legal sized Great White paper

So the paper that lawyers like to use comes emblazoned with a … shark? Ouch.

Boyoboy, I sure feel sorry for you. I had planned a really substantive, weighty and significant topic to cover today. My goal was to round out the blog week with something akin to majesty.

Though you would have enjoyed that, instead I have opted to present a slight and light view into a quizzical topic. On this Change of Venue Friday, the substantial has been shouldered aside by the goofy.

And for that, I apologize.

The oddity came my way via the Pacific Northwest (surprising absolutely no one). And that unique question is: Where the hell did legal-sized paper come from?

Do you ever see one of those queries and wonder how you had never come to ask it? But when you see the question, you’re all, “Whoa, good question!”? That’s where the paper question took me.

I heard about the topic via one of my favorite legal blogs. In the NW Sidebar (from the Washington State Bar), I was pointed toward a blog by librarians (natch) of the Seattle University Law Library (on Twitter here).

Here is how library intern Jason Giesler opens his detective blog post:

“Necessitating larger file cabinets, failing to fit in standard binders, and a real pain in the neck to copy and scan, one wonders, what are the origins of 8 1/2″ x 14” sized legal paper?”

“There are several historical stories relating to the adoption of legal sized paper. According to one story, during the time of Henry VIII, paper was printed in 17″ x 22” sheets because this was the largest size of mold that papermakers could carry. These large sheets were known as foolscap. Legend has it that lawyers would simply cut the foolscap in half and use the sheets for official documents. Lawyers liked longer paper so that they could take more notes than would fit on a normal page.”

That’s rich. “Lawyers liked longer paper so that they could take more notes than would fit on a normal page.”

Seattle U Law Library iconLawyers. Librarians. Henry VIII. They all crack me up.

When I decided to seek an image to run with this post, I was taken aback by the appearance of a leading brand of legal-sized paper. There it is above, clear as day: The lawyers’ paper of choice comes with … sharks on it.

Hmmm. Snarky, much? I’m sure the Hammermill Company would say the name is a reference to the “Great White” paper, but I’m prepared to stage a protest if readers want.

In any case, you should keep reading the results of Jason’s research here.

And, joyfully, he would seem to be one of those librarians who has never shushed anyone in his life. And so he ends—as I do today—with this video of an “IT cat.” Which would make this the debut of cat videos for my own blog (causing me to think I should re-examine things—I’ll do that this weekend).

Enjoy, and stay away from copier machines. Here’s da cat:

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