Melbourne University Press was founded in 1922 to sell books and stationery to students. MUP's founding publisher was Stanley Addison (1880-1972). According to University librarian Leigh Scott, 'perhaps the "very establishment" of Melbourne University Press, certainly its early progress, was due almost entirely to Addison's vision and continuing interest'. As the University's Assistant Registrar, Addison had been co-opted to a committee considering all aspects of book supply in the University, and he assumed responsibility for a university bookshop established in December 1921. In 1922, he organised publication of Myra Willard's History of the White Australia Policy to 1920, under a new imprint, Melbourne University Press.
Melbourne University Press published some sixty items under Addison's leadership, half of them substantial bound volumes. Anderson's Fixation of Wages in Australia was a bestselling title, selling 3000 copies in under a month in 1929. The Economic Record was launched in 1925, and publishing by agreement with the Australian Council for Educational Research began in 1930. Addison resigned, after a protracted illness, in 1931. (Source: G.F. James, 'Lest We Forget: Stanley Addison - MUP's remarkable founding publisher' in Australian Scholarly Newsletter, 1991, p. 4.)
In 1932, Frank Wilmot, otherwise known as Furnley Maurice, was appointed Manager of the Press. Frank Wilmot, who had entered the book trade through employment at Cole's Book Arcade, was meticulous by nature and a formidable scholar.Together with editor Barbara Ramsden, who had joined MUP in 1931, he established a reputation for 'high production standards thereafter synonymous with MUP'.
During the 1930s, MUP 'began to rival Angus & Robertson as a publisher of scholarly and historical titles'. Some titles were published in conjunction with the Australian branches of Oxford University Press or Macmillan. MUP also completed 60 volumes of the ACER Series before 1940. At the same time, MUP began publishing school and university textbooks for which there was a guaranteed market. Noteworthy titles of this period included M Barnard Eldershaw's Essays in Australian Fiction (1938) and E. Morris Miller's two-volume Australian Literature (1940). From 1932 until Frank Wilmot's sudden death in 1942, MUP published 'nearly 140 books'.
In 1943, historian Gwyn James (a.k.a. G.F. James) was appointed as the new Manager, and he led Press through a 'spectacular' period of expansion. MUP now had its own printery in Carlton. During the 1940s and 50s, under Gwyn James, book design and production values were significantly advanced. However, some of James's business decisions 'attracted considerable criticism', especially in light of a large bank overdraft.
From 1962, Manager Peter Ryan, a 'working editor' sought to give MUP independence from its parent body and to 'rein in its considerable debt'. Under his management, the printery was sold and, in 1967, the 'prestigious Miegunyah imprint' was established. Ryan also increased MUP's publishing output and consolidated its reputation as Australia's leading scholarly press.
In January 2003, MUP became Melbourne University Publishing Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Melbourne, managed by Louise Adler and continuing the proud 80-year history of Melbourne University Press. The name 'Melbourne University Press' remained as the general imprint, also used for scholarly titles.