The Book of Praises Book One
The Book of Praises is a new translation of the Psalms by Roger Wagner that uses nearly sixty wood engravings and an arrangement of the English and original Hebrew text to illustrate the meaning of the poems. This volume contains Book One of the Psalter, Psalms 1-41, and is the first instalment of a project that is eventually intended to encompass all five books.
This book is excellent beyond all expectation. It recalls the work of the finest printers in this century, and it
could not have achieved such a perfect coherence of design if it were not the work of an individual artist of
great distinction. The small wood engravings are as lyrical as Blake's for Virgil, and the printing in black for
English and in red for Hebrew is perfectly balanced. I had long known that Roger Wagner was an interesting
poet as well as a striking and brilliant painter, but I had not dreamed of such a coming together of his talents
as this. The pamphlet he has first produced makes one purr with pleasure.
It contains the first forty one psalms, its pages vary in mood and design. Sometimes the Hebrew and English
swarm across their page in an interlineal embrace, but mostly they trickle down their columns as chastely as
waterfalls. On two pages the engraving fills the double spread and the text is islanded, that occurs in the
course of Psalm Eighteen. Usually the images are small vignettes in an English tradition that still recalls
Palmer. I noticed an angel related to one of Roger Wagner's oil paintings: no doubt other analogies will be
found. This is a book of an extraordinary and coherent beauty. Peter Levi
Â£95 +postage Â£5