refers broadly to a piece of writing paper, and in the US specifically to a usually 8” x 13” size of paper.
// The exhibit includes a number of early legal documents written on foolscap
with quill and ink.
See the entry >
“Thwarted megamergers and private-equity acquisitions, buyouts and layoffs, self-publishing and artificial intelligence: It’s hard to find a glimmer of glamour in the book business right now. … Against this tech-inflected landscape, Thomas Harding’s more than serviceable new biography of George Weidenfeld, long a force of letters in England and briefly in the United States, floats as if on stained foolscap
.” — Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times
, 27 Aug. 2023
Did you know?
You’d be well within your rights to respond “Surely, you jest!” to the notion that foolscap
refers to a sheet of writing paper, and also specifically to a paper size of approximately 8" x 13", similar to that of a legal pad. After all, when foolscap
was first used in the 1500s, it referred to an actual fool’s cap—the oft jingling headwear worn as part of a jester’s motley
(a sense still used today). But we promise we do not jest. The connection between the whimsical chapeau
and the paper is attributable to the former use of a watermark
depicting a fool’s cap that was used on long sheets of writing or printing paper. There are various explanations for the introduction of this watermark—including the claim that a 1648 British parliamentary group
substituted it for the royal arms during exceptionally turbulent times—but such explanations remain unsupported by historical evidence.