Josna Rege

310. Godine

In blogs and blogging, Books, people, reading, Stories, Words & phrases, Work on April 9, 2015 at 12:04 am


Although my appreciation of typography and book design is probably rooted in the books I read as a child and my family’s love of reading, my introduction to letterpress printing and the art of the book is all down to one man: David R. Godine.


David Godine, then only a couple of years out of college, started his press in an empty barn on an aristocratic estate in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he talked the old gentleman into renting it to him for a dollar a year. As it happened, this was the very same estate where my boyfriend Andrew’s family rented a pre-revolutionary war farmhouse. Besides being an artist, Andrew was handy—and meticulous. He could work out how to operate anything with moving parts, and so David hired him, at 15, to assemble his first press, which was delivered in pieces. He stayed on and mastered the art of letterpress printing from beginning to end, along with a young, talented, and passionate group of printing aficionados, also recent college graduates, who gravitated toward the new enterprise.


By the time I came on the scene, the crew had worked to make the interior of the barn spotlessly clean, the heavy old floorboards polished smooth. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place. The old grain silo housed the inventory of books. Everyone was focused and hardworking because we loved our work and had a mission: to make beautiful books and to spread the word about fine printing.

Andrew and I were the only high school students at Godine, five years younger than the others. I had no mechanical or fine motor skills and was congenitally clumsy, but was tolerated because I was with Andrew and loved books; and because all the crew were kind, benign people.

0879235292It is not easy to make a small, independent publishing house survive, let alone attain solvency. I knew little of the financial side of the business, although we were so small that, incredible as it seems to me now, I was endowed with the title of Sales Manager for a short spell. Much of that period in the very early Seventies is a blur to me now, but I do remember David’s white-knuckled anxiety on the days when he had to meet with the family accountant, presumably to make the case for another withdrawal of cash with no immediate prospects for any returns. And yet, 45 years later, David R. Godine, Publisher, is still alive and thriving, and still independent, a status of which very few publishers can boast. We attended its 40th anniversary celebration a few years ago, held on the old estate, and it was a joyful occasion, most of all because we were reunited with old friends and workmates. There is nothing like working hard with like-minded friends, against the odds, with a shared vision. And David Godine has beaten the odds with integrity and style.


Goudy, Gill, and Garamond

As the midnight hour draws apace, I must wrap up this piece, but cannot let the letter G go by without at least a nod to a remarkable trio of typefaces: Goudy Old Style, Gill Sans, and that old standard, Garamond.




Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

atoz [2015] - BANNER - 910

  1. “There is nothing like working hard with like-minded friends, against the odds, with a shared vision.” This is so true! I like the introduction to new fonts and old.

    • Thank you, Kristin! I think that’s my favorite line. I came home from work past 10 pm last night and had to write that quickly, but couldn’t do it justice. It felt like just a placeholder for a longer story about the Godine years. But that’s the nature of the Challenge (unless one is organized enough to to have written some of the stories in advance). Goudy is so round and full–I’m really fond of it. Plus it has diamond-shapped dots on its i’s.

  2. Love your “3 G” typefaces — what is more beautiful than the letters of an alphabet?

  3. I would’ve love to have had such an experience as yours when I was young. The closest was the thrill of going into the the print shop at the newspaper in our town and seeing all that moveable type. Hmmm, I may have said this before.
    The View from the Top of the Ladder

  4. That was very good that you put up a list of your A to Z’s on the reflection post. I didn’t think of that but would like to do it as well. Did you have to copy and past all the links? Something new to learn…

    • Thank you, Shirley. I maintain a hyperlinked Contents to Date list that I update every time I post a new story (there’s a link to it at the end of each story). So what I did for the reflection post was to copy that list, but in reverse order from mine.

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