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Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridgemarker. Granted a Royal Letters Patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest continually operating book publisher. Cambridgemarker is both an academic and educational publishing house, with a regional structure operating in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA); the Americas; and Asia-Pacific.

Headquartered in Cambridge UK, the company has warehousing centres in Cambridgemarker, New Yorkmarker, Melbournemarker, Madridmarker, Cape Townmarker, São Paulomarker, New Delhimarker, Tokyomarker and Singaporemarker, with offices and agents in many other countries. Its publishing output includes major ELT courses; tertiary textbooks and monographs; scientific and medical reference; professional lists in law, management and engineering; educational coursebooks; and e-learning materials for schools via the Cambridge-Hitachi joint venture. Its publications are aimed at markets worldwide, at all levels from primary school to postgraduate and professional. The Press also publishes Bibles, prayer books, and 240 academic journals.


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 Cambridgemarker 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.

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 1697, 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.

Of this edition, 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 intirely 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, is 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 sizeable 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 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 completed in 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 close to 250 journals.

In 1992 the Press opened its own bookshop at 1 Trinity Streetmarker, 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. The £1.25m worth of Press publications sold each year through this bookshop is a small proportion of CUP's global sales, and one of the most exciting developments of the past fifty years has been the expansion of its international presence. With branches, offices and agents throughout the world, the Press today is able to draw on a remarkable range of authors (currently around 33,000 from 120 different countries) and to market and distribute material (both print and electronic) to readers everywhere. Its 1,800 staff in sixty offices service an inventory of 34,000 in-print titles, growing at a rate of 2,800 new ISBNs per year, and a stockholding of 16m units in nine warehouses around the world.


CUP has a division called 'Canto' that offers economical reprints of their more popular books in a (often smaller) paperback. The editions state, "Canto is a paperback imprint which offers a broad range of titles, both classic and more recent, representing some of the best and most enjoyable of Cambridge publishing."


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 Statesmarker. CUP sent a letter to libraries asking them to remove copies from circulation. CUP subsequently sent out copies of an "errata" sheet. 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."


  1. History of the Bookshop, Cambridge University Press.
  3. A University Press Stands Up — and Wins : Inside Higher Ed : Higher Education's Source for News, and Views and Jobs


  • 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)
  • McKitterick, David; A History of Cambridge University Press, 3 volumes; Cambridge University Press. 1992-2004; ISBN 978-0-521-30801-4, ISBN 978-0-521-30802-1 & ISBN 978-0-521-30803-8

  • The Press' reply to the Alms for Jihad Controversy:

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