The first Yugoslav Book Fair was held in 1956 at the Zagreb Fair, under the patronage of the President of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito. It was attended by the most prominent Yugoslav writers, including Ivo Andrić and Miroslav Krleža. This first Fair included about 12,000 books of all Yugoslav publishers of the time, also featuring publishers from Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, UK, France, Italy, China, Hungary, East and West Germany, Poland, Romania, USA, Soviet Union, and Switzerland.

The following year (1957), the Fair was relocated to Belgrade, following completed construction of a modern fair complex. This book exhibit included books of some 60 local and 36 international publishers from 16 countries in Europe, America, and Asia. It was agreed that the International Book Fair issues an official catalogue and that it lasts for six days. The Fair was held in late October at Hall 3 of the Belgrade Fair. To celebrate this occasion, a new magazine (The Book and the World) was launched. The first Belgrade Book Fair was opened by the Vice President of the Federal Executive Council at the time, Mr. Rodoljub Čolaković.

Each year the International Belgrade Book Fair attracted an increasing number of publishers from former Yugoslavia and the world, soon transforming into the largest meeting point of publishers from Europe, America, Asia, and Africa, second only to the Frankfurt and Warsaw Book Fairs. Belgrade became the place where Eastern and Western cultures meet.