The Independent Archive: 6 April 1989 - Closing Chapter in a 500- Year Print Run Nicolas Barker Deplores the Passing of the Printing House Which Was Int Egral to the History of the Oxford University Press
Barker, Nicolas, The Independent (London, England)
NEXT MONTH the University Printing House, the oldest part of the Oxford University Press, will cease to exist, apart from a small unit for domestic printing. OUP now stands for a great publishing business, but printing has been part of the university since the first printer came to Oxford (if not to stay) in 1478. Two centuries later Bishop Fell really set up the business.
The foundation of the OUP ranks with the foundation of the Royal Society as one of the intellectual achievements of Restoration England. Clarendon's History of the Rebellion gave the press its first best-seller, and a name, attached to the new building paid for with the profits.
At the end of the 18th century, demand for bibles multiplied. The press put in new equipment, pioneered the stereotype process, and introduced steam-driven machines. It branched out into classics, Oriental texts, Keble's The Christian Year, Stubbs's Select Charters, Liddell and Scott's Greek lexicon. The great figure of the 19th century was Bartholomew Price. He turned the press to educational publishing, English literature, and took on James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary. He set up the bible warehouse in London, near St Paul's. "OUP" had now become a triad: the learned Clarendon Press and the Printing House at Oxford, with the "London Business" at Amen House. The printing house flourished. The "Revised Version" of the Bible was printed: on the day the New Testament was published, 17 May 1881, a million copies were sold. Clerk Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (1873) was the first of many great scientific works. Jowett's Plato, Skeat's Chaucer, Oxford Classical Texts, made OUP a household word to scholars all over the world. Fowler's Modern English Usage, the 1900 Oxford Book of English Verse, the first of many "Oxford Books", the "World's Classics", most pocketable of reprint series, added to its reputation in the 20th century. The press spread overseas. How is it that, with no early warning signal, the Printing House, the nucleus of a world-wide dominance of printing, should be closed? …