes
mm × mminch × inch
B4判JIS B4816257 × 36410+18 × 14+13Folded from B-series standard sheets (B列本番) measuring 765 mm × 1,085 mm (30.1 in × 42.7 in)
A4判ISO A4816210 × 2978+14 × 11+1724Folded from A-series standard sheets (A列本番) measuring 625 mm × 880 mm (24.6 in × 34.6 in)
AB判AB1632210 × 2578+14 × 10+18Has the width of ISO A4 and height of JIS B5
B5判JIS B51632182 × 2577+16 × 10+18
菊判Kiku ("Chrysanthemum")1632150 × 2205+1112 × 8+23Folded from sheets (also called "kiku") of 636 mm × 939 mm (25.0 in × 37.0 in)
A5判ISO A51632148 × 2105+56 × 8+14
重箱判Jūbako ("Tiered Box")2040182 × 2067+16 × 8+18Name refers to squarish shape;
folded from B-series standard sheets, yielding 8 more pages than JIS B5.
四六判Shi-Roku ("4 × 6")3264127 × 1885 × 7+512Name refers to approximate dimensions in sun ;
folded from sheets of 788 mm × 1,091 mm (31.0 in × 43.0 in)
B6判JIS B63264128 × 1825+124 × 7+16
新書判 / B40判"Shinsho" ("New Book") / "B40"4080103 × 1824+124 × 7+16Half the size of Jūbako. Folded from B-series standard sheets, yielding 16 more pages than JIS B6.
An informal, de facto standard, with some variation in finished sizes between publishers.
小B6判"Small JIS B6"3264112 × 1744+512 × 6+56Some publishers' "Shinsho" dimensions are closer to this size.
A6判ISO A63264105 × 1484+18 × 5+56Size used for Bunkobon (small-format paperbacks)
三五判San-Go ("3 × 5")408084 × 1483+724 × 5+56Name refers to approximate dimensions in sun;
folded from A-series standard sheets, yielding 16 more pages than A6.


Largest book

The supposed largest book in the world, as of 1909. It was the visitors' register for the California Building at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle. Some normal-sized books are on the table at right. California Building, Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, Seattle, 1909 (AYP 416).jpeg
The supposed largest book in the world, as of 1909. It was the visitors' register for the California Building at the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition in Seattle. Some normal-sized books are on the table at right.

According to the 2003 Guinness World Records, the largest book in the world was Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom by Michael Hawley. Its size is 1.5 m × 2.1 m (5 ft × 7 ft). [13]

According to the 2007 Guinness World Records, the largest published book in the world was The Little Prince printed in Brazil in 2007. Its size is 2.01 m × 3.08 m (6 ft 7 in × 10 ft 1 in). [14]

According to the 2012 Guinness World Records, the largest book in the world was This the Prophet Mohamed made in Dubai, UAE. Its size is 5 m × 8.06 m (16.4 ft × 26.4 ft). [15] Though larger than The Little Prince, the two hold separate records, as This the Prophet Mohamed was not published.

Smallest book

The smallest book is Teeny Ted from Turnip Town measured 0.07 mm × 0.10 mm (0.0028 in × 0.0039 in). [16]

Largest manuscript

The largest surviving medieval manuscript is the Codex Gigas or 'Devil's Manuscript', with dimensions of 920 mm × 500 mm (36 in × 20 in).

See also


  1. Cf. Bowers, [6] :429–430 suggesting that a book with eight leaves per gathering where the format cannot be determined should be referred to as in 8s and not octavo.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Book</span> Medium for recording information in the form of writing or images

A book is a medium for recording information in the form of writing or images. Books are typically composed of many pages, bound together and protected by a cover. Modern bound books were preceded by many other written mediums, such as the codex and the scroll. The book publishing process is the series of steps involved in their creation and dissemination.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Codex</span> Historical ancestor of the modern book

The codex was the historical ancestor of the modern book. Instead of being composed of sheets of paper, it used sheets of vellum, papyrus, or other materials. The term codex is often used for ancient manuscript books, with handwritten contents. A codex is bound by stacking the pages and securing one set of edges, in a form analogous to modern bookbinding. Modern books are divided into paperback and those bound with stiff boards, called hardbacks. Elaborate historical bindings are called treasure bindings. At least in the Western world, the main alternative to the paged codex format for a long document was the continuous scroll, which was the dominant form of document in the ancient world. Some codices are continuously folded like a concertina, in particular the Maya codices and Aztec codices, which are actually long sheets of paper or animal skin folded into pages. In Japan, concertina-style codices called orihon developed during the Heian period (794–1185) were made of paper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Early texts of Shakespeare's works</span> Late 16th and early 17th-century editions of William Shakespeares works

The earliest texts of William Shakespeare's works were published during the 16th and 17th centuries in quarto or folio format. Folios are large, tall volumes; quartos are smaller, roughly half the size. The publications of the latter are usually abbreviated to Q1, Q2, etc., where the letter stands for "quarto" and the number for the first, second, or third edition published.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paper size</span> Standard sizes of paper

Paper size standards govern the size of sheets of paper used as writing paper, stationery, cards, and for some printed documents.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bibliography</span> Organized listing of books and the systematic description of them as objects

Bibliography, as a discipline, is traditionally the academic study of books as physical, cultural objects; in this sense, it is also known as bibliology. English author and bibliographer John Carter describes bibliography as a word having two senses: one, a list of books for further study or of works consulted by an author ; the other one, applicable for collectors, is "the study of books as physical objects" and "the systematic description of books as objects".

Gutenberg Bible Earliest major book printed in Europe

The Gutenberg Bible, also known as the 42-line Bible, the Mazarin Bible or the B42, was the earliest major book printed in Europe using mass-produced metal movable type. It marked the start of the "Gutenberg Revolution" and the age of printed books in the West. The book is valued and revered for its high aesthetic and artistic qualities and its historical significance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Foolscap folio</span> Paper size historically common in some parts of Europe, and former British territories

Foolscap folio, commonly contracted to foolscap or cap or folio and in short FC, is paper cut to the size of 8.5 × 13.5 in for printing or to 8 × 13 in for "normal" writing paper (foolscap). This was a traditional paper size used in some parts of Europe, and the British Commonwealth, before the adoption of the international standard A4 paper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Octavo</span> Technical term describing the format of a book

Octavo, a Latin word meaning "in eighth" or "for the eighth time", is a technical term describing the format of a book, which refers to the size of leaves produced from folding a full sheet of paper on which multiple pages of text were printed to form the individual sections of a book. An octavo is a book or pamphlet made up of one or more full sheets on which 16 pages of text were printed, which were then folded three times to produce eight leaves. Each leaf of an octavo book thus represents one eighth the size of the original sheet. Other common book formats are folios and quartos. Octavo is also used as a general description of the size of books that are about 8 to 10 inches tall, and as such does not necessarily indicate the actual printing format of the books, which may even be unknown as is the case for many modern books. These terms are discussed in greater detail in book sizes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Recto and verso</span> "Front" and "back" sides of a leaf of paper

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">First Folio</span> 1623 collection of William Shakespeares plays

Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies is a collection of plays by William Shakespeare, commonly referred to by modern scholars as the First Folio, published in 1623, about seven years after Shakespeare's death. It is considered one of the most influential books ever published.

A loose leaf is a piece of paper of any kind that is not bound in place, or available on a continuous roll, and may be punched and organized as ring-bound or disc-bound. Loose leaf paper may be sold as free sheets, or made up into notepads, where perforations or glue allow them to be removed easily. "Leaf" in many languages refers to a sheet or page of paper, as in Folio, as in feuille de papier (French), hoja de papel (Spanish), foglio di carta (Italian), and ルーズリーフ.

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Wasōbon is a traditional book style in Japan that dates from the late eighth century AD with the printing of "Hyakumantō Darani" during the reign of Empress Shōtoku. Most of the books were hand-copied until the Edo period (1603–1867), when woodblock printing became comparatively affordable and widespread. Movable-type printing had been used from the late 16th century, but for various aesthetic and practical reasons woodblock printing and hand-copied remained dominant until much later. Japanese equivalents for "book" include (hon) and 書籍 (shoseki). The former term indicates only bound books, and does not include scrolls. The latter is used for printed matter only. The most general term is 書物 (shomotsu), which means all written or printed matter that has been collected into a single unit, regardless of construction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional Chinese bookbinding</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Section (bookbinding)</span> Group of printed leaves, folded in the middle and bound together into a book binding

In bookbinding, a section, gathering, or signature is a group of sheets folded in half, to be worked into the binding as a unit.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quarto</span> Technical term describing the format of a book

Quarto is the format of a book or pamphlet produced from full sheets printed with eight pages of text, four to a side, then folded twice to produce four leaves. The leaves are then trimmed along the folds to produce eight book pages. Each printed page presents as one-fourth size of the full sheet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Folio</span> Technical term describing the format or size of a book

The term "folio" has three interconnected but distinct meanings in the world of books and printing: first, it is a term for a common method of arranging sheets of paper into book form, folding the sheet only once, and a term for a book made in this way; second, it is a general term for a sheet, leaf or page in (especially) manuscripts and old books; and third, it is an approximate term for the size of a book, and for a book of this size.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Intentionally blank page</span> Page that is devoid of content and may be unexpected

An intentionally blank page is a page that has no content and may be unexpected. Such pages may serve purposes ranging from place-holding to space-filling and content separation. Sometimes, these pages carry a notice such as "This page was intentionally left blank." Such notices typically appear in printed works, such as legal documents, manuals, and exam papers, in which the reader might otherwise suspect that the blank pages are due to a printing error and where missing pages might have serious consequences.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bookbinding</span> Process of assembling a book

Bookbinding is the process of building a book, usually in codex format, from an ordered stack of paper sheets with one's hands and tools, or in modern publishing, by a series of automated processes. Firstly, one binds the sheets of papers along an edge with a thick needle and strong thread. One can also use loose-leaf rings, binding posts, twin-loop spine coils, plastic spiral coils, and plastic spine combs, but they last for a shorter time. Next, one encloses the bound stack of paper in a cover. Finally, one places an attractive cover onto the boards, and features the publisher's information and artistic decorations.

John Baskett (1664/5–1742), was the King's Printer for England. His sons, Thomas and Robert, and grandson by the latter, Mark, were also engaged in the press. By purchasing reversion of the King's Printer position, Baskett kept it in the family for the following generation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of books</span> Overview of and topical guide to books

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to books:


  1. 1 2 Thompson, Elizabeth Hardy, ed. (1943). ALA Glossary of Library Terms, with a selection of terms in related fields. American Library Association. p.  151. ISBN   9780838900000.
  2. 1 2 Roberts, Matt; Etherington, Don (1982). "Book sizes". Bookbinding and the conservation of books: a dictionary of descriptive terminology. Library of Congress. ISBN   9780844403663.
  3. 1 2 Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1989.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Gaskell, Philip (1972). A New Introduction to Bibliography (1st ed.). Clarendon Press.
  5. 1 2 3 McKerrow, Ronald Brunlees (1927). McKitterick, David (ed.). An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students. Clarendon Press.
  6. 1 2 Bowers, Fredson (1949). Principles of Bibliographical Description (1st ed.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  7. Ringwalt, John Luther, ed. (1871). "Dimensions of Paper". American Encyclopaedia of Printing. Philadelphia: Menamin & Ringwalt. pp. 139–140.
  8. 1 2 Savage, William (1841). "Paper". A Dictionary of the Art of Printing. New York: Burt Franklin. pp. 560–566.
  9. "PapersDB (Papers Database)".
  10. Levine-Clark, Michael; Carter, Toni M., eds. (2013). ALA glossary of library and information science (4th ed.). Chicago, Ill.: American Library Association. p. 38. ISBN   9780838911112.
  11. Ambrose, Gavin; Harris, Paul (2015). The Layout Book (2nd ed.). Bloomsbury. pp. 76–77. ISBN   9781474239318.
  12. Wilson-Fletcher, Honor (11 August 2001). "The importance of format and feel". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  13. "Guinness: Scientist creates world's largest book". CNN. Associated Press. 2003-12-16. Archived from the original on 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
  14. "Largest book published". Guinness World Records.
  15. "Largest book". Guinness World Records.
  16. "Smallest reproduction of a printed book". Guinness World Records.

Further reading

A number of imposition schemes for different formats may be found in:

Additional tables and discussion of American book formats and sizes may be found in: