Boydell & Brewer: Golden Years (a Reprise)

This has been a very special year for Boydell & Brewer. Alongside a busier than ever publishing schedule, a great deal of systems modernisation, and welcoming a number of new colleagues, the company celebrated its 50th anniversary. That’s fifty years of publishing leading-edge research, ground-breaking studies and unique projects. And all achieved while uncompromisingly independent, a status that is set to continue now that the company is owned by the employees.

Here is a quick survey of our golden anniversary year.

Our first focus was on how to ‘label’ the year and literally mark each book published in 2019. A great logo should be symbolic, unique, instantly recognisable and appear so perfectly apt as to be utterly irreducible. Dull, generic logos say a great deal too, betraying a lack of ambition, creativity or attention to detail. It’s safe to say that our logo designs got a LOT of attention for a very long time! We were fortunate indeed to draw on the skills of the great Simon Loxley who devised the graceful but striking logo that became the year’s emblem, and if you visit our Facebook page you can read his account of its creation.

With our logo in place, we were ready to concentrate on that essential core of any corporate celebration: merchandise! Many of you will have seen our colourful coasters and bunting at conferences, along with the little booklet especially prepared by Dr Richard Barber, Boydell’s Medieval Alphabet, and our rather lovely and very popular tumblers. Only a very few of these remain but one is available to whoever comments with the best reason why they think they should have it. Get creative and I’ll pick a winner on Christmas Eve and post it in the New Year.

We took the opportunity to look back over great titles from our past with our 50 Years in 50 Books special offer online, and via a series of blogs to learn more about the books which often mean so much to our staff, the first that they ever worked on. A series comparing translated editions with their originals also presented a nice opportunity to look back at some classics old and new, and to see where in the world they’d found a new market in a new language: #BBTranslations.

Come the summer, our colleagues in the Rochester, NY, office celebrated in style, first with a delightful cruise along the Erie Canal and later with a party at Rochester HQ. Rochester parties hard, so is it, we wonder, entirely a coincidence that the team has since temporarily decamped to a new site while the old offices are ‘renovated’? In fairness, they had a lot to celebrate: alongside B&B turning 50, the University of Rochester Press turned 30 and Camden House turned 40. Three great reasons for a good party.

But there was a lot of work too, representing B&B at numerous conferences (where their anniversary notebooks were available) and co-organising the Upstate Publishing Summit held at the University of Rochester’s Humanities Center in Rush Rhees Library. Attendees included Cornell University Press, Open Letter Books, RIT Press, SUNY Press, and Syracuse University Press.

The UK office had its own party later in the year, in October, back where everything first started: Richard Barber’s house in rural Suffolk. Generations of staff and friends met to celebrate the event, mark the years and reminisce, and to hail the great achievement of Dr Barber himself.

Michael Brewer, Peter Clifford, James Powell, Richard Barber

Throughout the year several books across all subjects won major prizes. Even after all this time, it’s immensely gratifying to see our books recognised like this and we are hugely proud of and happy for our authors and editors. If you want to see the list click HERE.

As 2019 rolled to a close, a full-page announcement of the anniversary appeared in the first issue of the revamped Times Literary Supplement, which we thought very fitting given that we too are always looking ahead and preparing for the future. Alongside some highlights from the year, the ad heralded major forthcoming works from Nicholas Rogers and Richard Barber.

Fifty years of independent publishing is something of which we are unashamedly proud. It’s a milestone that many presses never reach. The anniversary has given a special glow to our work this year and in all honesty, we’ll miss it when it has passed. But as good as it has been, 2019 has, like any year, also brought its challenges. So, we celebrate the achievement but now look ahead to the future, a new year brimming with new books which we hope will continue to inform and inspire our readers.

To all who have contributed to Boydell’s 50 years and to all our readers and followers we say thank you, we couldn’t have done it without you. We wish you all a wonderful holiday and a peaceful and happy New Year.


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