If this (the Roman foot) was applied
as the unit of measure from the begin-
ning, we can better understand the ir-
regular dimensions of which the system
When the decimal system with its me-
ters and centimeters was introduced in
France it was highly inconvenient to alter
the paper formats since printing machin-
ery, paper guillotines, and the printer's
other tools and machinery were based on
the already accepted sizes. Instead there-
fore of altering the paper sizes to "round"
figures in the metric system, it was de
cided to express the old Roman foot
dimensions in the appropriate number
of millimeters and to retain the sizes
As the previous chapters have shown,
the system of sub-division itself is really
It is thus, as stated, entirely within the
limits of credibility that both the system
of division and the unit of measure were
imported at some early stage in France's
printing history direct from Rome.
Use of the format system and sizes
spread from Church printing houses to
other printers in France, until it became
the established means of dividing
and measuring paper.
From France the sizes and system
gradually worked their way throughout
the rest of Europe, each country
accepting in turn the sizes in question
on account of their rational proportions.
The rational part about the A-format
of paper is not the actual size of the
individual sheet but the system of division
which produced the proportions.
The system was superior to all other
sizes and shapes of paper, and -- in any
event in Europe -- slowly ousted all com-
Thus a tiny aspect of ancient geometry
found its way unobserved into our every-
day life and filled a practical role -- with-
out anyone thinking of the concept's ex-
tremely significant history.