A publishing and (formerly) printing business owned by the University and directed by its delegates of the press, of whom the vice‐chancellor is ex officio chairman. Its aims are to produce books of religious, scholarly, and educational value, and, its surplus profits being devoted to financing the editing and production of unremunerative works of this kind, its status is that of a charity.
Printing in Oxford by independent craftsmen began in the 15th cent., and in 1584 one of these was appointed ‘Printer to the University’. This title was borne by a succession of printers in the 17th cent. and was revived in 1925 for the head of the printing department of the Press. One press at Oxford was excepted from the prohibition of printing outside London by a decree of the Star Chamber in 1586, and in 1632 a royal charter allowed the University three presses and to print and sell ‘all manner of books’. Laud in 1634 bound the University to provide itself with a printing house; but a press under its immediate control did not come into being until 1690. In the meantime Fell had won an international reputation for Oxford books by his exercise of the University's privilege of printing, let to him in 1672.
Since then the Press has produced such famous books as Clarendon's History (1702), the Revised Version of the English Bible (1885), and The Oxford English Dictionary, completed in 1928.
The copyright in Clarendon's works, once very profitable, is secured to the University in perpetuity, and in his honour the building to which the Press moved in 1829 was named ‘The Clarendon Press’. This is the imprint given to learned books published under the supervision of the Secretary to the Delegates at Oxford.