Dec. 1-7, 2000
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University Press director to retire
Tom Cogill
Nancy Essig

University Press director to retire

By Robert Brickhouse

During Nancy Essig's 12-year tenure, the state's only university press has roughly doubled the number of books it publishes annually and been acclaimed for the breadth and strength of its offerings. Several of its scholarly book series are known worldwide as the best in their field and many of its 50 to 60 new titles a year are widely reviewed.

Essig, director of the University Press and a longtime leader in scholarly publishing, has announced that she will retire at the end of April.

"It's been a difficult decision to make," she said. "I love publishing books, but I have been doing it all my adult life and I want to try some other things, too. Virginia has been a special place to publish books, with a caring staff, a collegial faculty and a supportive administration."

Her retirement plans include learning more about Southern history and writing a book about the family of Virginia writer Ellen Glasgow.

Among the publishing areas that the Virginia press has become known for in recent years are African- American history and literature, a strength that Essig takes special satisfaction in. Other outstanding areas include Caribbean and African literature translated from French, Victorian literature and culture, and new series on the American South and on Jefferson's America. U.Va. faculty serve as editors of all these series.

Established in 1963 and charged with advancing scholarly publishing throughout Virginia, the press also has a long record of publishing books that explore the historical, cultural and natural resources of the state and the region. Essig is its third director.

Essig has helped guide the Virginia Press into growing prominence during a time of rapid change in the publishing industry. At a time when sales of scholarly monographs have fallen nationally because of library budget cuts, she has sought to fulfill the press's main scholarship mission and also to acquire books by scholars writing for a wider audience and has produced many strong sellers. The press is also publishing books in partnerships with other groups such as Colonial Williamsburg, The Mariners Museum, and historical societies to help defray costs of publication and reach new markets.

Essig, who was previously assistant director at the Johns Hopkins University Press, publicity director at Columbia University Press and in trade publishing, has served on the board of directors of the Association of American University Presses and was founding editor of its newsletter, "The Exchange." She has also been president of Women in Scholarly Publishing and of the Washington/Baltimore chapter of the Women's National Book Association. She has taught publishing courses at Howard University, George Washington University, and in the Summer Publishing Institute of the University of Denver.

A committee to conduct a national search for her successor is expected to be appointed shortly.


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