David R. Godine, Inc., is a small publishing house located in Boston, Massachusetts, producing between thirty and forty titles per year in a variety of subjects and maintaining an active reprint and acquisition program. The company is independent (a rarity these days) and its list tends to reflect the individual (sometimes idiosyncratic) tastes and particular interests of its president and founder, David Godine.
At Godine, quality has remained foremost. Our aim is to identify the best work and to produce it in the best way possible. All of our hardcover and softcover books are printed on acid-free paper. Many hardcovers are still bound in full cloth. The list is deliberately eclectic and often features work that many other publishers can’t or won’t support, books that won’t necessarily become bestsellers but which still deserve publication. In a world of spin-offs and commercial “product,” Godine’s list stands apart by offering original fiction and non-fiction of the highest rank, rediscovered masterworks, translations of outstanding world literature, poetry, art, photography, and beautifully designed books for children.
The company was founded in 1970. After receiving degrees at Dartmouth College and Harvard University, David Godine worked for Leonard Baskin, the renowned typographer and printmaker, and Harold McGrath, his master printer. With Lance Hidy and Martha Rockwell, he opened a printing shop the following year in a deserted barn in Brookline, Massachusetts. His first books, printed on his own presses, were nearly all letterpress, limited editions of at most 1,000 copies, printed on high-quality rag or handmade paper, and, tellingly, quite reasonably priced. Many of these early volumes are now collector’s items, but most of them originally sold for under $10.00. After three years in the barn, the company moved to downtown Boston, where it has remained ever since, turning its attention to publishing rather than printing, to acquiring and editing rather than manipulating small pieces of metal. In the ensuing 48 years, it has issued over 500 titles, absorbed and continued to publish the Black Sparrow list established on the West Coast by John Martin, and broadened its range to include children’s books, studies in typography, calligraphy and the graphic arts, and three independent lists of uniform focus and design.
In brief, these lists include Imago Mundi, a line of original books devoted to photography and the graphic arts; Verba Mundi, featuring the most notable contemporary world literature in translation; and a list of books previously published but long unavailable, Nonpareil Books. Recent volumes in the Imago Mundi series, which has received praise from reviewers and booksellers alike, include Seacoast Maine by the renowned photographer George Tice and On Cape Cod with photographs and text by Don Krohn. Verba Mundi, our selection of foreign authors in translation, included on its first list books by J.M.G. Le Clézio and Patrick Modiano, both of whom went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008 and 2014 respectively. Other books in the series include major novels by Georges Perec, Aharon Appelfeld, Jose Donoso, Isaac Babel, Robert Musil, Franz Werfel, Dino Buzzati, Ernesto Sabato, and most recently Gert Hofmann, Stig Dagerman, Pere Gimferrer, and Marcello Fois.
Perhaps the proudest list, and certainly the most inclusive, is our collection of Nonpareil Books, a wide and eclectic selection that at one time included George Orwell, William Maxwell, William Gass, Stanley Elkin, and Paul Horgan and today encompasses a stellar array of books by authors whose work might have disappeared from sight, bookshelves and civilized discourse: Laurie Lee, Gerald Durrell, Will Cuppy, Marian Engel, Farley Mowat, Ludwig Bemelmans, Donald Hall, Flora Thompson, and John Aubrey grace this list, along with many others, often in multiple volumes.
Additionally, on July 1, 2002, John Martin, the founder and for thirty-six years the publisher of Black Sparrow Press, closed down his shop in Santa Rosa, California. After finding new homes for four of his authors—Charles Bukowski, Paul Bowles, John Fante, and Wyndham Lewis—he entrusted the rest of his backlist to a fellow independent. The agreement was simple: Godine would keep Black Sparrow’s offerings available to the trade, keep the best-selling titles in print, and keep the house’s spirit alive through judicious acquisitions. In short, Black Sparrow Press would be reborn—as Black Sparrow Books at David R. Godine. We have tried to keep our part of the bargain, issuing new fiction by voices new and old, while making certain the spotlight continues to shine on Martin’s more prescient discoveries: Charles Reznikoff, Lucia Berlin, Eileen Myles, D.H. Lawrence, and Wanda Coleman among others.
The Godine hardcover and softcover lists remains obdurately eclectic and surprising. In the past six months we have, or will be, publishing an homage to “The Book” by a German philosopher; a definitive, two-volume folio collection of early American choral music, American Harmony, complete with a CD, extensive biographies of the composers and six indices; Trio, an endearing children’s book about the adventures and commendable ambitions of a three legged cat; and the best available compilation of anything of any value or interest ever said or recorded about dogs. We will be issuing Ward Farnsworth’s third Godine title, The Practicing Stoic, a study of the words, thoughts and wisdom of a living and practical philosophy, a fully illustrated bibliography of (mirabile dictu) the most important books ever penned on salmon fishing, and a second printing of Richard Brown’s plaintive and poignant photographic celebration of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom The Last of the Hill Farms. And for fellow Boston travelers, we have Make Way for Nancy, the story behind the ducklings you are required to visit if you ever visit the city where the ability to make money and the brains to knows how to spend it are apt to intersect.
Someone once remarked that publishing is the last refuge of the grasshopper mind. That observation might appear to be confirmed by the above, but behind these books is a real commitment to make the best possible books with the best possible designers, materials and production. They are, to be sure, meant to be read, but they are also meant to be prized as artifacts, the tangible results of a long and proud tradition that extends back over 500 years and of which we consider ourselves proud and responsible caretakers.
“David Godine is a remarkable publisher…. He is determined to prove that the day of elegant books has not vanished. And he does prove it. Elegantly.” —The New York Times
“Godine books are not ‘beautiful’ in the glossy fashion of the coffee-table books that flood the market at Christmastime. They are instead flawlessly produced examples of the arts of printing and bookbinding, exquisitely understated.” —Newsweek
David R. Godine represents everything that is right and good about book publishing. As the trend moves away from the printed word in favor of cheaper, faster electronic editions, and many publishers seem content with flimsily constructed books, DRG continues to publish well made, often beautifully illustrated books every bookstore should be proud to carry on their shelves. Whether it’s the rich portraiture of photographer Yousef Karsh, the story of a racing yacht brilliantly captured in pictures and text that is Dorade, or the timeless children’s titles, David R. Godine’s books are meant to last a lifetime. Our customers have come to expect quality in printing and editorial curatorship that DRG has consistently delivered over time. Thank God there are still a few publishers who haven’t forgotten what is most important and maintain a consistent commitment to excellence. —Mark LaFramboise, Chief Buyer, Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington D.C.
Receiving David’s catalogue in the mail and going through it carefully is a highlight of each season, and has been for many years. I know each book has been carefully chosen and will be beautifully published, with care for the design, typeface, and every aspect of book production. In addition, the price will be attractive and appropriate for what the reader will hold in her or his hand. Godine books have a well-deserved reputation for quality in every sense of the word, and it’s a pleasure to stock them in our stores, and also to see them in other stores. On top of that, they sell well! —Jack Cella, Former Manager, Seminary Co-operative Bookstore, Chicago, IL
Perusing the Godine catalogue is one great pleasure of being an independent bookseller. A greater pleasure is to hold one of Godine’s books. Beautiful, thoughtful design & typography combined with great writing make the David R. Godine colophon one of the most notable presences on the shelves of City Lights Booksellers. —Paul Yamazaki, Chief Buyer, City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, San Francisco, CA
David Godine may be a small publisher, but the books he issues are timeless in quality and feature the highest standards of production. He maintains a list of titles which continuously appeal to discriminating readers. To mention a few: Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, Guy Davenport’s Geography of the Imagination, and the major works of William Gass and Georges Perec. Recent titles we’ve featured include Paragon Park by Mark Doty, Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric, and titles of 2008 Nobel Prize winner J.M.G. Le Clézio. Long live Godine Press! —Bob Contant, former owner of St. Mark’s Bookshop