The press was founded by Whitney Darrow, with the financial support of Charles Scribner, as a printing press to serve the Princeton community in 1905. Its distinctive building was constructed in 1911 on William Street in Princeton. Its first book was a new 1912 edition of John Witherspoon's Lectures on Moral Philosophy.
Princeton University Press was founded in 1905 by a recent Princeton graduate, Whitney Darrow, with financial support from another Princetonian, Charles Scribner II. Darrow and Scribner purchased the equipment and assumed the operations of two already existing local publishers, that of the Princeton Alumni Weekly and the Princeton Press. The new press printed both local newspapers, university documents, The Daily Princetonian, and later added book publishing to its activities. Beginning as a small, for-profit printer, Princeton University Press was reincorporated as a nonprofit in 1910. Since 1911, the press has been headquartered in a purpose-built gothic-style building designed by Ernest Flagg. The design of press’s building, which was named the Scribner Building in 1965, was inspired by the Plantin-Moretus Museum, a printing museum in Antwerp, Belgium. Princeton University Press established a European office, in Woodstock, England, north of Oxford, in 1999, and opened an additional office, in Beijing, in early 2017.
Six books from Princeton University Press have won Pulitzer Prizes:
Multi-volume historical documents projects undertaken by the Press include:
The Papers of Woodrow Wilson has been called "one of the great editorial achievements in all history."
Princeton University Press's Bollingen Series had its beginnings in the Bollingen Foundation, a 1943 project of Paul Mellon's Old Dominion Foundation. From 1945, the foundation had independent status, publishing and providing fellowships and grants in several areas of study, including archaeology, poetry, and psychology. The Bollingen Series was given to the university in 1969.