Cambridge University Press

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Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press
Parent company University of Cambridge
Status Active
Founded 1534
Founder Henry VIII
Country of origin England
Headquarters location Cambridge, England
Distribution Worldwide
Nonfiction topics Science; technology; medicine; humanities; social sciences; English language teaching; education
Revenue 245 million GBP
Official website

Cambridge University Press 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.[1][2] It also publishes bibles and academic journals.

The Press’s mission is to “To further through publication the University’s objective of advancing learning, knowledge and research worldwide.” This mission is laid out in ‘Statute J’ in the University of Cambridge’s Statutes and Ordinances.[3] The Press's objective is "To operate sustainably for the public benefit a publishing programme that upholds the integrity of the Cambridge name."

Cambridge University Press is both an academic and educational publisher. It has more than 50 offices all around the globe, employs 2,000 people, and publishes over 45,000 titles by authors from 100 countries.[4] Its publishing includes professional books, textbooks, monographs, reference works, over 300 academic journals, Bibles and prayer books, English language teaching publications, educational software, and electronic publishing. As a department of a charity, Cambridge University Press is exempt from income tax and corporate tax in most countries, but may pay sales and other commercial taxes on its products. In the financial year of 2012, its revenue was £245m; the Press transfers a part of its annual surplus back to the University.


The Pitt Building in Cambridge, which used to be the headquarters of Cambridge University Press, and now serves as a conference centre for the Press.

The Press has, since 1698, been governed by the Press ‘Syndics’ (originally known as the 'Curators'),[5] made up of 18 senior academics from the University of Cambridge who represent a wide variety of subjects.[3] 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 strategies and the individual titles that are published. [6] The Press Syndicate meets in the Pitt Building, which is the old headquarters of the Press located in Cambridge city centre.[5] 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 and ten Officers, including a Chief Financial Officer.

The Press is a department of the University of Cambridge; it has no shareholders and is entirely self-financing. It is a not-for-profit organisation; any surplus is used to develop the publishing programme and to support the University.[7]

Publishing structure

Cambridge University Press is divided into three main publishing groups. These are:


This group publishes monographs, academic journals, textbooks and reference books in science, technology, medicine, humanities, and social sciences.[8] 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.[9]

Cambridge English

The Cambridge English group publishes English language teaching courses and books for all ages around the world.[8]


The Education group publishes educational books and courses for primary, secondary and international schools.[8]

On the main site of the Press

Electronic and digital developments

Due to the changes taking place in the way that books and content are bought and accessed, Cambridge has estimated that its digital products could account for two-thirds of its sales by 2020.[10]

Since 2010, Cambridge has provided electronic book content through the website Cambridge Books Online,[11] and all of Cambridge’s journals are 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,[12] 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.


The Cambridge University Press is both the oldest publishing house in the world and the oldest university press. It originated from Letters Patent (similar to a royal charter) 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 in 1584. 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.[13]

The Edinburgh Building
The Edinburgh Building on the main site of the Press

University printing did not actually begin in Cambridge until the first practising University Printer, Thomas Thomas, had been appointed in 1583, nearly fifty years after the grant of the Letters Patent. He 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. 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.

The University Printing House, on the main site of the Press

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.

File:Cambridge University Press Letters Patent.jpg
The letters patent of Cambridge University Press by Henry VIII allow the Press to print “all manner of books”. The fine initial with the king’s portrait inside it and the large first line of script are still discernible.

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.[14] The £1.25m worth of Press publications sold each year through this bookshop is a small proportion of CUP's global sales. With branches, offices and agents throughout the world, the Press can draw on over 45,000 authors from over 100 different countries. Its 2,000 staff in over fifty offices service an inventory of 45,000 in-print titles – 14,000 of which are also available as e-books – and this is growing at a rate of over 4,000 new ISBNs per year.


Alms for Jihad

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.[15] Within hours, Alms for Jihad became one of the 100 most sought after titles on 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.[16][17] 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."[18] 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.[19]

Cambridge University Press, et al. v. Becker et al.

In 2008, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications sued four senior members of staff employed by Georgia State University over the university's electronic reserves policy, which is an online version of the usual reserve policy for texts used in courses. At GSU, professors could request that the library scan extracts of books and make them available on a course-restricted website for students in particular classes in the library reserves, which the publishers claim went far beyond the fair use provisions of copyright law.[20] The publishers lost this case and were ordered to pay attorney's fees to Georgia State University, but as of 2013 have filed an appeal with the 11th Circuit.

Community work

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.[21]

In 2009, the Press’s Chief Executive at the time, Stephen Bourne, was recognised for his "leadership and commitment to responsibility business practice" by being awarded The Prince’s Ambassador Award for the East of England.[22]

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 license agreement, the Press delivers academic and scholarly books from all of its regional publishing centres around 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.[23]

See also


  1. "Oldest printing and publishing house". 2002-01-22. Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  2. Black, Michael (1984). Cambridge University Press, 1583–1984. pp. 328–9. ISBN 978-0-521-66497-4. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Statutes J – The University Press" (PDF). University of Cambridge. 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  4. "CUP website". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 McKitterick, David (1998). A History of Cambridge University Press, Volume 2: Scholarship and Commerce, 1698–1872. Cambridge University Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-521-30802-1. 
  7. McKitterick, David (2004). A History of Cambridge University Press, Volume 3: New Worlds for Learning, 1873–1972. Cambridge University Press. pp. 427–428. ISBN 978-0-521-30803-8. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Black, Michael (2000). A Short History of Cambridge University Press. Cambridge University Press. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-521-77572-4. 
  9. "The Queen's Printers Patent". Cambridge University Press Website. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  10. Neill, Graeme (1 November 2010). "CUP looks to digital". The Bookseller. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  11. Neilan, Catherine (7 December 2009). "CUP launches online books platform". The Bookseller. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  12. "BETT award winners 2010". The Guardian. 14 January 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  13. Black, Michael (2000). Cambridge University Press, 1584–1984. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66497-4. 
  14. "History of the Bookshop". Cambridge University Press Bookshop. 2009. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  15. Steyn, Mark (6 August 2007). "One Way Multiculturalism". The New York Sun. Ronald Weintraub. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  16. Richardson, Anna (3 August 2007). "Bonus Books criticises CUP". Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  17. Jaschick, Scott (16 August 2007). "A University Press stands up – and wins". Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  18. Danadio, Rachel (7 October 2007). "Libel Without Borders". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  19. Taylor, Kevin (9 August 2007). "Why CUP acted responsibly". The Bookseller. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  20. Albanese, Andrew Richard (14 June 2010). "A Failure to Communicate". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  21. "Annual Report and Accounts for the year that ended 30 April 2009" (PDF). Cambridge University Press. 2009. p. 30. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  22. "The Prince's Ambassador Regional Award 2009". Business in the Community. 2009. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  23. "CUP grants worldwide digital rights to Bookshare". Research Information. 24 May 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 


  • Anonymous; The Student's Guide to the University of Cambridge. Third Edition, Revised and Partly Re-written; Deighton Bell, 1874 (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00491-6)
  • Anonymous; War Record of the Cambridge University Press 1914–1919; Cambridge University Press, 1920; (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00294-3)
  • A History of Cambridge University Press, Volume 1: Printing and the Book Trade in Cambridge, 1534–1698; McKitterick, David; 1992; ISBN 978-0-521-30801-4
  • A History of Cambridge University Press, Volume 2: Scholarship and Commerce, 1698–1872; McKitterick, David; 1998; ISBN 978-0-521-30802-1
  • A History of Cambridge University Press, Volume 3: New Worlds for Learning, 1873–1972; McKitterick, David; 1998; ISBN 978-0-521-30803-8
  • A Short History of Cambridge University Press; Black, Michael; 2000; ISBN 978-0-521-77572-4
  • Cambridge University Press 1584–1984; Black, Michael, Foreword by Gordon Johnson; 2000; ISBN 978-0-521-66497-4, Hardback ISBN 978-0-521-26473-0

External links

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