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 inOxford 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 theUniversity. 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 theUniversity 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 largestuniversity 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
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 theUniversity, 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.