The Lay of The Case – A Look Inside Running The Goat

Running The Goat
The complete text of a local book is set and ready to be printed. Each letter has been individually laid by hand.

Nestled snuggly within the sheltered harbour of Tors Cove is Running the Goat Books & Broadsides – a micro-press specializing in work by Newfoundland & Labrador-based writers. The press is one of Newfoundland’s best kept secrets, hiding in plain sight along the East Coast Trail. Inside, owner Marnie Parsons lovingly sets, prints and sews beautiful books – all by hand. Last weekend, on a sunny Sunday, I made the scenic drive (only 40 minutes from St. John’s) and discovered a world of bookmaking often forgotten in today’s modern world – I discovered what it meant to Run The Goat.

Running The Goat
“Sometimes a book is more than the text and illustrations between its covers; sometimes a book is a work of art in itself.
-Greg Locke in The Sunday Independent

The press’ name comes from a traditional set dance, often associated with Harbour Deep on Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula. A dance meant for four couples, it has a lovely and somewhat complex geometry. “The first time I ran the Goat, I was awash with its momentum and grace, aware only of rhythm, movement and colour… When it came time to name the press, I chose Running the Goat because I hoped someday to capture something of the joy and spontaneity, the playfulness and intensity of that first dance in a handmade book…” says Marnie.

Running The Goat
The Heidelberg

The shop houses four beautiful printing presses: an early 20th century tabletop platen press, a 1960s Heidelberg, another 1960s Vandercook, and an antique iron hand press from 1830 purchased in England. As Marnie demonstrates how they function I am enthralled by the fluidity of the machines. They glide gracefully, sweeping up blank sheets of paper and spitting out beautifully printed text and linocuts. Production of a standard 16 page book from start to finish can take many weeks – it is a true labour of love.

Running The Goat
Linocuts by local artists are used in the majority of Running The Goat’s publications.

Hailing originally from Leamington Ontario, Marnie embarked on a 10 month sabbatical to Newfoundland in 1997 and never looked back – “After just a couple of weeks I knew I really wanted to live here… [and] after 10 months we had bought a house.” Why Tors Cove? “Because of this…” she says, as she gestures out the large windows in the shop. Through them you can see the Atlantic ocean snuggled safely within the cove, surrounded by rolling green hills and dotted with grassy islands. “Tors Cove was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.”

Tors Cove

Tors Cove

Running The Goat also houses a small shop where Marnie sells her handmade books alongside work from other local printers, and some pottery. Joel Thomas Hynes, Michael Crummey, Agnes Walsh and Andy Jones are just some of the Newfoundland writers to have been published here. Running The Goat also carries Andy Jones’ popular series of Jack Tales – which are not handmade, but promises that “readers from two to one hundred and two will be captivated.”

Running The Goat
The Shop

Searching for the perfect souvenir? Need a truly unique conference or speaker gift? When you purchase a book at Running The Goat you are receiving so much more than words and images on paper. What you are getting is a tangible testament to Newfoundland culture; created with the utmost care and attention to detail. “Focusing on the work of Newfoundlanders is a way of thanking this remarkable community for the great reach of its embrace and acknowledging the richness and variety of its culture. I can recommend no other place so highly as a home for heart and mind, body and soul.” Want to find out more? Visit Running The Goat’s website here. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Andy Jones performs The Queen of Paradise’s Garden – a puppet play for all ages!

Andy Jones will be presenting The Queen of Paradise’s Garden, with puppeteer Mary-Lynn Bernard and musician Monique Tobin

Follow folktale hero Jack as he travels to the Queen of Paradise’s Garden, three miles this side of the end of the world, where he finds a magic fruit that will make the old young again, and a few other handy things as well.

A puppet play for all ages, based on the traditional Newfoundland folktale of the same name.

When: Saturday, July 4th 2pm

Where: The Five Island Art Gallery, Cove Road, Tors Cove

Tickets at the door: Adults $10; children 12 and under & seniors $5

Presented in conjunction with Running the Goat Press