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Oxford University Press had its origins in the information technology revolution of the late fifteenth century, which began with the invention of printing from movable type. The first book was printed in Oxford in 1478, only two years after Caxton set up the first printing press in England.

Despite this early start, the printing industry in Oxford developed in a somewhat haphazard fashion over the next century. It consisted of a number of short-lived private businesses; some patronized by the University. But in 1586 the University itself obtained a decree from the Star Chamber confirming its privilege to print books. This was further enhanced in the Great Charter secured by Archbishop Laud from King Charles I, which entitled the University to print 'all manner of books'.

The University first appointed Delegates to oversee this privilege in 1633. Minute books recording their deliberations date back to 1668, and OUP as it exists today began to develop in a recognizable form from that time.

The University established its right to print the King James Authorized Version of the Bible in the seventeenth century. This Bible Privilege formed the basis of a profitable business throughout the next two centuries and was the spur to OUP's expansion. A Bible warehouse was set up in London which later grew into a major publisher of books with educational or cultural content aimed at the general reader. Then OUP began to expand internationally, starting with the opening of an American office in 1896.

Oxford's traditions of religious and academic publication were followed in New York. The first book published by the American office was the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. After it came "The Life of Sir William Osler" and thousands of other scholarly works. Today OUP USA is Oxford University Press's second major publishing centre, after Oxford, producing annually nearly 500 titles.

Since 1896, OUP's development in all areas has been rapid. Music, journals, and electronic publishing have all been introduced within the last 75 years, and ELT publishing, which started with books to teach English in Africa and India, has grown into a major international business. OUP is now one of the largest publishers in the UK, and the largest university press in the world.

Status and structure
Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

It is the world's largest university press. It publishes more than 4,500 new books a year, has a presence in over fifty countries, and employs some 4,800 people worldwide. It has become familiar to millions through a diverse publishing programme that includes scholarly works in all academic disciplines, bibles, music, school and college textbooks, children's books, materials for teaching English as a foreign language, business books, dictionaries and reference books, and journals.

The University controls the policy of Oxford University Press through a group of Delegates appointed from the academic staff of the University. The Delegates meet fortnightly during term-time under the chairmanship of the Vice-Chancellor. They are actively involved in the publishing programme: all books are referred to them for approval and individual Delegates maintain a dialogue with editors in their specialist subject areas. Ten USA Delegates are appointed from American universities to advise on the publishing programme for OUP USA.

The Delegates appoint a Finance Committee consisting of some of their own number, the senior executives of the Press, and outside advisers. The Finance Committee acts much as the board of directors of a company does. The current Chairman of the Finance Committee, who is appointed by the University, is Professor Susan Iversen.

The Chief Executive of the Press, currently Henry Reece, is also known by the traditional title of Secretary to the Delegates. He chairs the Group Strategy Committee (GSC) which is in charge of the day-to-day management of the business.

Financial relationship with the rest of the University
As a department of the University, and one of its major assets, the Press has an obligation beyond its scholarly and educational mission to provide the rest of the University with a financial return. The Press transfers 30 per cent of its annual post-tax surplus to the rest of the University, with a commitment to a minimum transfer of £12 million per annum.

The Press has no separate legal existence from the University, which, as an educational institution, has charitable status. Tax exemption has been granted to the Press on the grounds of its being an integral part of a charity and because the Press's publishing activities are in direct pursuit of those charitable aims.

None of the Press's surplus is distributed. It is all applied in the pursuit of the educational and scholarly objectives of the University and its Press, either through reinvesting in publishing or transferring funds to the rest of the University.

The Oxford imprint
The current design of the Oxford University Press imprint was launched in October 1998. It was designed by Colin Banks and developed by Alan Cheung, Paul Luna, and Michael Johnson. Based on classical Roman capitals, the lettering was specially drawn so that it is unique to Oxford University Press.

The new version of the University Arms, also launched in October 1998, was developed by Colin Banks, Alan Cheung, Paul Luna, Michael Johnson, and the wood-engraver Andrew Davidson. It continues a tradition that goes back to the sixteenth century.

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