At the beginning of each new school year, I would go to the newsagency to buy my required exercise books. Usually there was a tall one and some short fat ones.
Foolscap and the shorter book
(If we are going down the past of nostalgia, who remembers roneos?)
I liked neither because I grew up in a French country where the exercise books were like this:
Since I can no longer buy these lined books, my preference now lies with the range of “A” size products. This sizing has become the standard, but in 1979, A4 books were not common.
A4 and A5 notebooks
However what has all this got to do with the image below?
Yes it is a fool, with a very small head. He has a 7 bell collar, short even 2 bell hat, with a 4 and 3 circles under. And no hair braid.
Paper with the fool’s cap watermark was used quite commonly all over Europe. On the Continent, its size was quite varied, but in England in denoted paper 12 inches by 16 inches. The foolscap usually refers to the fool’s head with a cap. Sometimes the cap is a hat, sometimes it is a cap that goes over the ears. The cap or hat usually has two bells, sometimes on sashes of differing sizes. Early fools had braids, either diagonal or horizontal; towards the end of the 17th century the fools loose their braid and and the braid, in form of circles, is now found on the hat. The fool’s collar also differs in time and place: it can have from 4 to 8 points. Underneath the fool you will more than likely find a 4 with a crosse pommée and 3 circles. Sometimes in lieu of the 4 there might be a triangle.
In E.J. Labarre’s 1952 “Dictionary and Encyclopedia of paper and papermaking“(p110), you will find all the variety of sizes. They are too innumerable to list here, but let me mention a few: you could find small foolscap, double small, quarto, foolscap long folio. In his research, Briquet found fools caps in paper used in the Upper Rhine provinces dating to 1540. My own research has uncovered watermarks dating from 1478 to 1703; however the earlier date could be from more recent paper as it was found on endpapers used in a rebind. In England, the mark was replaced by the Britannia watermark, being paper exported from the Netherlands. It appears that the mark itself disappears altogether at about 1795.
In the above gallery you will see a variety of fools caps, with caps and braids or with short hair and hats.
Now that there are no watermarks in ordinary writing paper, I think I’ll stick to the standard A sizes!
For more pictures of watermarks click here to visit my Flickr site