SMART, Christopher and Lynton Harold LAMB (artist). A Song to David. Edited by J.B. Broadbent. London: ‘Printed … at the Rampant Lions Press … Distributed by The Bodley Head’, 1960. 

Folio in 4s (304 x 194mm), pp. xxi, [1 (blank)], 40, [2 (blank l.)]. Title and text printed in black and blue. Frontispiece after Lynton Lamb printed in black and blue. Original vellum-backed, patterned-paper boards by Mansell, spine lettered and decorated in gilt. (Spine slightly darkened, extremities lightly rubbed and minimally chipped, fore-edge of lower board bumped.) A very good, clean copy. ProvenancePamela and Raymond Lister (booklabel on upper pastedown) – Stephen John Keynes OBE, FLS (1927-2017).

First edition, no. 105 of 600 copies. Smart (1722-1771) was educated at Durham School and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he established himself as a gifted classicist and poet, becoming a fellow of Pembroke College in 1745, with praelectorships in rhetoric and philosophy. His unruly behaviour, drunkenness, and debts led, however, to the removal of these praelectorships two years later; after Smart undertook commitments to reform, they were restored in 1748, but in 1749 Smart left Cambridge for London, where he became a professional writer, poet, and journalist, working primarily for the publisher John Newbery. In 1752 Smart married Newbery’s stepdaughter, Anna Maria Carnan, but the marriage was not a happy one and Smart suffered episodes of mental illness, exacerbated by overwork, physical sickness, and drinking, which eventually provoked a serious breakdown. In 1757 Smart was admitted to St Luke’s Hospital, but was discharged the following year, before then entering a private madhouse in Bethnal Green, where he remained until 1763. 

During this period of confinement, Smart wrote some of his ‘most brilliant and original works’ (ODNB), including A Song to David, which was published in an edition of 500 copies in 1763, three months after the author’s release from the madhouse. This volume was followed by Smart’s Translation of the Psalms of David (1765), which also included a variant text of A Song to David, and A Song to David was published in further editions through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many printing erroneous or incomplete texts. For this edition, Broadbent and Will Carter (the printer) explained that ‘[t]he text we print here is a conflation of Smart’s two editions, slightly modernised. […] our main object is to give the poem the typography it deserves; so we have kept, though sometimes in altered form, most of Smart’s typographical emphases such as that on ADORATION (which he put in large capitals); and we have used typography to bring out other emphases where he relied only on rhetorical schemes, or his list of contents: thus we colour the initial keywords of the “amplification in five degrees”’ (p. xxi). The work is illustrated with a frontispiece by the noted artist, illustrator, typographer, and bookbinder Lynton Lamb (1907-1977).

This copy was previously in the library of the artist and book-illustrator Pamela Lister and her husband Raymond Lister(1919-2001), an ironworker, author, artist, and the founder of the Golden Head Press, and it bears their calligraphic terracotta booklabel by Will Carter on the upper pastedown. It was later in the collection of the noted bibliophile Stephen Keynes, who was the youngest son of Sir Geoffrey Keynes (1887-1982) and, like his father, a member of the Roxburghe Club.


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