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Format

Incunabula are made of quires which were produced by folding whole sheets of paper several times. Thus the size of an incunabulum is determined according to how large the whole sheets of paper were and how many times they were folded. A whole sheet of paper folded once is called "folio (2o)," twice "quarto (4o)," three times "octavo (8o)" and four times "sexto-decimo; (16o)." These terms are used to refer to the format of incunabula.

The size of the four typical sheets of paper used most and the sizes of the formats of the incunabula created by folding these sheets of paper are shown in the table below.

The vertical and horizontal lengths are indicated in units of millimeters.
 Whole sheet of paperFolioQuartoOctavoSexto decimo
Imperialle500 × 740500 × 370370 × 250250 × 185185 × 125
Realle445 × 616445 × 308308 × 223223 × 154154 × 112
Meçane345 × 516345 × 258258 × 173173 × 129129 × 87
Reçute315 × 450315 × 225225 × 158158 × 113113 × 79

In the bookbinding process, the quires' edges are usually trimmed straight, so the actual sizes of the books are often smaller than the figures shown above.

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