Mission and History

Mission Statement

Northwestern University Press is dedicated to publishing works of enduring scholarly and cultural value, extending the university’s mission to a community of readers throughout the world.


From its inception, Northwestern University Press has been at the forefront in publishing important works of scholarship as well as quality works of fiction, drama, nonfiction, and poetry. Prestigious authors first published by Northwestern University Press have been the recipients of numerous prizes, including the Nobel Prize in Literature and the National Book Award.

Founded in 1893, the Press in its early years was dedicated to the publication of legal periodicals and scholarly books dealing with the law. In 1957 the Press was established as a separate university publishing company and began expanding its offerings with new series in various fields, including African studies, phenomenology and existential philosophy, literature, and literary criticism.

In 1963, the Press published Viola Spolin’s landmark volume, Improvisation for the Theater: A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques. This “bible” of improvisational theater has sold more than one hundred thousand copies since its publication and, with several other Spolin titles, forms the foundation of a large body of theater and performance studies books the Press publishes, including works by Tony and Academy Award winners such as Mary Zimmerman, Tracy Letts, and Horton Foote, as well as emerging playwrights David Ives and Craig Wright.

The 1960s also saw the beginnings of the Northwestern University Press–Newberry Library alliance to produce the definitive edition of the writings of Herman Melville in conjunction with the Modern Language Association. The Press has won major translation awards for Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Writer’s Diary: Volume I, 1873–1876, translated by Kenneth Lantz; Ignacy Krasicki’s Adventures of Mr. Nicholas Wisdom, translated by Thomas H. Hoisington; and Petra Hulova’s All This Belongs to Me: A Novel, translated by Alex Zucker. In 1997 the Press won a National Book Award for Poetry for William Meredith’s Effort at Speech, followed by a 2011 win for Nikky Finney’s Head Off & Split. Several of the Press’s titles, including Fording the Stream of ConsciousnessStill Waters in Niger, and The Book of Hrabal, have been named Notable Books by the New York Times Book ReviewFlorida, a novel by Christine Schutt, was a finalist for a National Book Award in 2004.

The Press’s award-winning imprint, TriQuarterly Books, is devoted primarily to contemporary American fiction and poetry. In 2010, Northwestern University Press acquired the prestigious publisher of world literature Curbstone Press. The Curbstone imprint remains active and committed to its original mission.

The Press publishes important works in continental philosophy, Slavic studies, literary criticism, and European and world classics, publishing series in many of these fields. Its regional books include A Theater of Our Own by Richard Christiansen, Bridges of Memory by Timuel L. Black, You Need a Schoolhouse by Stephanie Deutsch, and Chicago Lives, a series of memoirs and biographies of important Chicagoans.

Northwestern University Press is committed to the widest possible dissemination of scholarship, such as cooperative distribution of electronic books to academic libraries with UPCC/MUSE. The Press continues to explore new media as it strives to promote the finest works of scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.

Learn more about upcoming publications, events, and news from Northwestern University Press.