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
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
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
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
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