In an imposing Woodstock townhouse, once home to the family of tennis ace Tim Henman (and their law firm), exists an unlikely – as it might seem – outpost of one of America’s great universities. I refer to the UK, or rather the European, headquarters – 20 years established – of Princeton University Press.

Though marginally less well-known, perhaps, than New Jersey’s major icon Bruce Springsteen, the university is, of course, much older. Its origins go back as far as 1746, making it the fourth-oldest educational institution in the US (thank you, Wikipedia).

The associated, non-profit-making and independent publishing house is a comparative newcomer. It was founded as recently as 1905.

For comparison, the Oxford University Press dates back in recognisable form to the 17th century, with the university involved in book production as early as 1478, just two years after William Caxton set up England’s first printing press.

So distinguished (and mammoth) is the enterprise that it seemed to me passing strange when, early last year, my pal Kate Farquhar-Thomson told me she was giving up her job in charge of press for its Academic division to become PUP’s head of publicity, Europe.

That was before I met the colleagues, human and canine, with whom she shares her working life behind the shiny, brass-plated black door of 6 Oxford Street.

What a delightful bunch they are – and all of them bar two (the humans I mean) are women. The only blokes are senior humanities editor Ben Tate and editorial assistant Josh Drake.

It was just before Christmas that I called in to meet them all, lured over by curiosity – and an invitation to lunch at a favourite restaurant, The Feathers – to what has been wittily styled ‘Princeton-on-Glyme’.

Actually, the styling came in a headline above a story about PUP in the Woodstock and Bladon News, and was presumably either that of its editor Peter Jay or of the publisher’s head of office Caroline Priday, who penned the piece.

Peter Jay, as Caroline told me over lunch, played a key role in bringing the publisher to the town.

A former Mayor of Woodstock, he once operated in far more elevated spheres as Britain’s ambassador to the United States (can another local news letter boast so distinguished an editor?).

Among leading American figures he came to know was Walter Lippincott, PUP’s long-time director, who was keen to expand operations into Europe.

Oxford was an obvious base for this, but when no suitable premises were found. Peter suggested that Woodstock – long a mecca for Americans, of course – would be an ideal alternative.

The first offices, opened in November 1999, were above a second-hand book shop at 3a Market Place. There was a staff of three at the time, but steady expansion meant more room was needed. The Henman law firm’s move to Oxford supplied the opportunity and the shift was made 11 years ago.

With its warren of rooms, steep staircases and heavy beams, the building has a distinctly Dickensian feel, though the work done there is strictly up-to-the-minute.

There are editors – among them social sciences chief Sarah Caro, a lively presence at The Feathers lunch – publicists, an international rights team and an audio publisher.

A vital part of the operation is a conference room in which a video communication system from Zoom ensures easy contact when required with headquarters in Princeton.

Under Lippincott’s successor Peter Dougherty efforts were made, Caroline explained, to produce titles more accessible to the general reader in the sciences, social sciences and humanities.

One such is the forthcoming (out in March) The Lives of Houses, co-edited by Hermione Lee, Oxford’s former professor of English Literature, in which notable writers, including novelist Julian Barnes, biographer Jenny Uglow and historian Sir David Cannadine, “celebrate our fascination with the houses of literary figures, artists, composers, and politicians of the past”.

Those last words are lifted from publicity material found on the Princeton University Press website. It would seem that Kate Farquhar-Thomson, despite her translation to Princeton, remains loyal to the Oxford comma.