The Northwestern University Press was founded in 1893, at first specializing in legal periodicals. Today, the Press continues to publish scholarly books of fiction, non-fiction, and literary criticism. It is especially notable for its literature in translation publishing, especially by European writers.
The Northwestern University Press publishes books on a wide range of subjects and has developed a number of on-going series. One trade imprint includes Hydra Books, which features contemporary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in translation. The Press has also published the poetry journal TriQuarterly since 1992.
In the early 2000's, the Press began publishing a Chicago regional series.
Beginning in 2005, the Press implemented a new strategy aimed at mirroring the strengths and priorities of Northwestern University, at large. The Press published the first book in its Medill School of Journalism series Visions of the American Press in 2005, and the series will publish about 40 books in total (with four coming out each year). In addition, the Press has published several titles in conjunction with the Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management.
Over the years, the Northwestern University Press has published many notable titles. In the 1960's, the Press entered into the Northwestern University Press-Newberry Library alliance in publishing the definitive edition of the writings by Herman Melville in conjunction with the Modern Language Association. The Press also published Viola Spolin's, Improvisation for the Theater: A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques, which has sold more than one hundred thousand copies since its first publication.
The Press published two novels by the winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature, Hungarian author Imre Kertész. Several of the Press's titles have been named Notable Books by the New York Times Book Review. Florida, a novel by Christine Schutt, was a finalist for a National Book Award in 2004.