Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget eliminates state funding for the University Press of Kentucky. If this goes through, the press will shut down after 75 years of exemplary publishing.
That would be especially devastating for Appalachian history, since UPK is one of the most important publishers in the field. Civil War and Southern history would take quite a hit, too. But this goes beyond historiography, since UPK is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in state and regional topics as a whole, as as Tom Eblen explains:
Thomas D. Clark, the legendary Kentucky historian, helped start UPK in 1943. Since then, it has published 2,100 books that have sold 4.6 million copies in 40 countries. Currently, about 85 percent of its sales are books in print and 15 percent are e-books.
While scholarly publishing is part of UPK’s mission, Salisbury has increased the focus on important books about Kentucky and Appalachia that will sell well in the region but don’t have the kind of national audience mass-market publishers require.
Among them: The Kentucky Encyclopedia, the Kentucky African American Encyclopedia, Atlas of Kentucky, The Complete Guide to Kentucky State Parks and countless books of Kentucky history, biography, literature and explorations of the state’s culture, politics, food, bourbon, plants, animals and trees.
UPK publishes contemporary Kentucky writers, such as Crystal Wilkinson and Bobbie Ann Mason, and has kept in print works by famous Kentucky authors of the past, such as Robert Penn Warren, Jesse Stuart, James Still and Janice Holt Giles.
Upcoming publications include a cultural history of Elkhorn Creek by former state poet laureate Richard Taylor; a comprehensive guide to Kentucky reptiles and amphibians; a book about the UK basketball team’s 1978 championship season; and a book about Kentucky Senators by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
As a publishing partner with the U.S. Army, UPK publishes a lot of military history. Several of its titles have made the Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List.
Now would be a good time to start contacting lawmakers in the Bluegrass State, folks.