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Paper size for octavos

Can anyone direct me to a retailer/supplier of blank paper to print my choral compositions on a size that would work for choral octavos?  The first issue is: what is the proper size?  And then: where can I get it?  A brief sampling of my own folder's contents has quite a few variations, but the range is 10"x13.5" up to 10.5"x14.375", not folded.  You'd think this would be easy, but many online searches have turned up nothing close.  And nothing in the archives was recent enough or relevant enough to help.  Thanks!
Replies (8): Threaded | Chronological
on June 23, 2009 11:50am
Hi, James. This is a more complicated question than you might think! For starters, paper manufacturing and paper standards goes back a LONG time, easily to two centuries before Shakespeare, and Octavo size is a throwback to those days when sizes were described as folio, quarto, octavo, and so on, depending on how many folds were made in the basic large sheet. Most of us have long since given up on trying to produce octavo sized choral scores, since it is just so much easier to go with the flow and use U.S. standard 8.5" x 11" (or 11" x 17") or the non-U.S. standard A4 and A3 sizes.
Secondly, the seemingly simple matter of paper weights is also very complicated. will give you a very useful chart, and you need to know these terms and their meanings because there are basically different systems in use, and both you and the paper provider you use have to understand what you're asking for in order to get you what you want.
Our Community Band director has found a print shop that will special-order heavier-weight paper for him, suitable for printing music on and much sturdier than the typical 20-lb. bond that you can get at any office-supply store. He has to order in large quantity (whatever the manufacturer considers a minimum order), and he may have it cut to size; I'm not sure about those details.
And even the color of the paper is a variable. I believe that MOLA (the Major Orchestra Librarians Association) prefers paper that is NOT bright white, but is slightly tinted to cut down on glare.
I thought I had the websites of one or more paper manufacturers saved, but at the moment I can't find them. I suggest a Goggle search for paper manufacturers, where you will find more different choices and more confusing variables than you can possibly imagine! After that, a call to their sales departments may turn up someone who can walk you through the process and help you select what you need. But if they cannot cut their sheets to size, you'll probably still have to have someone local do it for you, and that will have to be someone who has the necessary equipment to do it right (and NOT your local copy shop or Kinkos!!!).
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on June 23, 2009 2:28pm
Dear James,
I am one of those who has just gone with the flow, by copying onto 11 x 17, and then having it folded and sometimes stapled into a booklet. While it just barely fits into those standard choral folder pockets, the folding does at least add some solidity to the feel of it.  This is especially helpful when I download a hard to find piece from the web.  Let us know if you find a reasonable alternative.
Dan in San Diego
on June 26, 2009 8:05pm
I'd like to thank everyone for their responses, both those that address paper size theory and those offering practical suggestions.  I'm amazed that this is such a thorny issue.  It's a simple problem (Paper in these dimensions is needed.) with a simple solution (Make paper to said dimensions.  Sell paper.).
We know the music publishing companies have this paper size.  So how 'bout it, publishers, want to make some extra money?  Take some of that paper, put it aside, and set up a page on your Web sites to order octavo sized paper.  It's a win-win!
on June 26, 2009 9:27pm
Hi, James.  "Make paper to said dimensions.  Sell paper."  And the market for such a paper size would be how large, exactly, compared with the market for 8.5" x 11" paper (in the U.S.) or A4 paper (elsewhere)?!!!  Good, logical idea; never happen in the real world.
What we have to remember is that ALL paper sizes are cut down from the rather large sheets the paper is manufactured in.  For standard sizes with huge markets, the factory cuts them down (with VERY sharp cutters!) and wraps them.  Probably all done automatically by machines.  For custom sizes--ANY custom sizes (and just about all traditional music sizes are custom)--the factory probably won't do the cutting and wrapping unless you can make a very large order, and no retailer wants to have shelf space taken up by custom sizes that won't move very fast.
That's why I mentioned that our Community Band director found a local print (NOT copy!) shop that will cut down larger and heavier-weight paper for him.  But be aware that while you can do that (or indeed do it yourself with a good paper cutter, 4 sheets at a time), you still pay for the larger sheets, not just the smaller ones you've requested.  Therefore it's a good idea to understand the sizes of wholesale paper and to order smaller sizes that have little or no waste when they are cut to size.
If you haven't checked the various paper manufacturers yet, do.  They have an unbelievable variety of possibilities available.  But you have to order in wholesale lots.  And I can't quite see any actual publisher setting up as a paper retailer, since to do so they'd have to sell at a markup since they've already bought and cut the paper themselves.
It's still a good idea, and if you find anyone willing to do it, please let us know.
on June 26, 2010 8:39am
About a year after this was last discussed, I would like to raise it again. Thank you to previous contributors, especially to Mark Gresham, for the information about what makes a score easily readable and how to go about producing it. I also endorse the view that the role of a publisher goes beyond just printing.

I write from a European perspective. We abandoned our delightfully named foolscap some years ago in favour of A4 and its companions. The aspect ratio is 1:Root(2). A0 is a square metre and each extra number halves the area while maintaining the same aspect ratio. The shape is so commonplace that scanning it comes naturally. A4 is slightly narrower and longer than US letter.

For home-produced editions, I want to print four pages on the two sides of a sheet and fold in two. With A4, this produces a score 8.3" high, which is good for preview or study, but a bit small to sing from. With A3, the score is 11.7", which is good for large print but tends to flap and to get tatty quickly.

To make an in-between size, I have resorted to trimming A3. It is ultimately the cheapest way, but the effort is quite off-putting. It isn't really the answer if 40 copies are wanted for later the same day. In-between sizes do exist. There are international B4 and Japanese (JIS) B4, which is slighty bigger. B0(JIS) has an area of 1.5 square metres, whereas B0(ISO) is root(2). Folding a B4(JIS) sheet gives an edition 10.1" high, which is very close to the ideal for an "octavo." I appreciate that people are recommending 10.5", but I would be prepared to manage without the extra 0.4".

B4 has another advantage, in that larger printers and photocopiers recognize it and can handle the scaling up, so that it becomes possible to produce previews, octavos and large-print editions all from the same computer file.

The big hurdle is getting hold of B4 paper. I have found two companies that got half-way there.
Ricoh are a Japanese maker of copiers. Their UK partner Ikonstore will supply blocks of paper in several different weights, but only to institutions, not to individuals. I don't know of an exact US equivalent, but if enough people asked their Ricoh dealer, they would probably find a way to help.
For smaller, retail customers, there is Deleter. Japanese Manga artists like using B4. It comes in pads of 40 sheets at prices that look high but not prohibitive, at least for a few copies. I would pay quite a lot to avoid the need to trim the paper by hand. I suspect much of the cost is shipping. I do not know how well it goes through printers or copiers. But it is readily available. Compared to the number of people drawing Manga comics, the market for "choral octavos" looks huge. Think how many colleges or churches want copies of public domain or licensed pieces for every member. If we can demonstrate the demand, then the supply ought to follow.

I would be very interested to know if anyone has had success printing on Deleter paper or obtaining blocks from Ricoh or Ikonstore, or any other supplier for that matter. I remain hopeful that I will soon be able to produce "octavos" with nothing less automated than a photocopier.

Thanks for your attention and responses.

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on June 26, 2010 3:36pm
Nigel:  My situation may be very different from yours, since I do not write for publication but for performance.  I have NEVER tried to duplicate octavo size, but have always used U.S. letter (or folded U.S. tabloid), roughly the equivalent of your A4 and folded A3.  Quite a few publishers have done the same, so choir folders or binders need to be able to handle paper in those sizes these days.  Trimming paper by hand is WAY beyond the amount of work I'm willing to do!
On the occasions when something of mine or my wife's has been published, the publisher did the engraving and we did not have to provide camera-ready copy.  That has, admittedly, been quite a while.  And I'm afraid that the amount of paper needed for copies of music for colleges or churches is orders of magnitude below that needed and used in offices, and hardly worth a company's producing paper specifically for that use.  Since office machines and paper intended for them are ubiquitous, and neither octavo paper for choral music nor large-format paper for orchestral music is easy to find or process, it only makes sense to go with the most available technology.  As to the scores becoming tatty, the folders or binders simply have to support them properly.
All the best,
on January 26, 2014 7:54pm
Yes.  Contact your local paper mill (i.e. Mini-Mack, Atlanta 404 249 7229, Atlanta)  They will cut to order.  I inquired about the process which will cost the price of the paper 70 pound Cougar 10.4 x 14 cut.  The paper can run $14.00 to $25.00 per reem 500 to 1000 sheets.  The company charges for the custom cut $25.00 fee whether you purchase 500 sheets or 1000 sheets.  They will also send you a sample upon request.  Check with an office supply or copying center to see if octavo szied paper will work with their machines.  Sha J. Willis, Atlanta.
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on January 27, 2014 2:59pm
I "self-publish" quite a bit of a cappella music from CPDL for our church program, putting it into an octavo format because our choral library boxes are octavo size. And I usually add a translation of the text and a piano reduction of the choral parts. The choir seems to find the octavo size easier to read from than the letter (8.5x11inch) size.
The default "octavo" size page in Sibelius, which I use to create the music, is 6.75x10.5 inches. I copy the music onto 10.5x13.5-inch paper on the church's copier, using the copier's custom paper size option. Our most recent copier will even booklet it for me, but I used to do it by hand with a saddle stapler.
We get our paper from a local paper supplier (Kelly Paper in San Diego CA county), who custom cuts the 10.5x13.5-inch sheets from large "parent sheets". We get about 6,000 sheets from 1,000 parent sheets, and it ends up costing about $.05 per sheet of 70-pound paper. It's a lot of paper, but I create about 10-15 octavos of 8-12 pages each year for my 50-person choir, and I think I'll get through it in about 8 years.
The cost, including paper and copier costs, ends up being about $.50 per 12-page booklet. I could factor my time into the cost as well, but I find the creating of these octavos to be a great score study opportunity, so I don't count that cost.
A note about using letter size music from 11x17-inch paper, which I do for larger works. The interior width of my boxes is 10.75 inches, so I format the document a quarter inch shorter in the publishing program, cut a quarter inch off the bottom, and it fits just fine.
Thanks for bringing up the question. This thread has been very informative and historically interesting.
Douglas Lynn
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