More about The A-Format & Silver Rectangle - page 4.
It is possible to discover when a number 
of European countries began popular
use of the format, but it is difficult to 
find out just where the format originally 
started -- or what unit of measure was used 
to plan the series.  
    Today the A-format is mentioned usually 
in the same breath as the metric system 
of measure. But if the assumption that the two 
are associated is examined intensively, 
it is impossible (or rather I have found 
it impossible) to see what the connection 
really is. 
    In a special issue of the industrial pub- 
lication Industritidningen Norden, dated 
1948, one reads that as early as 1790 the 
A-format was in use in France, with pages 
being halved to provide the next smaller 
size. But it is not indicated whether the 
principle was an old one at that time. 
   The system is, as we have seen, based on 
the division of a series of squares placed 
within each other. If we assume that it 
existed in the paper or printing industry 
prior to the introduction of the metric 
system, one of the squares -- perhaps the 
smallest -- had to be selected as the basic 
    If this was made to measure a Roman 
foot along each side, we would discover 
that this fitted exactly the present size of 
the A-4 format since one side of the A-4 
measures 297 mm, which equals the old 
standard Roman foot. 
    According to Carl Herning's Ready 
Reference Tables, New York, 1914, the 
old standard French foot measured 
approx. 325 mm -- considerably more than 
the Roman measure. 
    Prior to 1750 France, like many other 
European countries had a number of 
different lengths for the unit "foot", 
including the Roman. 
    The French Church, and its subsidia- 
ries, was very much under the influence 
of the Catholic citadel in Rome, and it is 
highly probable that the Church printing 
houses, under the same influence, operated 
with the Roman foot instead of a local 
    Indeed it is also possible that the French 
Church printers actually took over the 
system of dividing paper into the formats 
discussed above direct from Rome, which 
of course boasted printing facilities at a 
much earlier stage than France. 
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