The history of Quarto

Our history starts in the 1970s when publishers were starting to understand how to create highly illustrated books in full colour. This was a huge step forward after decades of printing mainly black and white books with groups of pages in colour appearing just here and there.

A Pricey Problem


In the early 1970s, printing colour images, graphs and illustrations in books was expensive and complicated. In the days before desktop publishing, each layout spread involved gluing column strips of edited and typeset copy very precisely into place on a layout board, and four-color printing was extremely costly. Illustrated book publishing was not economic, but it was very popular with the public.

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A Savvy Solution


Quarto was born out of the idea that if print runs were big enough, costs per unit became much lower. Therefore, if books could be co-published in different markets, the economics looked totally different.

London-based designer Bob Morley and writer Michael Jackson (who went on to become a renown beer writer and commentator) had worked up a few illustrated book proposals, including The English Pub, The Encyclopedia of Motorcycles and The World Guide to Beer. Together, they travelled to New York in 1975 to pitch to US publishers. A friend introduced them to a Columbia University professor who was running a small publishing outfit in his spare time, Laurence Orbach, and his business partner Sid Mayer.

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The four of them worked up plans to form a new, illustrated publishing outfit named, appropriately enough, Quarto. Mayer eventually chose not to join, but the company name stuck.

Growing The Quarto Group


After officially registering in 1976, Quarto started expanding across the globe through the creation and acquisitions of imprints, and quickly developed sales across numerous foreign language markets.

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In 1986, Quarto listed on the London stock exchange with the aim of providing funding for more acquisitions. The group expanded further in the US – with the addition of Book Sales, Walter Foster and Motorbooks among others. In the UK, Aurum Press, Jacqui Small and Frances Lincoln joined the portfolio.

In 1990, Quarto started its first ever Children’s imprint, Quarto Children’s Books, which specialized in ‘Books Plus’ – books with kits or other special features – and still exists today.

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Marcus Leaver became CEO in December 2012, taking over from co-founder Laurence Orbach after 36 years. Under his leadership, the Group rebranded its publishing divisions under one single brand, sold some non-core businesses and continued to grow organically and by acquisitions. Small world creations was acquired in 2014, Ivy Press in 2015, and Harvard Common Press and becker&mayer in 2016 – while also launching new home-grown children’s imprints Wide Eyed Editions, MoonDance Press and SeaGrass.

A global leader in Illustrated Publishing


Over the past 40 years, the Quarto Group has grown significantly, moving away from a pure co-edition model to a mix of co-edition and trade publishing, building one of the best foreign right sales team in the industry, focusing relentlessly on diversifying its distribution channels through non-traditional retailers, and pursuing international business ventures.

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Today, it is a global leader in illustrated non-fiction publishing. Innovation is still in the Group’s DNA as it constantly explores new formats, content ideas and business ventures.

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Our size and scale has changed, but at the heart of what we do, our mission hasn’t changed – to make and sell books that entertain, educate and enrich the lives of adults and children around the world. That’s what we are passionate about.

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Did you know?

Quarto was founded in 1976, the year we published our first ever book: The World Guide to Beer.

That same year, Apple was founded and the first commercial flight of the Concorde took off.

Recent Events

1976 Quarto founded
1986 Quarto listed on the London stock Exchange
2012 Marcus Leaver becomes CEO in December
2014 Partnership with Grupo Nobel in Brazil
2015 Acquisition of Ivy Press
2015 Launch of quartoknows.com, a new consumer-facing site promoting the full publishing program
2016 Acquisition of becker&mayer!
2016 Partnership with Kalimat Group in the Middle East and North Africa

Our Culture & Values

People working together

Our values shape the way we do business and select the people we work with.


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