Thursday, February 13, 2014

Just Because....


rolf said...

Timothy, is that you on guitar???

rolf said...

Timothy, after I saw your post on Catholic Answers about the fact that you had a conversation with R.L. Allan & Son Publishers about any plans for publishing a high quality Catholic Bible in the future, I also sent them off and e-mail. They were kind enough to respond quickly (which as you know with some Catholic publishers doesn't always happen, if at all). I stated the obvious to them that there are no Catholic Publishers out there that are publishing a high quality (sheepskin, goatskin, etc.) Bible for the growing Catholic Bible market. Then I asked them if they were entertaining any thoughts about publishing a NABRE, RSV-CE or NRSV-CE in the future. Here is the response:

Ian Metcalfe, Director, R.L. Allan & Son responded:

'Yes, it is certainly on the list to look into, probably in NRSV initially; and we are also having some discussions here in the UK regarding leather bound editions of the Missal and Divine Office books, which many priests and religious already get rebound themselves.

The challenge is more to do with being sure that we could effectively reach the right customers with such products - quite a different constituency to our more evangelical heartland.

I fear whatever we do would still be a couple of years away at this point, though.'

I am sure they are testing the waters to see if there is a Catholic market that is big enough for the high end Bibles. There are those of us on this blog and on Catholic Answers that cry out for such a product, but I wonder how may Catholics would be willing to pay $150 - $250 for a high quality, sheepskin or goatskin Bible?

Timothy said...

I wish! :)

Timothy said...

Your last question is the most relevant to this. Will enough people by a premium Catholic Bible? I hope so. I wonder if the translation matters. I have known for a while that an NRSV was most likely. Do you think an NRSV-CE would sell better than an NABRE or RSV-CE? I am not convinced of that, particularly if a large portion of their sales comes from the USA.

rolf said...

I would put my bet on the RSV-CE crowd instead. I think many converts from Protestantism like that Bible and might be more likely to lay out that kind of money as opposed to the NAB crowd. I know I am generalizing!
If the UK ever uses the NRSV for their mass, then it might prove to be a good selection. Mr. Metcalfe did say they would look into the NRSV 'initially' so that could mean the possibility of another translation in the future.

Theophrastus said...

I'm not sure that I would pin my hopes on Allan's.

First, Allan's generally uses existing textblocks, and has them bound in fine leather. However, as I understand much of the criticism here, I am not certain that there are any mainstream Bibles that have acceptable textblocks to the discerning crowd. For example, Tim often mentions issues with either the paper, printing, or editorial content of different Bibles. For example, he has mentioned the

* lack of cross-references on most NRSV and RSV editions;
* bleed through of the paper used by Harper Bible editions
* the frankly confusing editorial matter (odd notes and poor cross-references) in NAB editions.

If one is paying around $300 for a Bible, one has every right to expect an outstanding edition in every way. So where is the perfect textblock going to come from.

Second, Allan's is right to worry about reaching its target audience. Obviously, the US has the majority of English-speaking Catholics, but Allan's US distributor is is not exactly Catholic-friendly, so how many Catholics are going to feel comfortable ordering from them? Furthermore, even much better positioned publishers have failed to reach out to the Catholic market. I would have thought that some of Oxford's interesting "Catholic friendly" parallel bibles such as the admirable Catholic Comparative New Testament (Rheims/RSV/NAB/NRSV/JB/Good News/NJB/CCB) or the amazing Complete Parallel Bible with Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical Books (which even came in a genuine leather edition) (NRSV/REB/NAB/NJB) would have found a strong Catholic audience, but both books ended up be remaindered. Even a Catholic publisher such as Ignatius had to remainder its RSV Lectionary and has had problems getting its Ignatius Catholic Study Bible known to most Catholics. How will Allan's surmount these problems?

Third, if any of us really felt that there were a market for premium leather editions of Catholic Bibles, we could easily launch a kickstarter campaign. All we would need to do is arrange to buy textblocks from an existing publisher and have them bound by a quality bindery such as Jongbloed or Abba Bibles. This is exactly the model that Allan's uses. I'm sure that this would be economically possible with say 200 orders at $250.

Finally, there is just the quality proposition. You can buy a "genuine leather" NOAB-RSV for $31.50 and a "genuine leather" NOAB-NRSV (4th edition) for $33.50 (these are the current 2014 Winter Sale Prices direct from OUP -- which I should mention, ends today). It is hard to justify paying eight to twelve times that amount for a Bible that has a marginally nicer binding.

And nothing beats a well-made hardcover for opening flat, durability, and easy shelving -- and that works very well if one is primarily reading one's Bible at home (which I suspect is the case for many Bible-reading Catholics.)

Jonny said...

I have noticed the Fireside Bibles to be quite popular where I am at. They are attractively bound in hardcover with a generous encyclopedic dictionary and lectionary readings. The binding isn't sewn, but they are very well made, in my opinion. We have a book cart of these NAB's at my parish outside the confessional, in the school and adoration chapel that are still solid after almost 10 years. The hardcover and softcover editions make good gifts for various occasions. The endurahyde editions have a Rosary or Crucifix embossed on the cover, and are soft and durable.

When someone gets an attractive, useful edition of the Bible as a gift, especially from a loved one at a special occasion, it tends to mean more than cover material and binding. I'm not saying that isn't important, but this is just one of the quirks of being Catholic!

Perhaps we will see more high end editions with the revised NABRE: when the notes are improved and the text matches the lectionary! That in and of itself, would be worthy of a fancy cover (not to mention more marketable as an extraordinary translation worthy of handing down... perhaps not even to be revised again before the ink is dry!)

Timothy said...


You make a number of valid points. I wonder if they would be more successful, financially at least, with producing a Missal rather than a Bible? You rightly point out the real lack of quality Catholic textblocks to choose from. I notice that they produce an edition of the ESV Study Bible, so might an updated Catholic Study Bible NABRE from Oxford fit the bill? And what of Ignatius Press?

Distribution is an interesting point that I had not considered. Might they find another distributor in the US for a Catholic line of books? I think of how Crossway was evidently unwilling to publish the ESV w/Apocrypha.

Many unanswered questions to be sure, but my correspondences with Allan's lead me to believe that there will be a Catholic Bible produced by them at some point.

rolf said...

Timothy or Theophrastus, have you heard anything about which Bible translation the Uk is considering for their lectionary now that the ESV is out? Is the NRSV back in the running?

Theophrastus said...

The last I heard was a report of a June 2013 conversation with Archbishop Coleridge where he stated that plans for an ESV Lectionary were being put aside because many people wanted to stick with (revised) Jerusalem Bible lections. (See the second comment to this post.

My understanding is that an ICPEL-sponsored NRSV lectionary is completely off the table, because the copyright holder refuses to license a version with the modifications requested by ICPEL (I do not know how far those modifications go beyond the Canadian NRSV-based lectionary.)

I still have many basic questions about the whole process, such as why an RSV-2CE lectionary was apparently not considered.

I also do not know which direction the ICPEL will go at this point -- whether they will pursue a revised Jerusalem Bible lectionary or not.

At least the current British lectionary has the advantage that there is a Bible translation -- the CTS New Catholic Bible -- that matches the lectionary. There is no matching Bible for the US (modified-NAB) lectionary or the Canadian (modified-NRSV) lectionary or the proposed (modified-ESV) ICPEL lectionary.