James Clarke and Co Ltd was founded in 1859 in Fleet Street, London, mainly as a magazine publisher. It produced the highly influential religious magazine, Christian World, which by the outbreak of the First World War was selling over 100,000 copies a week, and was the leading nonconformist weekly.
In addition James Clarke and Co began to publish some books. At first these were mainly imports from the United States – very unusual at a time when American publishing relied heavily on buying from Britain. Major American preachers and theologians, such as Henry Ward Beecher, were thus introduced to British readers.
With the decline of the Christian World in the 1920s, the Company, by then run by James Clarke's grandsons, became an exclusively book publishing company, building up a list in religion, and in alternative medicine and spirituality.
More recently the Company has specialised in academic and reference works. Major works such as the New Testament Apocrypha edited by Schneemelcher (originally by Hennecke), and the Encyclopedia of the Early Church edited by Angelo di Berardino have established themselves as the authoritative texts. Outside the religious field the main reference work is the biennial The Libraries Directory, providing detailed information on British and Irish libraries.
In 1984 The Lutterworth Press became associated with the Company, publishing less specialised works. The Company is now based in Cambridge, and produces about ten new titles a year.