Glossary of Paper Terms for Fountain Pen Users

(This page revised June 22, 2012)

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This glossary by B. H. Bentzman is included here with the author’s kind permission.

I have attempted to collect words concerning paper that might be of use to fountain pen users; and, in an attempt to emulate other scholars, I have as often as not plagiarized from other glossaries. This is a living glossary and I will consider any new inclusions, or for that matter deletions.

A4 Standard international business size paper, except in the U. S. The ISO (International Standardization Organization) size is 210 mm×297 mm.
abaca In the Philippine Islands the plant is known as abaca. Its long stalks and long leaves are used in the making of fabrics, rope, and of course the light-brown paper commonly known with as manila.
acid free (neutral pH) This refers to papers without an acid content, a pH of 7.0. The value of acid free paper is its longevity and it is used for permanent records. It is the choice of artists and archivists. Even the tissue paper that covers stored artwork must be acid free to prevent acid migration, where the acid is transferred from one material to another. If the love letters that get saved in shoeboxes are to be enjoyed in a hundred years by our great grandchildren, acid free paper is recommended.
Aérogramme (also Aerogram) Neat stuff. This is a lightweight sheet of paper already imprinted with a stamp. The single sheet is folded per instructions and becomes its own envelope. It is efficient, the size and weight restricted, and enclosures are not permitted. In exchange for meeting required restrictions, it affords a lower cost for postage. Regretfully, the restrictions do not allow for prolonged writing.
against the grain This concerns the folding of paper against the direction of the grain. Paper prefers to be folded in parallel with the grain, which makes for crisp folds. See also cross direction, grain direction.
airmail stationery Papers in quantity become surprising heavy surprisingly fast. An especially thin paper is manufactured for letters traveling overseas by air. Its extreme lightness saves on postage. The paper is so thin as to be somewhat transparent. Airmail is no longer as expensive as it once was and writing on both sides of a regular opaque sheet of paper will save space. Unless you intend to write a long letter, there isn’t any need for airmail stationery, but one can still be charmed by airmail’s delicacy and the romance of alluding to the past traditions.
alum Aluminum sulfate, usually sodium alum (NaAl(SO4)2·12H2O) or potassium alum (KAl(SO4)2·12H2O); an astringent crystalline substance used to react with the rosin which imparts sizing (making paper fibers water resistant) and also helps in the anti-flocculation of the paper fibers.
animal sized No, this isn’t how big an animal is. This is animal glue or gelatin used as sizing.
archival paper This is paper that is acid free, lignin free, has good color retention, and can last at least 100 years.
Average Brightness (also AVG Brightness) A measure of reflectivity of a sheet of paper for blue light measured under specific standard conditions and not necessarily related to color or whiteness.

The information in this glossary is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.

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