Patricia Wilcox founded Iris Press in 1975 in Binghamton, New York, as a small publishing company, emphasizing literary quality and innovation. An important goal of Iris Press was, and still is, to give talented but underappreciated writers an audience and to help them reach their potential. The first book published by Iris Press was Don Revell’s first book of poems, The Broken Juke. The press has published a number of important books since those early days. In 1977, Iris published the 310 page book, New and Selected Poems (NASP), by George Scarbrough, which Rodney Jones, in a 1978 review, called “A cathedral of a book.” This single book has had an important role in the subsequent development of Iris Press, though other landmark books followed.
In 1980, Phyllis and Sam Tickle bought Iris Press, which was then moved to Tennessee. The presence of Scarbrough’s NASP in the list and Iris’s demonstrated ability to identify outstanding writing were factors in the Tickles’ decision to purchase Iris. Phyllis Tickle published two more major Scarbrough books during her 12-year tenure as owner and/or editor of Iris Press. In 1986, the press was sold to Peachtree Publishers of Atlanta, but Phyllis stayed on as the editor. In 1990, Peachtree sold Iris to the Wimmer Group of Memphis Tennessee, but still Phyllis Tickle remained as its editor and guiding spirit. In 1992, The Wimmer Group sold Iris Press and some other literary properties, and Maggie Vaughn, the current Poet Laureate of the State of Tennessee, acquired Iris Press and managed it along with her other publishing imprint, Bell Buckle Press.
In 1996, Robert B. Cumming of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who was also interested in working with George Scarbrough and some other major writers, acquired Iris Press. Our mission has largely remained the same but it has also expanded. Iris Press was incorporated in 1996 and became the Iris Publishing Group, Inc. This company retains the Iris Press name as its flagship imprint and will use that imprint for print publication of high quality works of poetry and literary prose. In 2003, Iris created a second print imprint, Tellico Books, with a view of reserving the Iris Press imprint for the first release of original literary works. More general works are published under Tellico Books (for more information visit: tellicobooks.com).