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Slight change in press’ name confirms University’s support
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Slight change in press’ name confirms University’s support

By Robert Brickhouse

It’s more than rearranging the words. When the University Press of Virginia became the University of Virginia Press, starting with this month’s release of its fall catalog, the 39-year-old publishing house will more clearly define its relationship with its host institution, said U.Va. President John T. Casteen III.

Bemiss House
Photo by Jenny Gerow

Originally funded by the state legislature, the press is now largely self-funded, with some direct and indirect support from the University.

“At a time when some presses have dwindling support, we want to signal our strong commitment to bringing the highest quality scholarship to light, whether through print or new digital media,” Casteen said. “The press always has been a leader in publishing important works about the history and politics of the United States, about literature and other humanities fields, and about the Commonwealth of Virginia. Of course, all these long-standing interests will continue.”

“We expect this to be a win-win relationship,” said Penelope Kaiserlian, the press’ director. “The press gains support in its ambitions to become better known nationally, and the University formally acquires an established book program.

U.Va. will benefit whenever a book carrying its imprint is reviewed in a prominent newspaper or journal or the author is quoted in the media. Our publishing program will benefit from the continued service of senior faculty as series editors and board members and from the strengthening of our list in areas where the University has a great reputation, such as architecture and early American history.”

The name will also be on the press’ new electronic imprint when it publishes its first works next year, Kaiserlian said. The e-publishing program, supported by a $635,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and a matching amount from U.Va., will be the first devoted exclusively to publishing original, peer-reviewed digital scholarship in the humanities.

The press, which currently publishes 50 to 60 new titles annually by authors from around the world, received its first funding from the General Assembly. As it grew, it became largely self-supporting from sales income and endowment funds, but still received direct and indirect support from U.Va. in funds and space.

The press’ editorial program features special concentrations in American history, African-American studies, Southern studies, literature, ecocriticism and regional books, and it maintains a backlist of more 1,000 titles in print.

Titles in the press’ fall catalog also continue the publisher’s engagement with the cultural dilemmas of race, ethnicity and power relations in the U.S., the Caribbean and Africa. These include Race Man, a biography of John Mitchell Jr., the “fighting editor” of the black newspaper, The Richmond Planet; The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative; and The John Brown Legend Revisited by distinguished historian Merrill Peterson, whose association with the press goes back to its earliest days.


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