Definition of quarto in English:


(also 4to)


  • 1A size of book page resulting from folding each printed sheet into four leaves (eight pages)

    • ‘One is struck by the impact that such a slim volume, in quarto, has had on the world.’
    • ‘It is a comedy by Shakespeare, probably written and performed about 1595, and printed in quarto in 1598.’
    • ‘The first volume of the Transactions of the Geological Society appeared in quarto.’
    1. 1.1A book of quarto size.
      • ‘Scott's long narrative poem Marmion was published in late February 1808 as a luxurious quarto, costing a guinea and a half.’
      • ‘The deposition scene was removed from Richard II both on stage and in the printed quartos by about 1597, and the 1600 quarto of Henry IV Part II contained extensive revisions.’
      • ‘The Folio text adds some passages not in the second quarto, and omits others.’
      • ‘A second quarto of Richard II also bore Shakespeare's name in full.’
      • ‘The first quarto of Hamlet offers its audience an interesting new way of looking at an extremely familiar text.’
      • ‘Fans of English literature should hotfoot it to the British Library's skilled digitisation of its Shakespeare quartos.’
      • ‘You cannot simply put a facsimile of a Shakespearean quarto, with its strange typography and lack of annotations, in front of college sophomores and expect them to read and understand it.’
      • ‘Certain printers seem to have specialized in play quartos.’
      • ‘The Folio text reprints the play from a copy of the quarto supplemented, here and there, by the consultation of a promptbook, from which certain stage directions have been added or elaborated.’
      • ‘Shakespeare's earliest published plays are referred to as folios or quartos according to the folding of the printed sheets and therefore the size of the book: folios being large, tall volumes and the quartos smaller and squarer.’
      • ‘Both return to early quartos of the plays in question, bypassing Jonson's magisterial - perhaps too magisterial - reworkings of them in his 1616 Folio: the plays that emerge are fresh, exuberant, and distinctly unfamiliar.’
      • ‘Ostovich, like Miola, differs from Herford and Simpson in going back to the quarto.’
      • ‘The book is a moderate quarto, in Spanish, written in a very legible hand, but a little damaged towards the latter end.’
      • ‘Renaissance play quartos were about the size and shape of modern comic books and sold for sixpence.’
      • ‘Richard II could have been written at any point up to a matter of weeks before the registering of the first quarto.’
      • ‘And as the survey moves on from newspapers and polemical pamphlets to books, and from cheaper formats up to quartos and folios, the real names tend to disappear, except again under strictly limited provision, as in a dedication.’
      • ‘The 1612 quarto - the only edition of the play to survive - is quite corrupt, a decidedly challenging read.’
      • ‘Moreover, the name ‘Shakespeare’ had appeared on the title page of a number of plays, published as quartos.’
      • ‘For readers of Richard II at this point (three quartos having sold in 1597-98), such circumstances would centralize the Bullingbrooke-Essex of act two: the victim figure undone by caterpillars of the court.’
    2. 1.2A size of writing paper, 10 in. × 8 in. (254 × 203 mm)
      • ‘Turner notes that in 1827 Newman composed a long essay of some sixty-six quarto pages addressed to his sisters.’
      • ‘The essay format has a place in anthropology, I would say, even to the extent, as Don Gardner puts it, of ‘raising all of the biggest issues in social and philosophical thought in no more than ten quarto pages’.’


Late 16th century: from Latin (in) quarto (in) the fourth (of a sheet) ablative of quartus fourth.