University Press of Kentucky Celebrates 75 Years

Three quarters of a century ago, what would become University Press of Kentucky (UPK) got its start in the history department at the University of Kentucky. Now, over 2100 books later, we are celebrating that history with a special LexArts Gallery Hop exhibit—UPK75—opening on the second floor of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning today from 5 to 8 pm. There will be entertainment, light refreshments, and book signings with several prominent Kentucky authors, including George Ella Lyon, Mike Norris, Richard Taylor, David J. Bettez, and more. The UPK75 exhibit will remain on display until mid-July.

Earlier this year, state appropriations for UPK were eliminated from the biennial budget, but the press will continue. In a statement released by University of Kentucky’s President, Eli Capiluto, he pledged to work “with our partner institutions to identify ways to sustain the financial viability of the press over the long term.” An open letter from Provost David W. Blackwell, Interim Dean of the Libraries Deirdre Scaggs, and our director, Leila W. Salisbury, outlines the long-term goal “to chart a strong path forward for UPK.”

With the support of the University of Kentucky, consortia partners, authors, and citizens throughout the commonwealth, we look forward to continuing to serve Kentucky as well as readers across the globe. “I’m deeply grateful for the many expressions of support for the press this winter,” said Salisbury, “from university administrators to librarians to educators to readers across the commonwealth. What became clear during the budget process was just how many people value what we do at the press. And that is a marvelous place to start the next seventy-five years of our history.”

The UPK75 exhibit will showcase our rich history through artifacts, book displays, historical documents, and more. The centerpiece is a timeline of that history, with artifacts and information illustrating key moments. Each of our four directors are highlighted, from Bruce F. Denbo, who was hired in 1950 and led UPK through the transition to a consortium representing fifteen different member institutions, to current director Leila W. Salisbury, who began working at the press full time in 1994 as assistant to the director. Among other items, the timeline will include our original analog database, letters and correspondence regarding the press’s founding, and interesting ephemera.

The exhibit will also include several specialized displays focusing on various aspects of press history and book production. A grouping of information on, material by, and artifacts from UPK founder, Thomas D. Clark (1903–2002), includes one of his canes, photographs, and a number of historic documents. It tells Clark’s story as it relates to the press and beyond, including his work in the UK history department and his role in founding the Kentucky Archives Commission in 1957. Other displays include artwork from renown folk artist Minnie Adkins that was featured in Mommy Goose: Rhymes from the Mountains, by Mike Norris and archival materials related to book production, including plate negatives, F&Gs, and bluelines.

Other initiatives for our 75th anniversary:

  • Cricket Press has designed a new 75th anniversary emblem.
  • UPK is a sponsor of Book Benches: A Tribute to Kentucky Authors, a collaborative public art project organized by Arts ConnectLexArts, and The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. A bench designed by artist Lora Gill and inspired by Crystal Wilkinson’s novel The Birds of Opulence will be permanently installed outside our offices on South Limestone Street.
  • A new and expanded second edition of The New History of Kentucky, by James C. Klotter and Craig Thompson Friend, will be released in October, bringing the flagship history of the commonwealth up to date.
  • UPK has initiated two new imprints with partner organizations. We will launch Andarta Books in conjunction with Brécourt Academic, publisher of the journal Global War Studies. Andarta Books will develop new books in military history and launch with books on the Battle of the Atlantic and WWII Yugoslavian prisoners of war appearing next year. Also next year, we will begin publishing a new imprint devoted to Appalachian creative writing with Hindman Settlement School—additional details to come later this year.
  • We were accepted to host one of Lexington Public Library’s Tiny Libraries, which will be permanently installed in front of our offices on South Limestone Street.
  • Horses in History, a new series edited by James C. Nicholson, will launch this fall with Taking Shergar: Thoroughbred Racing’s Most Famous Cold Case by Milton C. Toby. The series will explore the special human-equine relationship, encompassing a broad range of topics, from ancient Chinese polo to modern Thoroughbred racing. From biographies of influential equestrians to studies of horses in literature, television, and film, this series profiles racehorses, warhorses, sport horses, and plow horses in novel and compelling ways.
  • We are partnering with Kentucky Humanities on its Kentucky Reads project for 2018, a statewide literacy initiative centering on Kentucky native Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, All the King’s Men. In conjunction with the program, we will publish Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men: A Reader’s Companion, by Jonathan S. Cullick, a Warren scholar and professor of English at Northern Kentucky University, who will participate in several events as part of Kentucky Reads.

“We’re committed to developing books that explore Kentucky and its citizens from new perspectives and to working in even closer partnership with our consortia and community partners, as they help us better represent the rich geographic and other diversities of the state,” said Salisbury. “We look forward to further strengthening our profile as a relevant and service-oriented operation that allows Kentucky to tell its own story.”

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