Additions: It’s more than just a few psalms sewn together

This book seems to contain more additions than it does content. From advertisement to rules to index, the printer, William Butler, was not afraid to splurge in the details of his formatting decisions. I could write a thousand words delving into the rules, and how they split the content into two columns; or the two kinds of breaks, a long line separating Psalms and a shorter line separating meters; or the running heads, containing upper case letters with the word “Psalms” followed by one, two, or even three Roman numerals pertaining to the Psalms on that page. However, I will discuss the topics of which I find most interesting: The Advertisement, in which we can understand the genius behind Watts’ creation and Butler’s thorough formatting; the Index, in which we find several different ways to find a particular Psalm; and the Appendix and Hymns, of which Butler felt was of great importance to a fellow Christian.

Following the title page there is the “Advertisement to the readers of the Psalms” (pgs. 2-3). This advertisement explains why the author, Dr. Isaac Watts, created this book, and how and why he decided to construct this book. According to Butler, Watts compiled these Psalms and Hymns “for the Christian life and worship” in public and private sectors to “improve psalmody.” Like the book itself, the advertisement is broken up into divisions to explain how the reader should use this book. In the section, “Of Choosing or finding the Psalm,” the printer explains how there is an index to find a particular psalm. Butler explains, in “Of Dividing the Psalm,” that there are pauses and brackets around verses that do not need to be sung by a reader who is not accustomed to singing eight stanzas in one sitting. “Of the Manner of Singing” describes how a reader should sing. Readers should look over the Psalm before singing, but also they should not dwell too long on every single note that it become tiring; in other words, singing should be done in a timely manner and it should be enjoyable. The last division, “Of the Division of the Psalms,” Butler explains how he grouped and divided the Psalms, based on the subject of the verses. He mentions briefly Watts’ Hymns, which Butler may have edited if it was too long or if it contained a verse repeated in another hymn. In the original Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719), the printer explains his divisions of the psalms and how to find a particular psalm, just as Butler did. However, this printer also includes a section called “Of the different Editions of this Book,” where he explains which edition should be used and when, and another section called “Of naming the Psalms,” in which he mentions his numbering system and the type of meter of the psalms (See Archive, 3-8).


The index, or table of contents has two sections: the first contains a “Table to find a Psalm suited to particular Subjects or Occasions,” and the second contains a “Table to find out any Psalm, or part of a Psalm, by the first Line of it” (3-12). The first table alphabetizes the Psalms by subject or important words or phrases. There is a note to explain to the reader how he has set up the table and to direct them in how to search for particular Psalms. Each subject is followed by numbers pertaining to the affiliated Psalms. The second table is alphabetized by the first line of the Psalm, followed by the page number. I find it interesting that there are two tables within the index to find Psalms based on different methods, and how different these two tables are formatted, with the first containing Psalm numbers and the second containing page numbers. It appears as if the first table was created before the Psalms themselves were printed, while the second table was added in after the content was printed. The first table contains the note explaining to the reader how to sift through this first table, however, the second table contains no such note. There is also a “Table to the Appendix” squeezed in at the bottom of the last page of the index (12). This table is similar to the second, giving the first line and page number of Psalms not included in Watts’ original book. The Index in Butler’s version is placed before the Psalms, whereas Watts’ original 1719 book in which the index is placed at the end of the Psalms. The note found in the first table of Butler’s book is copied word for word from Watts’ original book, except for a line at the end in which Butler explains that the numbers “refer to the Psalms.” Both books contain both tables.



After the Psalms, Butler includes an appendix, in which he includes Psalms that Watts excludes, but the American printer, Mr. Joel Barlow of Connecticut, includes in his book, “Dr. Watts’ Imitation of the Psalms of David, corrected and enlarged” (see previous blogpost; 121). Butler also includes Watts’ Hymns, which are also not seen in Watts’ Psalms (125-219). The Hymns are separated into three books: the first “collected from the holy scriptures,” the second “composed on divine subjects,” and the third “prepared for the holy ordinances of the Lord’s Supper” (125, 163, 209). After the end of the third book, there is a “Table to find any Hymn by the first Line” (220). This table alphabetizes the hymns by their first line. As explained in a note by the printer, each line is followed by the book number by way of the letters “a”, “b”, or “c,” referring to the first, second, or third book, respectively. The letters are followed by numbers, referring to the Hymn. The table is followed by an index, or “Table to find any Hymn by the Title or Contents of it” (225-233). In this case, the title of the Psalm is followed by Roman numerals, i, ii, or iii, referring to the first, second, or third book, respectively, and Hymn numbers.