York Medieval Press: Our 100th Book and Beyond

It is York Medieval Press’s 100th – no, NOT its 100th birthday, its 100th book! This was Hannah Ryley’s Re-using Manuscripts in Late Medieval England, published over the summer. But the story of York Medieval Press (YMP) starts in 1996, when Richard Barber (from Boydell & Brewer) and Alastair Minnis (from York’s Centre for Medieval Studies) came up with the idea and name of the press. It launched in 1997 – with Medieval Theology and the Natural Body, edited by Alastair and Pete Biller – and since then it’s been flying. We’re not stopping at 100 though: there are more YMP volumes than ever before in various stages of production, so look out for those in the coming months and years.

YMP has changed a bit over the course of 100 volumes, mostly for the better! Many of the early volumes were very plain: no dust wrappers, no images on the covers, just plain dark blue, brown or green books with little author and title labels. This changed in 2006, and since then the covers, beautifully curated by Boydell’s designers, have had a riot of colour and thematically adroit choices of medieval images: not least on the cover of Nicola McDonald’s high-selling Medieval Obscenities.

YMP’s influence has also expanded beyond the confines of York’s (admittedly very picturesque) city walls. While the publication list from the early years shows lots of York authors and editors, more recent lists show scholars from Cambridge, Edinburgh, Dublin, London and Oxford and other UK universities, as well as many north American universities and – very recently – a few European universities as far flung as the Basque University, Lublin in Poland and Turku in Finland.

Though the topics represented in the YMP lists are many and various, a few trends can be detected. They include an expression of the influence of the CMS’s interdisciplinarity, in titles such as Brothers and Sisters, Rites of Passage, Time, Treasure and Youth; the influence of YMP’s second general editor, the late Mark Ormrod, in books on later medieval kings and government; and the influence of York’s English Department in the publication of many studies of middle English literature and its manuscripts.

Some of the trends solidified into YMP’s series. Manuscript Culture in the British Isles launched in in 2008 and in 2021 morphed into York Studies in Manuscript and Early Print Culture, and is currently edited by Holly James-Maddox from York and Orietta Da Rold from Cambridge. Heresy and Inquisition, started in 2011, is edited by John Arnold from Cambridge, alongside Pete Biller and Lucy Sackville from York. Next to be founded was Writing History, in 2015, and edited now by Laura Cleaver from London and Liesbeth van Houts from Cambridge. The newer series are Political Culture, from 2020, edited by Anthony Musson, from Historic Royal Palaces, and Health and Healing, begun in 2021 and edited by Peregrine Horden from All Souls/Royal Holloway and Sara Ritchie from Kentucky. Both in these series and in the general list, YMP continues to present new views of traditional topics, as well as adjusting quickly to areas of new interest. To take one recent publication as an example: YMP’s 94th book was Medieval Ethnicities (2021) written by Claire Weeda (Leiden University). We have heard recently from Claire that it is currently being translated into Russian and – on the day she was writing, September 22 – she was in Katowice talking about the book at the Polish National Medieval Historians Conference. YMP has come a long way since 1996 and travelled far from York in many ways; long may this continue!

To celebrate this momentous occasion, YMP is bringing together past editors and authors, series editors, collaborators from Boydell and the CMS community for a party on Wednesday 19th October. We encourage you to raise a long-distance toast, wherever you may be, to its continued vitality and success, as we look forward to the next hundred volumes.        

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