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Lifestyle

February 3, 2013

Local history lives again through publisher

Methuen, the 1860s. A family, feeling full and happy after a Thanksgiving meal that was filled with every morsel of food their farm produced, leaves their holiday table to take a walk together up a hill across the pasture.

“And there, we stand and look down over Pleasant Valley alight in the sunshine of the brief November afternoon, the bluest river bending round the hill, the white winged gulls circle above the island in the distance,” writes George N. Cross in a memoir of his boyhood growing up in the Pleasant Valley section of Methuen in the 1860s.

The slim volume, “Memories of my Childhood in Pleasant Valley,” is one of several local history titles published by the Methuen-based SicPress.

“This is what life is like in 19th century Methuen,” says Joyce Godsey, owner and chief publisher of SicPress, which published Cross’s memoir for the first time this year.

Godsey’s career in publishing, editing and antiquarian book restoration have culminated in her newest undertaking: reprinting classic local history titles as well as printing some previously undiscovered manuscripts, like George N. Cross’s, for the first time.

“Finding local voices is very exciting ... it’s like time traveling,” she says.

Whether a book has lived, dusty and unread, for a century at a local library, or was donated in manuscript form by the author’s grandson (as was the case with the Cross memoir), Godsey’s approach is the same: Transcribing every word by hand and editing only for clarity.

Titles in the collection include Witchcraft at Andover, which was originally published in 1880 and covers Andover’s role in the Salem Witch Trials; The Journal of an Abbott Academy Girl, 1874-1876, which Godsey says features “of course it’s a lot of boys and food”; and The Story of Mattie J. Jackson, about a woman who survived 18 years of slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War and escaped to freedom in Lawrence.

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