The Origins of A4 Paper Size

The A4 paper size, measuring 210 by 297 millimeters, is a standard paper size used in many countries around the world. It is commonly used for printing documents, letters, and other paper-based communication. But where did this paper size come from? In this article, we will explore the origins of the A4 paper size and its history.

The German DIN 476 Standard

The A4 paper size was first standardized in Germany in 1922, as part of the DIN 476 standard. The DIN, or Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization), was established in 1917 as a way to standardize industrial production and simplify communication. The DIN 476 standard was based on a mathematical formula, where each paper size was defined as being exactly half the size of the next larger paper size in both length and width.

The DIN 476 standard specified several paper sizes, including the A series and the B series. The A series was designed for general printing and writing purposes, while the B series was designed for technical drawings and plans. The A series paper sizes were based on a square root of 2 aspect ratio, meaning that the length and width of each size were in a ratio of 1 to 1.414, which allowed for easy scaling between sizes.

The A0 paper size, the largest size in the A series, was defined as being one square meter in area. The A1 size was defined as being half the area of A0, and the A2 size was half the area of A1, and so on. The A4 paper size, which is the most commonly used size in the A series, is defined as being half the size of A3, and twice the size of A5.

International Popularization of the A4 Paper Size

The DIN paper-format concept, including the A4 paper size, was soon introduced as a national standard in many other countries, for example, Belgium (1924), Netherlands (1925), Norway (1926), Switzerland (1929), Sweden (1930), Soviet Union (1934), Hungary (1938), Italy (1939), Finland (1942), Uruguay (1942), Argentina (1943), Brazil (1943), Spain (1947), Austria (1948), Romania (1949), Japan (1951), Denmark (1953), Czechoslovakia (1953), Israel (1954), Portugal (1954), Yugoslavia (1956), India (1957), Poland (1957), United Kingdom (1959), Venezuela (1962), New Zealand (1963), Iceland (1964), Mexico (1965), South Africa (1966), France (1967), Peru (1967), Turkey (1967), Chile (1968), Greece (1970), Zimbabwe (1970), Singapore (1970), Bangladesh (1972), Thailand (1973), Barbados (1973), Australia (1974), Ecuador (1974), Colombia (1975) and Kuwait (1975).

The use of the A4 paper size was further popularized in the 1970s, when the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) adopted the DIN 476 standard as the ISO 216 standard. The ISO 216 standard is used in most countries around the world today.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The adoption of the A4 paper size as a standard has several advantages. One of the main advantages is that it simplifies communication between countries, as documents printed on A4 paper size can be easily exchanged and read around the world. Additionally, the use of a standardized paper size helps to reduce waste and improve efficiency in printing and document management.

However, the adoption of the A4 paper size has not been without controversy. Some critics argue that the A4 paper size is too narrow and too long, which can make it difficult to read long documents. Additionally, some industries, such as the printing and publishing industries, have criticized the A4 paper size for being too small and limiting the design options for printed materials.

Despite these criticisms, the A4 paper size remains one of the most widely used paper sizes in the world today. It is used in many industries, including printing, publishing, education, and government, and is considered a standard for document management and communication.


In conclusion, the A4 paper size has a rich history dating back to its standardization in Germany in 1922 as part of the DIN 476 standard.

Its adoption as a standard paper size has had many advantages, including simplifying communication between countries and improving efficiency in document management. While some critics have raised concerns about the narrowness and length of the A4 paper size, it remains one of the most widely used paper sizes in the world today.

As technology continues to evolve and new communication methods emerge, it will be interesting to see how the use of different paper sizes, including the A4, adapts and evolves to meet the needs of the modern world.