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The University of Tennessee Press was established as a scholarly publisher in 1940 by the University of Tennessee’s Board of Trustees. Its mandate was threefold: to stimulate scholarly research in many fields; to channel such studies to a large readership; and to extend the University’s regional leadership by publishing worthy projects about the South, including those by non-University authors. The Press issued roughly one book a year for the next decade and a half. In 1957 it was reorganized and began a full-time publishing program. Production rose from three to four titles a year in the late 1950s to thirty-five to forty titles a year in the twenty-first century. Today the Press employs a staff of editorial, production, marketing, and business professionals. An editorial board comprising faculty members from each of the UT campuses oversees its publishing program, with input from peer reviewers around the world.

The Press has earned a national reputation for excellence with its lists in African American studies, southern history, Appalachian studies, material culture, and literary studies, as well as many regional popular books written for general readers. Among the Press’s award-winning publications are Richard Beale Davis’s Intellectual Life in the Colonial South, which won the 1978 National Book Award in history; Warren Grabau’s monumental Ninety-eight Days: A Geographer’s View of the Vicksburg Campaign (2000), which was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice magazine; Bobby Lovett’s dramatic The Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee: A Narrative History, which won the 2005 Tennessee History Book Award; and Laura Jarmon’s Wishbone: Reference and Interpretation in Black Folk Narrative (2003), also named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice. Four of the Press’s books in the field of material culture—Charles Martin, Hollybush: Folk Building and Social Change in an Appalachian Community (1985); Bernard L. Herman, Architecture and Rural Life in Central Delaware, 1700–1900 (1987); Kingston Heath, The Patina of Place: Cultural Weathering of a New England Industrial Landscape (2001); and J. Ritchie Garrison, Two Carpenters: Architecture and Building in Early New England, 1799–1859 (2007)—have won the coveted Abbott Lowell Cummings Award; no other publisher has won more than two.

While the Press’s publication program is nothing if not diverse, its books focus most often on the state of Tennessee or on Appalachia. Some outstanding examples include Horace Kephart, Our Southern Highlanders (1976); Durwood Dunn, Cades Cove: A Southern Appalachian Community (1988); Paul Bergeron, Stephen Ash, and Jeannette Keith, Tennesseans and Their History (1999); and Michael Montgomery and Joseph S. Hall, The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English (2004). Six books related to Appalachia have won the annual Weatherford Award, bestowed by the Appalachian Studies Conference. In 2006, in association with East Tennessee State University’s Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, the Press released the magisterial Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Edited by Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell and containing contributions from nearly 700 scholars, this 2,000-page reference work promises to be the most comprehensive resource on the region for decades to come.

The Press is actively exploring ways to carry forward its traditional commitments to scholarly excellence, to its diverse readers, and to its place within the larger mission of the University. One of the most exciting avenues of that future path is the digital environment. The Press has already begun to update and expand the online Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, which originally appeared in 2002, the second online state encyclopedia ever produced. More recently, the Press contracted to add eight volumes of the Andrew Jackson Papers to the American Founding Era collection of the University of Virginia Press’s Rotunda project. Rotunda Digital Editions is devoted to presenting the papers of major figures of the early republic with detailed annotations and careful transcriptions in a fully searchable and interoperable online environment. The Press also has long-term plans to create digital editions of its major reference works, the Encyclopedia of Appalachia and The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English. In addition, some of the Press’s books are already appearing in electronic form, accessible via the World Wide Web as well as in traditional hardcover and paperback editions, with more to come, including both backlist staples and titles new to the Press. As publishing technologies continue to change and expand, the University of Tennessee Press is rapidly evolving into a conduit for the scholarly communication of the future.

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