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.

A Pricey Problem

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.


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. and 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.

history history

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.

Expanding across the globe

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.


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 and the UK, acquiring Walter Foster, Motorbooks, Jacqui Small and Frances Lincoln among others.

In 1990, Quarto started Quarto Children's Books, which specialized in 'Books Plus' - books with kits or other special features - and still exists today.


Marcus Leaver became CEO in 2012. Under his leadership, the Group sold some non-core businesses and continued to grow organically and by acquisitions, including Ivy Press in 2015 and becker&mayer in 2016. Home-grown children imprint Wide Eyed Editions was launched in 2014 as children's publishing became a strategic priority for the group.

A global leader in Illustrated Publishing

Over the past 43 years, Quarto has grown significantly, moving away from a pure co-edition model to a mix of co-edition and trade publishing, building an award-winning foreign rights sales team, diversifying our distribution channels through non-traditional retailers, and pursuing international business ventures.

Today, we are a global leader in illustrated non-fiction publishing. Innovation is still in our DNA as we constantly explore how to maximize the use of our Intellectual Property


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.

Current CEO Chuk Kin Lau was appointed in May 2018.


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, 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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