Cambridge University Press (CUP) is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house and the second-largest university press in the world (after Oxford University Press). It also holds letters patent as the Queen's Printer.
The Press's mission is "To further the University's mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence."
Cambridge University Press is a department of the University of Cambridge and is both an academic and educational publisher. With a global sales presence, publishing hubs, and offices in more than 40 countries, it publishes over 50,000 titles by authors from over 100 countries. Its publishing includes academic journals, monographs, reference works, textbooks, and English-language teaching and learning publications. Cambridge University Press is a charitable enterprise that transfers part of its annual surplus back to the university.
Cambridge University Press is both the oldest publishing house in the world and the oldest university press. It originated from Letters Patent granted to the University of Cambridge by Henry VIII in 1534, and has been producing books continuously since the first University Press book was printed. Cambridge is one of the two privileged presses (the other being Oxford University Press). Authors published by Cambridge have included John Milton, William Harvey, Isaac Newton, Bertrand Russell, and Stephen Hawking.
University printing began in Cambridge when the first practising University Printer, Thomas Thomas, set up a printing house on the site of what became the Senate House lawn – a few yards from where the Press's bookshop now stands. In those days, the Stationers' Company in London jealously guarded its monopoly of printing, which partly explains the delay between the date of the University's Letters Patent and the printing of the first book.
In 1591, Thomas's successor, John Legate, printed the first Cambridge Bible, an octavo edition of the popular Geneva Bible. The London Stationers objected strenuously, claiming that they had the monopoly on Bible printing. The university's response was to point out the provision in its charter to print 'all manner of books'. Thus began the Press's tradition of publishing the Bible, a tradition that has endured for over four centuries, beginning with the Geneva Bible, and continuing with the Authorized Version, the Revised Version, the New English Bible and the Revised English Bible. The restrictions and compromises forced upon Cambridge by the dispute with the London Stationers did not really come to an end until the scholar Richard Bentley was given the power to set up a 'new-style press' in 1696. In July 1697 the Duke of Somerset made a loan of £200 to the university "towards the printing house and presse" and James Halman, Registrary of the University, lent £100 for the same purpose.
It was in Bentley's time, in 1698, that a body of senior scholars ('the Curators', known from 1733 as 'the Syndics') was appointed to be responsible to the university for the Press's affairs. The Press Syndicate's publishing committee still meets regularly (eighteen times a year), and its role still includes the review and approval of the Press's planned output. John Baskerville became University Printer in the mid-eighteenth century. Baskerville's concern was the production of the finest possible books using his own type-design and printing techniques.
Baskerville wrote, "The importance of the work demands all my attention; not only for my own (eternal) reputation; but (I hope) also to convince the world, that the University in the honour done me has not entirely misplaced their favours." Caxton would have found nothing to surprise him if he had walked into the Press's printing house in the eighteenth century: all the type was still being set by hand; wooden presses, capable of producing only 1,000 sheets a day at best, were still in use; and books were still being individually bound by hand. A technological breakthrough was badly needed, and it came when Lord Stanhope perfected the making of stereotype plates. This involved making a mould of the whole surface of a page of type and then casting plates from that mould. The Press was the first to use this technique, and in 1805 produced the technically successful and much-reprinted Cambridge Stereotype Bible.
By the 1850s the Press was using steam-powered machine presses, employing two to three hundred people, and occupying several buildings in the Silver Street and Mill Lane area, including the one that the Press still occupies, the Pitt Building (1833), which was built specifically for the Press and in honour of William Pitt the Younger. Under the stewardship of C. J. Clay, who was University Printer from 1854 to 1882, the Press increased the size and scale of its academic and educational publishing operation. An important factor in this increase was the inauguration of its list of schoolbooks (including what came to be known as the 'Pitt Press Series'). During Clay's administration, the Press also undertook a sizable co-publishing venture with Oxford: the Revised Version of the Bible, which was begun in 1870 and completed in 1885. It was in this period as well that the Syndics of the Press turned down what later became the Oxford English Dictionary—a proposal for which was brought to Cambridge by James Murray (lexicographer) before he turned to Oxford.
The appointment of R. T. Wright as Secretary of the Press Syndicate in 1892 marked the beginning of the Press's development as a modern publishing business with a clearly defined editorial policy and administrative structure. It was Wright (with two great historians, Lord Acton and F. W. Maitland) who devised the plan for one of the most distinctive Cambridge contributions to publishing—the Cambridge Histories.
The Cambridge Modern History was published between 1902 and 1912. Nine years later the Press issued the first volumes of the freshly edited complete works of Shakespeare, a project of nearly equal scope that was not finished until 1966. The Press's list in science and mathematics began to thrive, with men of the stature of Albert Einstein and Ernest Rutherford subsequently becoming Press authors. The Press's impressive contribution to journal publishing began in 1893, and today it publishes over 300 journals.
In 1992 the Press opened its own bookshop at 1 Trinity Street, in the centre of Cambridge. Books have been sold continuously on this site since at least 1581, perhaps even as early as 1505, making it the oldest known bookshop site in Britain.
In 2012 the Press decided to end the tradition of printing after 428 years and now uses third parties to provide all of its print publications.
The Press has, since 1698, been governed by the Press 'Syndics' (originally known as the 'Curators'), made up of 18 senior academics from the University of Cambridge who represent a wide variety of subjects. The Syndicate has several sub-committees: an Operating Board, an Academic Publishing Committee, an ELT & Education Publishing Committee, and an Audit Committee. The Operating Board oversees the Press's financial, strategic and operational affairs, while the two Publishing Committees provide quality assurance and formal approval of the publishing strategy. The Chair of the Syndicate is currently Sir David Bell. The operational responsibility of the Press is delegated by the Syndics to the Press's Chief Executive, Peter Phillips, and the Press Board.
Cambridge University Press is a global organisation with three market facing publishing groups. These are:
This group publishes academic books and journals across science, technology, medicine, humanities, and social sciences. The group also publishes bibles, and the Press is one of only two publishers entitled to publish the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Version of the Bible in England.
The Cambridge English group publishes English language teaching courses and resources for all ages around the world. The group works closely with Cambridge English Language Assessment to provide solutions that improve language proficiency, aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFR.
The Education group delivers educational products and solutions for primary, secondary and international schools, and Education Ministries worldwide.
Owing to the changes taking place in the way that books and content are bought and accessed, Cambridge believes that digital products, services and solutions could account for two-thirds of its sales by 2020.
Since 2010, Cambridge has provided electronic book content through the website Cambridge Books Online. For many years, all of Cambridge's journals have been published in both hard copy format and online.
Other recent ventures include Race to Learn, curriculum software that uses Formula One to encourage group working in primary school children, published through Cambridge–Hitachi, a joint venture between Cambridge University Press and Hitachi Software Engineering that produces software for teaching on interactive whiteboards in schools.
In 2007, controversy arose over CUP's decision to destroy all remaining copies of its 2006 book, Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, by Burr and Collins, as part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought by Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz. Within hours, Alms for Jihad became one of the 100 most sought after titles on Amazon.com and eBay in the United States. CUP sent a letter to libraries asking them to remove copies from circulation. CUP subsequently sent out copies of an "errata" sheet for the book.
The American Library Association issued a recommendation to libraries still holding Alms for Jihad: "Given the intense interest in the book, and the desire of readers to learn about the controversy first hand, we recommend that U.S. libraries keep the book available for their users." The publisher's decision did not have the support of the book's authors and was criticised by some who claimed it was incompatible with freedom of speech and with freedom of the press and that it indicated that English libel laws were excessively strict. In a New York Times Book Review (7 October 2007), United States Congressman Frank R. Wolf described Cambridge's settlement as "basically a book burning." CUP pointed out that, at that time, it had already sold most of its copies of the book.
Cambridge defended its actions, saying it had acted responsibly and that it is a global publisher with a duty to observe the laws of many different countries.
In this ongoing case, begun in 2008, CUP et al. accused Georgia State University of infringement of copyright.
On 18 August 2017, Cambridge University Press has deleted over 300 politically-sensitive articles from the China Quarterly on its Chinese website. The articles focus on topics China regards as taboo, including the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, Mao Zedong’s catastrophic Cultural Revolution, Hong Kong’s fight for democracy and ethnic tensions in Xinjiang and Tibet However on 21 August 2017, the Press announced it has backed down and will immediately re-post journal articles, in the face of growing international protests.
Prior to this controversy, in 2012, University of Cambridge has received 3.7M pounds from the daughter of the former president of china Wen Jiabao. The donation was used to create Chong Hua Chair in Chinese Development studies whose inaugural appointee was her former professor at Cambridge, Peter Nolan.
The Press has been recognised on several occasions for its commitment to community involvement and social responsibility, and it has stated that public engagement is an important part of the Press's role, by undertaking educational projects and fundraising.
The Press partnered with Bookshare in 2010 to make their books accessible to people with qualified print disabilities. Under the terms of the digital rights licence agreement, the Press delivers academic and scholarly books from all of its regional publishing centres on the world to Bookshare for conversion into accessible formats. People with qualified print disabilities around the world can download the books for a nominal Bookshare membership fee and read them using a computer or other assistive technology, with voice generated by text-to-speech technology, as well as options for digital Braille.
CUP is one of thirteen publishers to participate in the Knowledge Unlatched pilot, a global library consortium approach to funding open access books. CUP is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.