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Paper: Letter Size vs A4

 
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Gooner
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Joined: 25 May 2007
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Location: England, UK

PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2010 1:11 am    Post subject: Paper: Letter Size vs A4 Reply with quote

Does anyone know the history of why North America (US and Canada) chose to develop "letter size" 8.5 x 11 inch paper, whilst the rest of the world uses A4 (8.3 11.7 inch) as standard for files, computer paper etc...

I understand the way A4 was developed i.e. a subset of A0 (1 metre squared) but not how Letter developed. I realise that the "A" sizes are metric and Letter is Imperial, but there must be more to it than that as metrication is a fairly recent phenomenon in the UK (in terms of history at least) and we have used A4 fro the last 60 years at least to my knowledge (adopted in 1959 according to Wikipedia but I believe the use was developed before this).

I understand the business reasons why N.A. doesn't conform today (nor probably ever will) and that doesn't concern me, my interest is in why/how in the first place?

So why do I want to know - apart from wanting to understand the history, it is virtually impossible to adequately print a US album developed on Letter on an A4 printer. It is the width that is the issue, not the length.

Would appreciate it if anyone can help... cheers.
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cdj1122
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Joined: 08 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Might it not solve your problem if what you develop is set to the 11" width ?
It would fit the 8.5x11 size and should be almost un-noticible, less than 2cm more narrow which if centered would be less that a centimeter on each side ? Or have you tried that already ?
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I think that you would want to look at the demographics of your potential market. That might be the thing to consider.
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As to why the colonies might have chosen the smaller width ..... smaller feet !
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Gooner
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Joined: 25 May 2007
Posts: 1301
Location: England, UK

PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought if anyone would know the history behind it Charlie it would be you.

Seriously I am not trying to develop a market for the US - it is the reverse.
I wanted to purchase an album that is of US derivativation and set-up for Letter, which when I printed a trial copy on A4 would not fit the width - the length is OK, (not perfect but OK).

And that just got me thinking about why North America uses that particular size.
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cdj1122
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Location: Houston, Texas pending eye surgery

PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is suppoed to be everything you ever wanted to know about paper;

http://www.paper-sizes.com/north-american-paper-sizes/north-american-loose-paper-sizes
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Personally I think that I'll stick to smaller feet as as good a reason as any.
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Or since the A4 system was invented by a German scientist (???) who based the sides on the ratio between "one" and the "square root of two" it is possible that some two hundred and some odd years ago some colonial papermaker did not calculate the square root of two properly.
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cdj1122
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The more I think about it I suspect that choosing the square root of two for the ratio between sizes is probably putting the cart before the horse.
The inventor was probably a German papermaker who found that he could cut the large sheets into convenient smaller sizes, one of which had the interesting property that allowed for convenient folding. Later, much later, over some schnapps someone discovered that this worked out better for some sizes than others and only then someone realised that the larger ratio was close to the square root of two.
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Then when some immigrant to the North American Colonies opened a paper mill he used a size that best matched what he recalled but of course it was slightly different.
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And that is how folk tales become urban legends.
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Now to find some stamps to illustrate the story.
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Gooner
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An early colonist getting the paper size wrong "officially".

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