Four Courts Press founder who was 'a model of publishing integrity'


Michael Adams:MICHAEL ADAMS, who has died aged 71, was the founder and managing director of Four Courts Press.

He set up the publishing house in 1970, initially to publish religious books, in particular the scripture commentary known as the Navarre Bible, an interest arising from his long-standing membership of Opus Dei.

From small beginnings in theology, Four Courts Pressexpanded into Celtic and medieval studies, history, art, literature and law, and today has more than 500 titles in print.

“The key to successful publishing is specialisation,” he said. “It’s all a matter of reputation. A successful publishing house is one which has a name and a following.”

The cultural historian WJ McCormack, two of whose books were published by Michael Adams, this week described him as “a model of publishing integrity”. He never encountered any attempt to censor or modify what he had written, he said, notwithstanding differences of opinion on matters of ideology.

Jeremy Addis, editor of Books Ireland, described what Michael brought to publishing: “An academic publisher . . . must love and understand books and must also be a careful business manager. He must motivate staff, communicate enthusiasm and new ideas to them and to potential buyers, and at the same time exercise the banker’s qualities of caution and restraint.

“He must bow to the expertise of scholars, but at the same time have the knowledge and confidence to impose his own standards upon their work.”

Born in Dublin in 1937, he was the son of Francis J Adams and his wife Mary. He grew up in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, where he attended St Michael’s College. He read economics and political science at Queen’s University, Belfast, where he took a PhD in 1963.

He later studied journalism at the University of Navarre and for a time edited an Irish inter-university review.

A founder member of the Censorship Reform Society, he published in 1969 Censorship: the Irish Experience, which was based on his PhD thesis.

He entered the world of publishing, first with US-based Opus Dei publishers Scepter Press, and then became marketing manager of Irish University Press.

When the company went into receivership in 1974, Michael was one of a consortium who bought IUP’s stock and formed Irish Academic Press (IAP) to continue its sale, and complete some of the firm’s unfinished projects.

He retired as managing director from IAP in 1995 to devote himself full-time to Four Courts Press.

He joined Opus Dei in 1956. In addition to translating many works of theology, he also published two books of spirituality.

He is survived by his brother Julian, sister Gretchen, nieces and nephews.

Michael Adams: born June 22nd, 1937; died February 13th, 2009.