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The Cambridge Modern History: Genesis of a reference publishing tradition

Ronald H. Fritze (Associate professor, Department of History, Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas.)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 1 February 1992



Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford: the names of these universities instantly conjure up images of the highest attainments of higher education. Of course, great universities also operate great university presses. So any reference book with the name of Oxford, Cambridge, or Harvard in the title possesses immediate credibility and saleability. But it was not always so. Prior to the latter half of the nineteenth century the Oxford and the Cambridge University Presses were known to the public primarily as publishers of the Bible. Oxford broke into reference publishing, and along with it widespread public recognition, by means of its famous dictionaries, of which the pinnacle was the massive Oxford English Dictionary. The Cambridge University Press [hereafter referred to as CUP] took a different approach to publishing scholarly reference works by producing authoritative and encyclopedic histories. According to S.C. Roberts, a long‐time secretary to the Syndics of the CUP, “apart from the Bible, the first book that made the Press well known to the general public was the Cambridge Modern History.”


Fritze, R.H. (1992), "The Cambridge Modern History: Genesis of a reference publishing tradition", Reference Services Review, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 81-96.




Copyright © 1992, MCB UP Limited

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