The press was founded in 1936, and since that time has grown in size and in the scope of its publishing program.
In the early years, Rutgers University Press had an eclectic list of titles under the directorship of Earl Schenck Miers and former New York trade publisher William Sloane. <!--WHAT THIS MEAN: The latter added a publishing program on New Jersey state, which is still one of the press's specialties.-->
Currently, the press publishes books in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, and is known for its large collection of books about the state and the region. Press books that have been particularly influential include The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Black Athena, A Short History of Film, The History of Interest Rates, Quicksand and Passing, Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike, Jersey Diners, and Twin Towers.