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Boydell & Brewer Ltd was formed in 1978. It merged two companies, Boydell Press and D.S. Brewer, whose founders, Richard Barber and Derek Brewer, were themselves scholars - Brewer a Chaucer specialist and subsequently Professor of English and Master of Emmanuel College, Barber a medieval historian and Arthurian.

Medieval studies originally formed the core of the list, but it has rapidly expanded to embrace the humanities in all periods up to and including the twentieth century: Colin White's edition of Nelson — The New Letters was considered one of the more enduring publications commemorating the 200th anniversary of the admiral's death.

In 1996 the company bought John Varey's Tamesis list and became the leading academic imprint outside Spain. Tamesis specialises in the publication of archive studies of Spanish theatrical history and scholarly editions and monographs relating to the literature, history, art and philology of the Spanish-speaking world. Recent titles include Companions to the Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Spanish cinema, Portuguese literature , Lope de Vega and a survey of Spanish Art in Britain and Ireland 1750-1920. In 2006 a new venture, Gallica, specializing in medieval French, was launched.

The Boydell Press has also become one of the leading publishers of books on classical music, with particular emphasis on British music and music of the twentieth century. Recent successes include Winton Dean's Handel's Operas 1726-1741 and a reissue of the first volume covering the composer’s operatic output from 1704, long out of print; volumes of Letters from a Life, the selected correspondence of Benjamin Britten; and Out of Silence by pianist and author, Susan Tomes. Boydell also distributes a number of music book publishers, including Plumbago Books, Toccata Press, and the English-language publications of the Paul Sacher Foundation.

Seeking to establish a presence in the US market, Boydell & Brewer entered into a partnership agreement with the University of Rochester to found the University of Rochester Press in June 1989, which now publishes between 20 and 30 books each year. Alongside publications in the fields of African studies, philosophy, and social and medical history, URP is also home to the prestigious Eastman Studies in Music series. In 1998 the US programme was extended further with Boydell & Brewer's acquisition of Camden House, a scholarly publisher of books on German and American literature and culture.

In 2008, the renowned publisher of books on African Studies, James Currey Ltd joined the Boydell and Brewer group of imprints. Founded in 1984, when James Currey left Heinemann Educational Books, this independent imprint continued his personal engagement in African publishing, which began with his first job at Oxford University Press, Cape Town, and continued through his role as publisher of the Heinemann African Writers series.

Boydell & Brewer publish and distribute for the Victoria County History and the Royal Historical Society, as well as several other learned societies. However, medieval history and literature remain the company's areas of undoubted excellence. Some recent highlights include Bloodied Banners: Martial Display on the Medieval Battlefield by Robert W Jones, A Companion to Bede by George Hardin Brown and The Maps of Matthew Paris: Medieval Journeys through Space, Time and Liturgy by Daniel K Connolly.

While embracing a philosophy of innovation and growth, Boydell & Brewer remains a defiantly independent publisher of scholarly works for the academic community and thought-provoking, attractively-produced books for the general reader.