About the Press
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The University of Utah Press is an agency of the J. Willard Marriott Library of The University of Utah. In accordance with the mission of the University, the Press publishes and disseminates scholarly books in selected fields, as well as other printed and recorded materials of significance to Utah, the region, the country, and the world.
The University of Utah Press currently publishes in the following general subject areas: anthropology, archaeology, Mesoamerican studies, American Indian studies, linguistics, natural history, nature writing, Utah and Western history, Mormon studies, Utah and regional guidebooks, and regional titles. The Press employs seven full-time staff members and publishes between 25 and 30 titles per year. The Press has more than 500 titles currently in print.
Founded in 1949 by University president A. Ray Olpin, the University of Utah Press is the oldest press in Utah.
Beginning with a budget of only $15,000 per year, the Press’s first two directors were professors who had to fit their work at the Press around other responsibilities. But as the importance of university presses to the publication of scholarly books gained momentum nationally, funding grew, and in 1961 the Press hired its first full-time director. Dr. Russell Mortensen came to the Press with eleven years experience working as director and editor of the Utah State Historical Society. He expanded the Press’s publishing program and determined that it would publish on the topics of philosophy, economics, geography, anthropology, the history and culture of the American West, and Mormon studies.
The first book the Press published was Victor Sears’s New Teeth for Old in 1949. Other early titles include Of Medicine, Hospitals, and Doctors (Richards, 1953), The Administration of Public Education in Utah (Paulsen, 1950), and The Bird Life of the Great Salt Lake (Behle, 1958).
In 1950 the Press joined with the Department of Anthropology to begin producing a series of monographs, the University of Utah Anthropological Papers (UUAP). New titles continue to be added to this series.
The Press also worked with the anthropology department and the School of American Research (now School for Advanced Research) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to publish the English translation of Florentine Codex: General History of the New Things of Spain. The Florentine Codex, so named because the manuscript has been part of the Laurentian Library’s collections since at least 1791, was written in the sixteenth century by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún and provides key information about the Aztecs. The translation of this twelve-volume work from Nahuatl to English was a grand undertaking that took professors Charles Dibble and Arthur Anderson thirty years to complete. The English translation of the Codex was finally completed in 1982.
The early 1970s, saw the dedicated leadership of director Norma Mikkelsen and her staff. She oversaw the publication of Bright Essence, which received excellent reviews and was selected by the MLA as an alternate selection for their book club; Joe Hill, which sold well and was the first of the Press’s books to be reviewed in the New York Times; and Photographed All the Best Scenery, which was awarded the Bookbuilders Award of Excellence. The Press grew and began publishing an annual poetry volume, which eventually included The Old One and the Wind by Clarice Short and Brewster Ghiselen’s Windrose.
When Mikkelson stepped down to become editor-in-chief, the Press continued to grow and change with successive directors Steven Hess, David Catron, and Nana Anderson.
Jeff Grathwohl became director in 1994. During his tenure he built up the archaeology list and created the Foundations of Archaeological Inquiry (FAI) series. The controversial book Man Corn, which asserts that cannibalism occurred among Southwest Indians, drew attention to press authors Christie and Jacqueline Turner.
Over the years, the Press has published a number of significant biographies and autobiographies. These include books about Orrin Porter Rockwell, Juanita Brooks, David O. McKay, France Davis, Amasa Lyman, Dave Rust, Grant Johanneson, Willis Ritter, Izzy Wagner, John Price, and Chase Peterson.
The Press has also attracted writers who have gone on to very successful careers.
Eleanor Ross Taylor, who published her poetry volume Days Going/ Days Coming Back with the Press in 1991, received the 2010 Ruth Lily Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement, and Jane Springer, whose Dear, Blackbird won the Press’s Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize in 2006, won the Whiting Writers Award in 2010.
Novelist Mark Spragg launched his career with the Press in 1999 with Where Rivers Change Direction; he has since gone on to write successful novels, including An Unfinished Life, which became a film starring Robert Redford.
A number of prominent archaeologists have published their works with the Press, including four recipients of the Society for American Archaeology’s Lifetime Achievement Award: Don D. Fowler, George C. Frisson, Linda Cordell, and W. Raymond Wood. Jesse D. Jennings, a prominent University of Utah professor and author of numerous Press titles, received the Alfred Vincent Kidder Award for Eminence in the Field of American Archaeology. Books published by the University of Utah Press have made significant contributions to the field.
Traces of Fremont: Society and Rock Art in Ancient Utah
by Steven Simms and François Gohier won the Society for American Archaeology Book Awards for Public Audience; and Shannon Novak’s
House of Mourning: A Biocultural History of the Mountain Meadows Massacre
won the Society for Historical Archaeology James Deetz Book Award. In 2008 the Press announced the Don D. and Catherine S. Fowler Prize in anthropology.
For a complete listing of Press award winners, please click here.