Some books are simply beautiful — all the component parts blend together seamlessly allowing the finished product to exude specialness. Sometimes grandeur lifts a work into that sought after realm; sometimes it is accomplished by breaking new ground; other times simplicity is the driver. The work being reviewed here, The Psalms of David by Rampant Lions Press, is the latter. It is not a grand production and it breaks no important new ground. However, it does demonstrate the beauty of simplicity and what an artisan at the top of his craft can accomplish. Perfectly selected, set and printed type, on wonderful paper which is not only an excellent match for the type, but one that elicits a visceral response that feels just right for the subject itself. Finally, all of this is packaged within a simple, elegant and beautiful binding.
The Psalms of David was published by Rampant Lions Press in 1977. Rampant Lions Press was founded in 1924 by Will Carter and published its first book in 1936. Will’s son Sebastian joined the Press full-time in 1966, becoming a partner in 1971 and taking over the business in 1991. Upon Sebastian Carter’s retirement and closing of the Press in 2008 it was the longest continuous running private press in the world. The Rampant Lions Press was introduced to Books and Vines in early 2012 with an article on the Rampant Lions’ magnum opus, their extraordinary publication of The Story of Cupid and Psyche, a book included in the Grolier club publication A Century for the Century, 1900-1999. Books and Vines also reviewed The Very Rich Hours of Le Boulvé, a book that ranks with the Rampant Lions’ finest work.
The Psalms of David was designed by Sebastian Carter. As mentioned in an earlier article on Rampant Lions Press, Sebastian Carter describes what he thinks of the term ‘fine-editions’ by saying:
At the Rampant Lions Press we use the term sparingly, because it seems to lay a claim to some excellence in the result, rather than simply define a kind of work. We feel that the excellence of the result is best judged by others; but the printer must decide on the kind of work , and that includes the level at which it is to be done: he has to make decisions, chiefly in the choice of materials, which will determine how ‘fine’ the result will be. Ideally his choice will be made according to the merits of the work in hand; in practice it is more usually made for him by the mundane matter of his budget. But if he decides to go for the best, or somewhere near it, we must, whether we like it or not, use the term ‘fine printing’ or some synonym. A clean impression on smooth paper may be good printing; what elevates it to fine printing is a robustness of feel, produced by a clear and perceptible impression of the type into a good rag paper. The fingertips must judge it as much as the eyes, but it is important that the eyes be satisfied as well: the strength of the materials will not excuse inept presswork or bad design.
The Psalms of David is certainly fine printing. Fingertips and eyes are equally satisfied! The type selection, Eric Gill‘s Golden Cockerel Roman in 18 point size, is marvelous. This is the first use of this type at Rampant Lions. This type had its first and principle use in the famous Four Gospels edition issued by Golden Cockerel Press in 1931. It is beautiful to the eye, and extremely pleasing to read. Printed on Barcham Green’s J. Green mould-made paper, it does give a ‘clear and perceptible impression’. The feel of it is fantastic — solid, a bit ‘thick’, yet soft and vibrant. If the hand-set type and mould-made paper is not good enough, Mr. Carter provides a perfectly apropos binding to house this display of printing prowess. The quarter vellum and green patterned paste-paper boards is gorgeous. In short, this is a wonderful edition of The Psalms that belongs in fine press libraries everywhere! Best yet, not too long ago there was still a few in stock, sold at the remarkably low cost (for this quality) of £175. I am not sure if there are any left, but suggest you contact Mr. Carter if interested.
About the Edition
- Designed by Sebastian Carter
- Miles Coverdale‘s superb translation, as revised for his Great Bible of 1539. Reprinted from the Book of Common Prayer.
- Hand-set in Eric Gill‘s Golden Cockerel Roman, 18 point size – the first use of this type at Rampant Lions
- Printed on Barcham Green J. Green mould-made paper
- Bound by George Miller in quarter vellum and green patterned paste-paper boards (designed by Sebastain Carter, printed by Scriptorium Press)
- Large quarto, 152 pages, 34 x 23 cm
- Limited to 315 copies, 280 copies with quarter vellum (as the one being reviewed here)
Pictures of the Edition
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