Abstract: The movement for open access publishing (OA) is often said to have its roots in the scientific disciplines, having been popularized by scientific publishers and formalized through a range of top?down policy interventions. But there is an often?neglected prehistory of OA that can be found in the early DIY publishers of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Managed entirely by working academics, these journals published research in the humanities and social sciences and stand out for their unique set of motivations and practices. This article explores this separate lineage in the history of the OA movement through a critical?theoretical analysis of the motivations and practices of the early scholar?led publishers. Alongside showing the involvement of the humanities and social sciences in the formation of OA, the analysis reveals the importance that these journals placed on experimental practices, critique of commercial publishing, and the desire to reach new audiences. Understood in today’s context, this research is significant for adding complexity to the history of OA, which policymakers, advocates, and publishing scholars should keep in mind as OA goes mainstream.