Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book Review: The Psalms of David

I felt a little weird reviewing The Catechism of the Catholic Church since it covers the central beliefs of my faith. Could I say something critical about it without getting hit by lightning? Can I rate it less than five stars (or whatever the top limit is)? Now here I am, reviewing a book from the Bible, which seems like I'm taunting God with a lightning rod. I hope He doesn't mind...

The Book of Psalms is a classic of Judeo-Christian faith and of world literature. Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want...") is perhaps the most famous poem in Western civilization. The psalms have been set to music several times (they are songs, after all) and quoted in literature for thousands of years.

This particular edition of the Psalms is the King James Version with illustrations by James Freemantle. Freemantle was a British soldier who traveled all over the Middle East. During his second marriage, he began to transcribe the Psalms and illustrate the book for his wife Clara. He included much of the flora and fauna of the Middle East, practically on every page of the book. It took over thirty years to complete and he died the year he finished it. His son decided many years later to publish his father's work in facsimile edition.

The book is quite beautiful. The illustrations are well done and lend a serene air to the sublime text. The lettering is also quite beautiful, though some individual psalms include different styles for each line. Occasionally the graphic designer in the back of my head would shout, "Too many fonts on one page!" I became better at ignoring that voice and enjoying the visual splendor of Freemantle's work.

Originally I was going to read this book and then pass it on to someone else or donate it to a book sale, since I have a bible or two if I want to look up or read a certain psalm. The book does add something to the experience of reading and praying that makes me want to pull it off the shelf occasionally to have that experience again. And to share it with my children. This one is a keeper.

Here are some sample pages from the book. You can click on them to see the full size scan.


  1. This looks fantastic! Thank you especially for those scans. :-)

  2. Hi- I love this book and have given several copies to friends as well as loving my own. I find them easily on Amazon in used books at very reasonable prices. Regards-Bill