Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beautiful Premium Bibles That Will Never Come in a Catholic Edition

J. Mark Bertrand is author of the premier website concerning the issue of Bible design, premium leather covers, and quality binding. Whenever I go to his site, I tend to learn something new about the differences between quality and mass-produced Bible editions. I find the vast majority of his posts fascinating, particular for someone like myself, who loves the feel and smell of older Bibles, as well as some of the newer ones too. Lately, he has been including videos in his reviews, the most recent being the Allan Brevier Clarendon KJV. It is worth checking out, along with his older posts.

Be prepared, however, to be disappointed if you are looking for any premium Catholic Bibles on the site. There are just simply none available, in English, for those of us who are looking for one in a specifically Catholic edition. I am not sure if this will change any time soon? It seems to me that the only possibility would be with the NRSV or NABRE translations.


Jonny said...


There are actually 2 Bibles listed on the Allen website that are officially approved for use by the Catholic Church.

1. The NRSV w/ Apocrapha by Cambridge.

2. The KJV w/ Apocrypha (Cameo edition) by Cambridge. In my opinion the best available edition of the KJV b/c it includes the original italicized words, translation notes, and cross references.

For those who may not know, the King James version was officially approved for use in Anglican Catholic liturgy w/ imprimatur (following the conversion of Anglican Catholic Churches.) You can see the Book of Worship here: http://www.atonementonline.com/BODW.pdf

Timothy said...


I am definitely aware of those two, but neither of them are specifically Catholic editions. I own the NRSV, which is quite wonderful.

Theophrastus said...

Both of the Bibles that Jonny mentions are Cambridge editions and can be ordered through Amazon. They are not specifically Allen editions. Some people (like Mark Bertrand) claim that Allen has extra special fine binding.

While I know that the Book of Divine Worship does include the King James version of the 23rd Psalm, I was unaware it included any King James works. I thought that the RSV was the approved Bible for the Anglican Ordinate.

Given the virulently anti-Catholic statements in the KJV's "The Translators to the Reader", I do not imagine how the whole KJV could possible receive the imprimatur.

Theophrastus said...

My comment above came out mangled. I meant to say:

"While I know that the Book of Divine Worship does include the King James version of the 23rd Psalm, I was unaware it included any other King James excerpts."


"I cannot imagine how the whole KJV could possibly receive the imprimatur."

Chrysostom said...

I follow J Mark Bertrand's blog occasionally - I even bought his book, "Rethinking Worldview", to support his quest to find the Perfect Printed Word of God.

I have and use a premium New Cambridge Paragraph Bible bound in goat. It's not Catholic, but it's the closest one can get in goatskin with beautiful typesetting. It has all of the books (albeit in the wrong order, which isn't really an issue if you know your Bible decently), and is in the mostly reliable (there are some anti-clerical and a few anti-ecclesiastical - mainly lack of "do penance" and "love" instead of "charity" - translational choices in the NT) King James Version translation, which has, hands down, the best Psalms ever translated in to the English language.

I would use the ESV but I can find no good text-blocks with the full canon in them - I believe the ESV is the best blend of translational approaches for modern English; it uses a moderate amount of gender-neutral language (a little more than my N/KJV, DRC, NASB-loving soul likes), it is moderately literal while still being decently understandable, uses a sufficiently dignified register of English (unlike the NAB series, although I've been told what I consider "sufficiently dignified" is just plain bad Biblish), so on and so forth.

I contacted Allan's (an English bindery of premium Bibles) several times to see if they could track down a nice text block of the Douay-Rheims Challoner Bible for me - no luck; all that are printed are standard two-column, reference-book looking, verse-by-verse, dictionary-style, cost-cutting mass-market Bibles.

I've contacted every vanity press on the planet, but none can handle Bible paper or art-gilding (nor gilding at all) for the making of a small run.

For a truly beautiful Catholic Bible that is actually Catholic (although the KJV is most definitely more Catholic and orthodox than either the NAB/RE or the NRSV), one is left with the extraordinarily expensive, one-off art Bibles such as Arion Press produced - there's no "mass market art Bible", forgive the seeming contradiction, available for Catholics as there is for Protestants in the NIV, ESV, KJV, etc.

I did have an aborted project to make the "perfect Bible" (no, not my rejiggering of the DRC translation, which is ongoing), by making a Frankenbible out of the Old Testament from the NETS and KJV, the Apocrypha from Charlesworth and Schleermacher (I think: put in the back of the book), the Psalms from the KJV, the NT from the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible and the Douay-Rheims.... once I had it bound up, it was readable, but some pages were full, some were not, it was uneven, with different thicknesses of paper, etc.

rolf said...

I think our only hope is if Cambridge decided that they wanted to publish the NABRE (Oxford does!), then maybe we could the; 'Cambridge NABRE Reference Bible' in French morocco leather or a 'Cambridge NABRE Clarion Bible' in goatskin!!!
How about it Cambridge, would like a little of the market share of millions of American and other English speaking Catholics???

rolf said...

Ok, I was hallucinating (too much coffee!) when I wrote the preceding response, after all we are speaking about 'Catholic Bibles' here. We Catholics have a hard time even getting some one to publish an RSV-2CE in large print (I won't mention any names - Ignatius), so I am not holding my breath! But it is sort of like winning the Lottery, will happen? most likely not, but we can dream.

Timothy said...


Now your talking! :)

Timothy said...


I think there is a far greater chance that Cambridge will publish a NABRE than an Ignatius Large-Print RSV-2CE. Keep praying!

Think about this, who would have thought 2-3 years ago that we would have a much improved NAB, including getting rid of the dreadful '91 Psalms?

rolf said...

Yeah the 91 psalms were bad! When I lead my Bible study class, I use a 1988 version of the NAB (1970 OT, 1970 psalms and 1986 NT) because, 1) nobody else in the class has the NABRE, and 2) this version is the closest to the mass!

Jonny said...

I think the link I gave might not work directly: here is the website where you can download the Book of Divine Worship: http://www.atonementonline.com/bodw.php

See starting at page 96. The King James Version is used in the readings for the Daily Office, although the Psalms are in the Coverdale version. Although the KJV is approved for the Daily Office, on pg. 270, regarding Scripture readings in the Mass, it states that: "The Scripture readings are taken from the Roman Lectionary for Mass in the translations approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, namely, the Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition), the New American Bible, and the Jerusalem Bible."

I still find it extraordinary that the KJV translation is the only one I can find in use (or at least acknowledged)at one time across the board by english speaking churches: from Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Protestant denominations from Baptist to Pentecostal, Mormans, Jehovah's Witness, non-denominational...

I think this one (KJV w/ Deutros)is a must have for anyone working in apologetics at least for this reason.

Anonymous said...

Allen does custom binding, which seems to kill your dilemma.