The University Press of Kentucky (UPK) is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and was organized in 1969 as successor to the University of Kentucky Press. The university had sponsored scholarly publication since 1943. In 1949 the press was established as a separate academic agency under the university president, and the following year Bruce F. Denbo, then of Louisiana State University Press was appointed as the first full-time professional director. Denbo served as director of UPK until his retirement in 1978, building a small but distinguished list of scholarly books with emphasis on American history and literary criticism.
Since its reorganization, the Press has represented a consortium that now includes all of Kentucky’s state universities, five of its private colleges, and two historical societies. UPK serves Bellarmine University, Berea College, Centre College of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, The Filson Historical Society, Georgetown College, Kentucky Historical Society, Kentucky State University, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, Transylvania University, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and Western Kentucky University. Each constituent institution is represented on a statewide editorial board, which determines editorial policy.
Offices for the Administrative, Editorial, Production, and Marketing departments are found at the University of Kentucky, which is responsible for the overhead cost of the publishing operation. Denbo was succeeded as director by Kenneth H. Cherry, who came to UPK from the University of Tennessee Press. During his tenure, the size of the press more than quadrupled. Ken Cherry retired in the Fall of 2001, and his successor, Stephen Wrinn, formerly of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, began as new director in April 2002.
UPK’s editorial program focuses on the humanities and the social sciences. Its commitment to film and military studies has earned it a national reputation in recent years. Since the formation of the consortium, the press has broadened its appeal to readers in Kentucky and Appalachia with publications of special regional interest. In the 1970s it produced the Kentucky Nature Series and the forty-seven-volume Kentucky Bicentennial Bookshelf. The press publishes classic novels by Kentucky authors including Harriet Arnow, Janice Holt Giles, John Fox, Jr., James Still, and Jesse Stuart. More recent publications include The Kentucky Encyclopedia (1992), A New History of Kentucky (1997), Atlas of Kentucky (1998), and Encyclopedia of Louisville (2000).