It all began with two Discalced Carmelite friars, Fathers Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez.
The two lived in community at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Washington, D.C. They were devoted scholars, and at that point in time, there was no complete, contemporary English translation of the writings of St. John of the Cross in print.
According to Kavanaugh, Otilio said to him, “Come on, let’s translate John of the Cross. We’ll be done by Christmas.”
It ended up taking five Christmases.
Doubleday Publishing published their translation of the book in 1962. But once the initial printing sold out, Doubleday decided not to reprint. Kieran asked for the copyright back.
They approached several other publishers with the project, but no one was interested.
The two friars, however, were determined to keep this book in print. John’s work was too valuable to allow it to fall by the wayside. So, they approached Brother Bryan Paquette, who had experience running the business operations for the province's Spiritual Life magazine, for help with their mission.
“Would it be possible to publish this ourselves?” they asked.
Brother Bryan thought about it and determined they would need three things: a name for the publishing company, a printing company to print the books, and … the money to pay the printer.
Since they were members of The Institute of Carmelite Studies (ICS), they decided to call it ICS Publications. This new publishing house would help them in their mission to promote research and publication in the field of Carmelite spirituality, especially about Carmelite saints and related topics.
They found a printer.
That left only the question of the money.
Brother Bryan presented the idea to a group of their sisters in Carmel, and the nuns generously agreed to loan the friars the money they needed.
With funds now in hand, Brother Bryan set out and had the first 2,000 copies of ICS Publications’ first edition of The Collected Works of John of the Cross printed. They sold every copy within three months—enough to pay back the nuns, with interest.
Even after paying back the nuns, there was still some money left over and more people out there were clamoring to get their hands on the book. So they did another press run. Those sold as well. And so ICS has continued doing this ever since.
Because of the success of John of the Cross, Fr. Kavanaugh moved on to St. Teresa of Ávila, translating all of her works and publishing them in three volumes.
But the real coup came in 1975.
ICS member Father John Clarke, OCD, a great devotee of the Little Flower and an experienced translator, then proposed undertaking a new translation of St. Thérèse’s autobiography, one that would be based on the new French critical editions released for the 1973 centenary of her birth.
This new edition was more faithful to what the saint had written than any of the existing English-language versions. So limited were the funds that the first ICS Publications edition of Story of a Soul in 1975 had to be typeset by volunteers, and it was missing the diacritical marks and accents required in “correct” French.
Rapid sales, however, allowed for a new edition the following year, this time complete with accents, as well as indices, and a new cover. This second edition quickly became our bestseller and has remained so for the past 40 years, far outstripping all other releases. The Clarke edition of Story of a Soul is considered the gold standard of translations; it is now used throughout the English-speaking world.
We’ve been blessed and honored to have been granted the rights to translate and publish for the English-speaking world the writings of inspiring Carmelite saints and figures such as Edith Stein, Elizabeth of the Trinity, and Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, in addition to John, Thérèse, and Teresa.
As ICS Publications looks to the future and to new growth, we reconfirm our commitment to our mission of sharing the best in Carmelite spirituality with a wide readership. We will continue to strive to provide books that address the hungers of the human spirit, that help readers at every point in their spiritual journey, with editions that are attractive and affordable.