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April 13, 2012

Case Western Reserve University Press

Although Western Reserve University did not formally establish a university press till much later, as early as 1895 WRU published scholarly articles, in the form of a serial titled The Western Reserve University Bulletin. The April 1895 announcement explained the publication was:

“designed to serve as a medium of communication between the University and its alumni, friends and the general body of scholars engaged in teaching or research. It will contain a report of the most important acts of the Board of Trustees and of the Faculty, a record of the publications and public lectures of the Faculty and of the more important accession to the library; accounts of special research work in prosecution; original contributions from the Faculty or advanced students dealing with subjects of scientific or educational interest; ... and such other matter as shall be deemed suitable for the ends in view, which are the diffusion of information in regard to the work of the University, the preservation of a permanent record of its activities and the promotion of science in the broadest sense, by the publication of original contributions to knowledge.” [1AB1 1:1 The Western Reserve University Bulletin volume 1 number 1 (April 1895): 1]

The range of topics treated in the Bulletin was quite broad in scope. The first year’s issues included Edward Gaylord Bourne’s “Phases of the Development of Western Reserve University,” Edward W. Morley’s, “The Atomic Weight of Oxygen,” Samuel Ball Platner’s “Bibliography of the Younger Pliny,” Arthur Hull Mabley’s “Bibliography of Juvenal.” The Bulletin continued publication until 1931.

It was not until 1928 that Western Reserve University investigated the feasibility of establishing a university press. The conclusion then was to print only the University’s own catalogs and subsidized books. Ten years later President Leutner appointed the Western Reserve University Press committee to work out the details of a university press. This committee recommended instead of a separate body, that a University Committee on Publications be established to approve all WRU publications. During the next few decades recommendations for a more vigorous scholarly publication program were occasionally made but financial constraints seem to have limited such expansion. The Committee on Publications continued to advise the University Editor, who directed the broader publications program.

In 1959, Willis T. Thornton became the first full-time Press director. The following year the Trustees established an endowment fund for the University Press, with an initial gift of $5,000 from Thornton. In 1962 a $200,000 gift from the Leonard Hanna Fund was added to the endowment fund. But the Press remained a small operation, publishing only three or four titles each year. By 1970 approximately 25 titles were published annually, but expenses had reached approximately $300,000 annually and much of the endowment principal had been expended. A three-year fundraising campaign was launched in 1971 with a goal of raising $250,000. By early 1973 less than $85,000 had been received. Annual deficits were over $100,000. As part of university-wide efforts to reduce deficits, the Trustees voted in February 1973 to close the Case Western Reserve University Press.

Records in the University Archives document the many effort