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Cambridge University Press was established as the University’s own printing house in 1696, although the University had been authorised to licence printers since 1534, with the first book printed in 1584. The Press has been the Queen's Printers since 1989.

Minute books, photographs, building plans, financial records, printing ledgers, art work, newspaper cuttings, and author correspondence files give evidence of the people and changing technologies of Cambridge University Press.

Some treasures in the Press Archive include the Articles appointing Thomas Thomas as Printer to the University (1586), Press petitions to the monarch relating to printing privileges and disputes (from 1615), vouchers for payments made by University Printers (from 1696), minutes of Syndicate meetings (from 1696), agents' accounts for the delivery of books (1766), letters from authors to the Press (from 1873), estimates and orders records (from 1840), and a printed war-service list for staff (1939–45).

The Cambridge University Press Archivist is working to improve the structure and detail of the current listing of the Press Archive, to complete the retrospective conversion of paper finding aids and to create descriptions from scratch for uncatalogued material. The resultant catalogue will greatly enhance access to the archives, which, at more than 500m, form the largest constituent part of the University Archives outside the records of the central administration and are unique among publishers’ records in their diversity and time span. Cambridge University Press generously agreed to fund this project, which began in January 2010.

Records are being added to Janus, the webserver for catalogues of Cambridge archives. Please see the collection level description for more information about the size and scope of the archive. To understand how the records are arranged and catalogued, it is important to recognise that they fall within various categories and it may be necessary to search in more than one place to find the information you require. Papers created before the first Curators (later Syndics) in 1696, will be found in the University Archives rather than the Press Archive (for example, the Letters Patent of 26 Henry VIII granting to the University the right to appoint three stationers within the University and to print all manner of books, 20 July 1534 is found in UA/Luard 162). Internal administrative records created after 1696 are organised within a distinct Press Archive (Pr and CUP within Janus).

Press records have been transferred to the University Archives on permanent loan at various dates from 1957 onwards.

Publications

A guide to the archives of Cambridge University Press (Chadwyck-Healey Ltd: Bishops Stortford, 1973) by E. Leedham-Green

"University Press records in the University Archives: an account and a check list" in Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society VIII, 1984, pp.398-418 by E. Leedham-Green

A History of Cambridge University Press, by D. J. McKitterick: Volume I: Printing and the Book Trade in Cambridge, 1534-1698, 1992; Volume 2: Scholarship and Commerce, 1698-1872, 1998; Volume 3: New Worlds for Learning, 1873-1972 (2004)

Cambridge University Press 1584-1984, by M. H. Black (1984)

A Short History of Cambridge University Press, by M. H. Black (1992; second edition, 2000)

Printing and Publishing for the University of Cambridge: Three Hundred Years of the Press Syndicate, by Gordon Johnson (1999)

The Cambridge University Press 1696-1712: A Bibliographic Study by D.F. McKenzie: Volume 1: Organisation an Policy of the Cambridge University Press; Volume 2 (1966)

A List of Books Printed in Cambridge at the University Press 1521-1800 (1935 Compiled by G.R. Barnes)

The Emblem the Arms and the Motto of the University of Cambridge: Notes on their use by University Printers by the Rev. H.P. Stokes Litt.D  (no date, but printed by Walter Lewis)

Chadwyck-Healey Microfilm (CUL MS m/film check ref -2629)

Associated material

For further Press records, see class UA Min.VI.1*; CUR 33.1-8; Press accounts and vouchers; Char.II.13; U.Ac.2-3; Lett.9, 17; D.I.2; VCCorr.I.1.

For records of printers and designers associated with the Press, and their private presses, see catalogues held in Cambridge University Library Department of Manuscripts:

MS Add.9812  Papers of Stanley Morison (archive covers 1841–1990)

MS Add.9815  Papers of John Dreyfus (archive covers 1935-2002)

MS Add.9816  Rampant Lions Press Archive (archive covers 1924–2009)

MS Add.9818  Edward Johnston papers on his type-designs for the Cranach Press.

(archive covers1904-1972)

MS Add.9929 Papers of John Peters

MS Add.9861  Vine Press Archive (archive covers 1956-1971).

Cambridge University Press catalogues (also known as ‘Seasonal Lists’ or ‘Sales Catalogues’): Cam.c.11.52.22- for catalogues 1945-1983; Cam.b.11.41.1- for catalogues from 1984 onwards.

Images

Hand-composition in the old Printing House. Photographer: J. Palmer Clarke. ca. 1900–1916. Temporary classmark: UA 2008/1/1.

Costs of publishing the revised second edition of Isaac Newton's Principia mathematica, 1713, proposed by Richard Bentley, Master of Trinity College. From the minute book (1696–1749) of the 'Curators of the Press', as the Syndics were then called, classmark: UA Pr.V.1, p. 42.

For further information, please contact Rosalind Grooms, Project Archivist, or Jacky Cox, Keeper of the University Archives.