Marlin Perkins, Abe Lincoln, and more. . .; An illuminated Psalms The Psalms of David, illuminated by James S. Freemantle. New York: William Morrow & Co. 340 pp. $17.50.
It seems an unlikely hobby for a British railway worker in Colonial India: laboring with pen and paints to produce an illuminated manuscript of the Bible's Book of Psalms.
Yet that is exactly what James S. Freemantle did. Without formal art training, over a period of 30 years he patiently wedded the language of King James to his own visual images - finishing less than a year before his passing in 1934.
To me, Freemantle's manuscript has the warmth, vitality, and charm of a primitive painting or folk quilt, with delicate colors and highly varied calligraphy. This rich facsimile reproduction is a bargain at the price. For his illuminations, Freemantle drew largely on the scenes around him - lakes, Brahman temples, birds, and above all, flowers. As his son observes in a brief preface: ''The brilliantly colored blooms of India are here - the purple sweet pea, the book flower which closes at night, great big jacaranda trees and magnificent poinsettias, highly scented mimosa and many others.''
According his son, Freemantle ''poured all the skills he possessed'' into the project as a tribute to his beloved wife. Any lover of the Psalms - or of books - would be as delighted to receive this gift, just as Mrs. Freemantle must have been.