That institutions such as the Oxford and Harvard University Presses have at present good opportunities for encouraging scientific research was pointed out by Sir William Osler, LL.D. '04 last night. Dr. Osler traced the development of the Oxford Press through its three centuries of existence, concluding that the similar venture at Harvard could succeed as well, if the learned and commercial interests were closely related.
The Oxford Press has had the longest continuous existence of any printing establishment. A press was instituted in 1478, but it did not come under the direct control of the university until 1585. Since that time its field of activity and its output have grown steadily. In 1830 its present large building was erected, which makes it the most self-contained press in the world, for all the paper, type, and even the glue and ink used are made within the plant.
The Oxford Press is administered by the vice-chancellor and a board of eleven delegates, all of whom are authors and scholars, serving only for a short period of years. Through the activity of its distribution office, which is an almost independent institution located in London, the Press has established flourishing branches in New York, Toronto, and India.
The largest piece of work now being accomplished by the Oxford Press is the preparation of a new English dictionary. The work should be finished by 1918, thirty years after the issuing of the first volume. The total cost of this dictionary will be about $500,000, but it is recognized as the greatest recent English literary work.
The output of the Press, explained Dr. Osler, is varied. The Bible, hymnals, and prayer books, which require the services of about half of the plant, are the greatest source of profit. These earnings are used to make up the deficit incurred by the publication of special books on research and the classics, which are issued, not for the financial considerations, but for the advancement of learning.
The speaker strongly encouraged the similar venture at Harvard, and noted how it could help to support scientific study. A large part of the work of such an institution must be the printing of special volumes which a publisher cannot handle properly