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Former University of Chicago Press Director Morris Philipson Has Died

Morris Philipson was director of the University of Chicago Press from 1967 to 2000, a long and noble career.

Last week he died of a heart attack at age 85.

Philipson was responsible during his tenure for introducing innovations that transformed academic publishing, “once almost exclusively the domain of important but arcane scholarly works,” and in the process turning University of Chicago Press into one of the most important academic presses in the country.

He published the first work of fiction in the publishing house’s history, which ended up being “A River Runs Through It,” a book that became “a perennial money-maker” for the press.

Through this and other more “consumer-friendly” works he was able to finance the expensive, academic, money-losing ventures.

According to the New York Times, Philipson famously once said: “The commercial publisher says of his book, ‘This is no good, but it’ll make a lot of money.’ The university publisher says, ‘This is good and it won’t make money.’ ”

He added, “Suppose an important book sells only 100 or 200 copies a year? Doesn’t it deserve to live? We think so.”

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