Years ago, I read an article about the composer George M. Cohan. It mentioned that he wrote all his songs “on foolscap paper with a pencil.” I had a general idea what he meant, figuring okay, foolscap is probably inexpensive paper, and that’s as far as it went. Anyway, as I was going through the word list, I found the word “foolscap,” and decided to find out for certain what it was.
Anyway, The Blogger’s Best Friend ™ tells us that foolscap is paper that’s 8 ½” x 13 ½”. It got its name because of the watermark that was placed on (in?) the paper that looked like a fool’s cap and bells.
This is roughly the size of a sheet from a US legal pad, which is 8 ½” x 14″. So Cohan probably used a legal pad.
Except for the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, the rest of the world has moved on and now uses the ISO 216 standard sizes for paper. The most common size is A4, 210 mm x 297 mm, or roughly 8.3″ x 11.7″. Foolscap is sometimes referred to as F4 paper, but that’s not an official standard.
Like I always say, the things you learn in this job…