Edwin Mellen Press

The Edwin Mellen Press is a scholarly publishing house with offices in Lewiston, New York, and Lampeter, Wales. It was founded in 1972 by religious scholar Herbert Richardson.[1] It describes itself as "a non-subsidy academic publisher of books in the humanities and social sciences," releasing "monographs, critical editions, collections, translations, revisionist studies, constructive essays, bibliographies, dictionaries, reference guides and dissertations."[2] Most Mellen books are in English; many are also in French, German, Spanish, Russian, and other languages.

Edwin Mellen Press
Mellen logo
FounderHerbert Richardson
Country of originUnited States
Headquarters locationLewiston, New York
Publication typesBooks
Official websitewww.mellenpress.com


The press's initial purpose was to publish specialized scholarship produced in Richardson's home department at the University of St. Michael's College, a Roman Catholic institution federated with the University of Toronto. Early releases included bibliographies, translations, and dissertations done by faculty and doctoral students in Toronto.[2]

Richardson ran the press initially from the basement of his home. He named it for his grandfather, Edwin Mellen, who was a lover of books.[3] Richardson's great-grandfather was Isaac Adams, a Massachusetts politician who invented the Adams Power Press, which revolutionized the printing industry.[4]

Richardson expanded the press year by year, publishing works by scholars outside Toronto. By 1979, the press had grown large enough to warrant its own space, which Richardson found in Lewiston, New York, a village just across the Canada-US border near Niagara Falls.[5] The press was soon publishing as many as 150 titles a year. In 1987, the Edwin Mellen Press opened an office in Lampeter, Wales.

Scholarly publishing

The Edwin Mellen Press publishes books written at the doctoral reading level. Richardson explains that the press "values scholar-for-scholar research more than anything."[6] While university presses often privilege submissions that will appeal to thousands of readers, Mellen's main interest is whether a work will advance knowledge even in a highly specialized area. The Press states that "the sole criterion for publication is that the manuscript must make a contribution to scholarship." [6]

As a result, Mellen often publishes research that would otherwise be rejected by larger university presses, even on such esoteric topics as the history of the macadamia nut industry in Hawaii or the role of parrots in fiction.

Research libraries are the single main market for books from Mellen. The University of London has 4,926 of Mellen titles; Harvard has 4,731.[3]

Legal controversies

Since 1993, the Press has become notorious for suing its critics in defense of its own and its authors' reputations. Some have claimed that it has thereby further damaged its reputation, in a classic example of the Streisand Effect.[7]

The press's litigiousness dates from 1993, when Robert West, a disgruntled former employee of Mellen Press, contacted Lingua Franca, a magazine defunct since 2001 but at that time widely read and respected in academic circles, describing Richardson as a "rogue professor" and Mellen as a "vanity press"; West urged the magazine to publish an exposé.

Lingua Franca commissioned the story to Warren St. John and published his account as the cover story for September/October 1993: "Vanity's Fare: the Peripatetic Professor and his Peculiarly Profitable Press." The article called Mellen a "quasi-vanity press cunningly disguised as an academic publishing house," and ridiculed in particular a book Mellen had published by Joseph R. Washington, Jr., an African-American professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.[8] In response, Mellen Press took legal action for libel against West and Lingua Franca, and in subsequent years against other individuals and organizations that echoed the accusations in the original article.[7]

  • The press's 1994 claim against Robert West was settled by West's letter of regret to Richardson for "the difficulties he had with Lingua Franca magazine and the University of Toronto. I do not believe Herbert Richardson to be a 'rogue professor' nor do I believe that the Edwin Mellen Press was organized to be a vanity operation."[9]
  • In 1996, the press lost its lawsuit against Lingua Franca on grounds that the article in dispute was "supported by an honest assessment of the facts at hand when the article was published."[7]
  • In 1998, the press sued Oxford University Press over a book review in one of its publications, the Journal of Theological Studies, the claimed Mellen Press was disreputable and a vanity press. Ellen dropped the lawsuit after Oxford Press, in a subsequent issue of the journal, repudiated the offending statements, apologized, and published a new review of the book.
  • In 2009, the press successfully sued Newcastle University philosopher Thom Brooks for defamatory postings on his blog, including one entitled "More reasons to avoid Edwin Mellen Press." Brooks was required to pay financial damages. He also offered his "sincere apologies" to Mellen Press, saying he "now accepts that there was no truth in any of those allegations..." [10][11]
  • The press got huge negative publicity for its lawsuits in 2012, against McMaster University and one of its librarians, Dale Askey. Two years earlier, while working at Kansas State University, Askey and criticized Mellen Press on his blog, a post he deleted shortly before Mellen Press filed suit.[12] The Canadian Association of University Teachers and many others condemned the press for what they called SLAPP lawsuits intended to curtail academic freedom.[13][14] Martha Reineke, a professor of religion at the University of Northern Iowa, started a petition demanding that the press drop the suits; it garnered 2,691 names. In February, 2015, the last of the lawsuits was settled out of court. Askey said, "The outcome of this case is essentially a neutral outcome for academic freedom. Both parties walk away from the matter admitting nothing and resolving nothing." [15]
  • On March 21, 2013, The Press threatened legal action against The Society for Scholarly Publishing for hosting allegedly libelous blog posts and comments on The Scholarly Kitchen.[16] The Scholarly Kitchen first removed the posts, then restored them but without the comments Mellen Press had objected to.[17][18]

Notably, many of Mellen's successes in obtaining apologies, retractions or damages were in England. Prior to passage of the Defamation Act 2013, which came into force on Jan 1, 2014, English libel law was notoriously friendly to plaintiffs. The new Act includes defences of honest opinion, truth and peer-reviewed statements in scientific or academic journals, as well as protections for website owners.

Selected published works

The following titles from Mellen's 2016 catalog illustrate the topical breadth of its list. All have won book prizes in scholarly competitions.

  • Brenner, Rachel Feldhay, A. M. Klein, The Father of Canadian Jewish Literature, 1991.
  • Broers, Michael, Napoleonic Imperialism and the Savoyard Monarchy 1773-1821, 1927.
  • Fallon, Peter K., Printing, Literacy, and Education in 18th Century Ireland: Why the Irish Speak English, 2005.
  • Halbert, Herbert, Folk Tales, Tall Tales, Trickster Tales, and Legends of the Supernatural from the Pinelands of New Jersey, 2010.
  • Jennings, Neil, A Biography of Samuel Chappuzeau, a Seventeenth-century French Huguenot, Playwright, Scholar, Traveler, and Preacher, 2012.
  • Lynch, Audrey, Garth Jeffers Recalls his Father, Robinson Jeffers: Recollections of a Poet's son, 2012.
  • Russel, Dennis Eugene, The Portrayal of Social Catastrophe in the German-language Films of Austrian Filmmaker Michael Haneke (1942-), 2011.
  • Todd, Christopher Pierre Descales, Témoin et Pionnier de la Radio, 2000.
  • Tolstoy, Nikolai, The Oldest British Prose Literature: The Compilation of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, 2009.
  • Tremblay, Florent, The Medieval English-Latin Dictionary, 2009.

See also


  1. ^ "The Edwin Mellen Press Contact Details". Edwin Mellen Press. 2008. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  2. ^ a b "The Edwin Mellen Press". Edwin Mellen Press. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-11-07. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  3. ^ a b New, Jake (April 15, 2013). "Herbert Richardson v. the World". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  4. ^ "Explaining S4S Publishing". herbertwarrenrichardson.com. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  5. ^ "The Edwin Mellen Press". The Edwin Mellen Press - Academic Publishers. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "The Edwin Mellen Press". The Edwin Mellen Press - Academic Publishers. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Reid, Paul H., Jr. (2006). The Edwin Mellen Press Versus Lingua Franca: A Case Study in the Law of Libel. Lewiston, N.Y.T: Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 0773454462.
  8. ^ Reid, Jr., Paul H. (2006). The Edwin Mellen Press Versus Lingua Franca. ISBN 0773454462.
  9. ^ Westhues, Kenneth (2006). The Envy of Excellence: Administrative Mobbing of High-Achieving Professors. Edwin Mellen Press. p. 325. ISBN 9780773459793.
  10. ^ Doughty, Sophie (November 18, 2009). "Newcastle University academic pays up for libelous blog". The Journal.
  11. ^ "Newcastle University academic apologises over libel blog". The Northern Echo. 17 November 2009.
  12. ^ The Edwin Mellen Press vs. Dale Askey and McMaster University (Ontario Superior Court 2012). Text
  13. ^ Flaherty, Colleen (February 8, 2013). "Price of a Bad Review". Inside Higher Ed.
  14. ^ New, Jake (February 8, 2013). "Edwin Mellen Press Sues University Librarian for Libel". The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  15. ^ Fabris, Casey (February 5, 2015). "Librarian Says Academic Press Has Settled Lingering Lawsuit Against Him". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  16. ^ Anderson, Kent (March 29, 2013). "Posts Removed Because We've Received Letters From Edwin Mellen Press' Attorney". The Scholarly Kitchen. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  17. ^ Price, Gary. "The Scholarly Kitchen Removes Posts Re: Edwin Mellen Publishers, Following Letter from Lawyer". InfoDocket. Library Journal. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  18. ^ Meyer, Carol Anne. "SSP Board Decides to Reinstate Removed Posts". The Scholarly Kitchen. Retrieved April 4, 2013.

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