Definition and background:
A standard size of sheet music that was derived from standard printing practices of the 19th century. Typically, printers would start with a "sheet" of paper that was about the size of an unfolded newspaper (today that is about 25 inches by 30 inches). Folding the paper in half would result in four pages for a "folio" size (about 25 inches by 15 inches). A second fold would create eight pages for a "quarto" size (about 12 1/2 inches by 15 inches). A third fold creates the octavo size (about 12 1/2 inches by 7 1/2 inches). When the paper is trimmed, the octavo size is about 7 inches by 10 3/4 inches. This is sometimes abbreviated as 8vo (pronounced "eight-vo") or 8.A generic term for sheet music (typically in the form of a booklet) containing a short choral work. This term comes from the fact that most most popular and liturgical choral works are printed on the octavo size paper (about 7 inches by 10 3/4 inches). This sheet music generally contains all of the vocal parts with the piano accompaniment. In the case of a cappella music or music that is accompanied by other ensemble where piano accompaniment is not needed, the octavo will often include the the piano accompaniment for rehearsal purposes.
A book or manuscript of the third largest standard size, usually measuring 20-25 cm (8-9 1/2 inches) in height, and 13-15 cm (5-6 inches) in width, which is composed of sheets of paper folded into eight leaves ("oct-" is from Latin for eight). The plural form is octavos. Abbreviated o, O, O., oct., Oct., and 8vo. Also called eightvo. (pr. ahk-TAH-voh) Also see bookbinding, duodecimo, folio, quarto, rotulus, sextodecimo, signature, text, tricesimo-segundo, and vicesimo-quarto.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary