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The Story of York Medieval Press: 1997-2007

In its early years the University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies [CMS] published with D.S. Brewer, and there was a prominent early series publishing the proceedings of the York Manuscript Conferences. Then, in 1996, Richard Barber of Boydell and Brewer and Alastair Minnis came up with the idea and name of the Centre for Medieval Studies’ own press: ‘York Medieval Press, in association with Boydell and Brewer Ltd.’ The first volume was published in 1997 (Medieval Theology and the Natural Body, ed. Peter Biller and A.J. Minnis), and opposite the title page was the mission statement:

Our objective is the promotion of innovative scholarship and fresh criticism on medieval culture. We have a special commitment to interdisciplinary study, in line with the Centre's belief that the future of Medieval Studies lies in those areas in which its major constituent disciplines at once inform and challenge each other.

Under the guidance of the first general editor, Alastair Minnis, further volumes emerged. They measured 23.4 x 15.6 cm, had plain bindings in dark blue, green or brown, with a 10.4 x 5.4 cm label pasted onto the front cover imprinted with title, author and publisher. There were no dust jackets. The only flamboyance was the gilt lettering on the spine, and the only flag a tiny black engraving on the title-page that depicted the University of York and its coat of arms. Austerity was the physical style of the early monographs and edited collections or conference volumes published by YMP: sobriety that elegantly offset the intellectual glitter of the cutting edge materials they contained.

The Story of York Medieval Press: From 2007 to now

YMP continued under the General Editors who succeeded Alastair Minnis - W. Mark Ormrod (†), Jocelyn Wogan-Browne and Peter Biller. There have been changes, first of all one of style - the replacement of plainness by colour. The last plainly bound volume appeared in 2007. Later volumes have continued (generally) to eschew dust jackets. But each of their front covers now has a strikingly sharp and colourful image printed directly onto the binding. It is often the reproduction of a detail in a medieval manuscript or painting, adroitly chosen to punch home the book’s focus. Here are some examples from 2019:


The expansion has meant on the one hand a larger general list, and on the other hand a proliferation of YMP’s series dedicated to specific areas. These are now (i) Health and
Healing in the Middle Ages, (ii) Heresy and Inquisition in the Middle Ages, (iii) York Manuscript and Early Print Studies (this replaced the earlier Manuscript Culture in the British Isles), (iv) Political Culture in the Middle Ages and (v) Writing History in the Middle Ages; their details are given below.  Secondly, there has been expansion. By October 2020 YMP had published 91 books. Images of them, together with their contents and publications, can be found on the Boydell and Brewer web-site.

Though the general list has some particular clusters, such as a collections of studies on later medieval English monarchs, its range and variety have increased. A quick glance at recent years reveal it ranging from gender and medicine (Zubin Mistry’s Abortion in the Early Middle Ages, c. 500-900) to high medieval intellectual history (Herbert of Bosham, edited by Michael Staunton), Christians and Jews (in studies of the York massacre of 1190 edited by Sarah Rees Jones and Sethina Watson), coronation ritual (in Johanna Dale’s comparative study of Inauguration and Liturgical Kingship in the empire, England and France) and later medieval chivalry (Craig Taylor’s A Virtuous Knight). YMP has continued to welcome proposals from first time authors whose doctoral dissertations were based on interdisciplinary research carried out at York’s CMS; a recent example is Holly Morgan’s Beds and Chambers in Late Medieval England. But the authors and editors published by YMP range from young scholars to senior ones, and their academic milieu is often not York but elsewhere in Britain, Europe or other continents. YMP’s Heresy and Inquisition series, for example, has published books rooted in dissertations whose research took place in York, London and Turku (Finland), as well as a book edited by senior scholars at the Universities of Iowa and Vermont. And although interdisciplinarity has remained a special interest, YMP has also published much single-discipline work.