Aberdeen University Press was first incorporated in 1900 but the printers from which it was formed had been producing books and journals for Aberdeen’s two universities – King’s College and Marischal College – for twenty-five years before their amalgamation in 1865. The Press’s initial reputation was for the production of high quality books requiring specialist skills, and notable amongst its products were 'Bibliotheca Lindesiana' (1910), the catalogue of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres' library at Haigh Hall; catalogues of the Mingana Collections of Middle Eastern MSS in the John Rylands Library, Manchester; Sir Charles James Jackson's 'English Goldsmiths and Their Marks' (with over 13,000 marks reproduced in facsimile); and periodicals such as the 'Annual Register' (printed by the Press since 1892), 'Mind' (since 1887), the 'Transactions of the Faraday Society' (since 1921), and the 'English Historical Review' (since 1934).  It was only in the late 1970s that it became a publisher rather than a producer of academic books and under the direction of Colin Maclean published books which have since become classics – such as Nan Shepherd’s Living Mountain (1977) – or continue to inform contemporary academic discussion, such as Michael Fry’s Patronage and Principle (1987) and the four volume History of Scottish Literature (1987) edited by Professor Cairns Craig of Edinburgh University.

In 2006, Professor Craig returned to Aberdeen University (which he had left in 1979 to take up a post at Edinburgh University) as Director of the AHRC Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies. The publishing of journals and books was an integral part his plan for establishing Irish and Scottish studies as a recognised academic discipline, and in 2006 the Centre launched a series of monographs as the title of Introductions to Irish and Scottish Studies, followed in 2007 by two journals that made available research by the Centre’s collaborators across the globe – the Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies and the Journal of Scottish Thought. As part of Centre’s strategy for encouraging postgraduates in Irish and Scottish studies it began to publish Crosscurrents, papers from its annual conferences for postgraduate students, as well as individual volumes of papers from postgraduate conferences on Gaelic topics. It also launched the multi-lingual magazine Causeway/Cabhsair, which publishes work in all the languages of Britain and Ireland.

Among the major projects which the Centre undertook was the six volume Diary of General Patrick Gordon. Gordon had been Peter the Great’s most important military and naval advisor and the diary, the manuscript of which is held in the Moscow archives, had never appeared in a complete English edition. Beginning in 2009, the Centre undertook publication of what, when complete, will be six volumes, each published simultaneously with the first Russian translation by Dmitry Fedosov. It also published three new works – Latitudes and Longitudes, Ideas of Order at Cape Wrath and The Winds of Vancouver  – by Scottish author Kenneth White, who was formerly Professor of Poetics at the Sorbonne and who had made his literary career primarily in France since the 1960s.

At the conclusion of the AHRC Centre in 2012, the University agreed that Centre’s publication programme – then reverting to the remit of the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies – could continue under the name of Aberdeen University Press, to which the University had retained the rights after the collapse of Robert Maxwell’s publishing empire in 1992. The re-formed AUP took over the publication of the Centre’s journals and books, as well as those of the Elphinstone Institute and other research groups within the University which published their own books and journals, such as the Centre for Celtic and Anglo-Saxon studies.

The first books under the Aberdeen University Press imprint appeared in 2014 , including an edition of Aberdeen laureate Sheena Blackhall’s selected poems, titled The Space Between, and the Press’s first official season of publications was inaugurated in January 2015 with the publication of Vita Mea, the autobiography of Sir Herbert Grierson, who was the first professor of English Literature at the University of Aberdeen and who was a major influence in the development of literary criticism in the early twentieth century.

The Press is committed to the publication in both paper and electronic form, of high quality academic and creative work, and to providing as much possible of its material in open access. Its initial focus is in the areas established by the AHRC Centre for Irish and Scottish studies – the languages, literatures and history of Ireland and Scotland – but within its first year it had already begun to expand into law, anthropology, sociology and politics.