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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Founded in 1929 and located in Norman, Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma (OU) Press has a long history as a preeminent publisher of books on the state of Oklahoma and the Southwest, the larger American West, and American Indians. The press has won national and international acclaim with its publications in history, literature, classical studies, military history, and political and natural sciences.

The OU Press was the idea of William Bennett Bizzell, a humanist and book collector who in 1925 became the University of Oklahoma's fifth president. Bizzell's idea was ambitious. With OU Press, he established the first university press in the American Southwest and only the fourth in the American West. By 1929 a press staff was in place, including its first director, Rhodes Scholar and Tulsa Tribune city editor Joseph A. Brandt. The first publication to bear the OU Press imprint was The Terminology of Physical Science by Duane Roller, Sr., published in 1929. The second press imprint was the first volume of a four-volume series of southwestern materials called Folk-Say, A Regional Miscellany (1929), compiled by OU faculty member Benjamin A. Botkin. Under Brandt, the press won national renown. He created two series that would serve as press hallmarks: the Civilization of the American Indian Series and the American Exploration and Travel Series. At the turn of the twenty-first century they respectively included 250 and 80 volumes.

When Brandt left OU Press in 1938 to become director of Princeton University Press, he was succeeded by Savoie Lottinville, another Rhodes Scholar. Lottinville, who had been Brandt's assistant since 1933, would lead the press as director until his retirement in 1967. Under Brandt, the press had published five to six titles annually, but Lottinville greatly expanded the output. By the time of his retirement OU Press had published 750 titles and was annually issuing 75 new titles. Lottinville also expanded the press's publishing interests, especially in the history of the American West, and inaugurated two new series, the Western Frontier Library and the Centers of Civilization. The largest number of copies printed by OU Press was 600,000, produced from a manuscript titled The Grassland Livestock Handbook. Lottinville considered Edward H. Faulkner's Plowman's Folly (1943), which sold more than 355,000 copies, to be one of the most important titles because it assured the press's financial security.

Edward A. Shaw succeeded Lottinville, who had trained Shaw as an OU Press Fellow while he did graduate work at OU. Serving fourteen years as director, Shaw established the critically acclaimed Variorum Chaucer and published such landmark books as Angie Debo's A History of the Indians of the United States (1970). George Bauer, previously associate director at Cornell University Press, succeeded Shaw and in his fifteen years as director established such successful series as the Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture Series (1987), Oklahoma Western Biographies (1988), American Indian Literature and Critical Studies (1992), and Animal Natural History (1996).

John N. Drayton, who had served as editor-in-chief since 1981, succeeded Bauer in 1998. By 2005 Drayton had overseen the inauguration of four new series, including Literature of the American West (1997), Campaigns and Commanders (2002), Chicana and Chicano Visions of the Americas (2002), and the American Indian Law and Policy Series (2003). Among notable titles issued during Drayton's tenure was the acclaimed Historical Atlas of Central America (2003).

A department of the University of Oklahoma and a member of the Association of American University Press, OU Press has published ninety books a year and has distributed books for three other academic publishers. Its authors have been drawn from throughout the world, and its books have been reviewed in major publications. By the beginning of the twenty-first century the press had published nearly thirty-nine thousand books since its inception. Between 1995 and 2005 OU Press and its authors earned more than 160 awards and honors.

Charles E. Rankin


Jane Glenn Cannon, "Marketing Scholarly Gems," Sooner Magazine 23 (Spring 2003).

Arrell Morgan Gibson, "A History of the University of Oklahoma Press," Journal of the West 7 (October 1968).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Charles E. Rankin, “University of Oklahoma Press,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=UN012.

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