Facts about the Quarto
The quarto (abbreviation 4to or 4”) also refers to a book format. In particular it denotes the number of the leaves generated by folding the paper sheet. The full paper sheet has several pages of text printed. These make up the book gatherings or sections.
The quarto is made up of two sheets (sometimes just one). The texts were printed on eight pages. To get the quarto paper size, they were folded twice to make four leaves. This means an individual leaf was used to represent ¼ the dimensions of the sheet.
Note: the quarto can also denote books 12 inches high (30 cm). This does not refer to the printing format employed.
The Quarto Book
Sometimes, the term quarto is called quarto in 8s (i.e., 4 leaves per sheet but with eight leaves in the section). The dimensions of the quarto book are dependent on the size of the paper sheet where it is printed. The demy quarto (demy 4to) measures 11" by 8 3/4" (22 × 28 cm).
The earliest known quarto published was the Sibyllenbuch. This was printed back in 1452-53 by Guttenberg. The quarto paper size became the most prevalent format used until 1501. The British Library Incunabula Short Title Catalogue has 28,100 books, documents etc dating before 1501. Of these, 14,360 are in the quarto format.
Although other formats emerged, the quarto remained very popular especially during the Elizabethan Age up to the mid 17th century. A lot of the works published then were in the quarto format. 18 of William Shakespeare’s plays were published in the format.
Shakespeare’s Henry IV was one of the most popular plays during that period and it was released in quarto format. The first quarto edition of Henry IV came out in 1598. The second edition came out the following year, also in this paper size. Several Shakespeare plays also appeared in quarto formats.
Other playwrights also used the same format. Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe came out in 1604 in a quarto edition. A second edition came out in 1609. Poems also came out in quarto formats, including Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis (1593 and 1594). Plays published in this manner are referred to as Q1, Q2 etc (the numbers indicating the edition).
Using the Quarto Format
The paper size is not included in the paper presets of most word processing programs. The reason is it isn’t used much. The standard sizes in the US are the letter (8 ½ x 11”), legal (8 ½ x 14”) and tabloid (11 x 17”). The international standard is the A4 (8.27 x 11.69”).
To use the quarto paper size, you have to go to the Page Layout or Page Setup menus. After you enter the figures, you can save it as a custom paper size.