Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Guest Review: Jerusalem Bibles

Thanks to reader Eric on this fine guest review of these two Jerusalem Bibles. 

I have used the original 1966 Jerusalem Bible as my primary study Bible for several years.  I’ve enjoyed the nice way it reads and the notes and cross-references.  However, the weight and size of what I like to call Big Red is uncomfortable for me to hold for long periods of time, and I’m not a set-it-on-the-table-and-read-it type of guy.
So, I’ve been seeing something called the thin paper edition (hereafter referred to as the TPE) on E-Bay and been curious as to how it would compare to Big Red.  I’ve thrown a few bids around and been outbid every time, so apparently I’m not the only one who likes the idea of a thinner version of Big Red.  Well, as luck would have it, I found a seller on AbeBooks who had a copy still in the box, which was aggressively priced (i.e., so inexpensive that I almost felt guilty buying it, and using a 10% off coupon code to make it even more affordable… ALMOST).  Well, it arrived yesterday and Tim said he would love to have a compare/contrast between the two editions.

First, the outside….
The cover is what the box calls ‘flexible binding.’  What it feels like to me is a textured cardboard that’s meant to look like leather.  The feel on the hand is underwhelming – Big Red’s cloth hardback feels nicer on the skin.  BUT, the fact that the TPE is about half as thick as Big Red, the weight savings and being able to comfortably wrap my hands around the spine, more than makes up for the lame cover material.  The cover does flex, and there is a definite flex mark along the spine.  Page edges are gilded and it comes with a ribbon marker.  Other than the cover material, win-win all the way around.  This would be a prime candidate for a Leonard’s rebind to something nice (Love, are you reading this?  Leonard’s gift certificates make wonderful Christmas gifts… hint hint). 

Now, the inside….
The paper is thinner, with significantly more ghosting on the TPE than Big Red.  Also, it has a less-than-smooth feel that more recent bible papers have.  I don’t know if it’s related to the thinness or just age, but it is something that makes me want to tread slowly when turning its pages.  The thickness feels to me similar to the paper that comes on the Oxford compacts or the Little Rock Study Bible hardback (just not as smooth).  While the ghosting is much more noticeable, it is no worse than the Darton Longman Todd Popular Edition of the Jerusalem Bible I also have (as a traveling/casual reading copy).  Contents are identical between Big Red and the TPE, right down to the page numbers.
So, to summarize some thoughts here….
If you want to get ready for the ‘gun show’ but not hit the weights, get Big Red.
If you want to be able to hold your Jerusalem Bible comfortably in one hand, yet still have all the notes, get the TPE.
Of course, if you just want the text of the Jerusalem Bible that can be comfortably held in one hand and don’t care about all the notes, just get the Doubleday Reader’s/DLT Popular Edition.
For me?  I’m keeping the thin paper edition (and trying to treat it gently until I can save up some cash and get it rebound).  I’ll probably keep the DLT Popular Edition I have for awhile (besides, the resale value on them stink on E-Bay) and maybe let my kids use it as a starter Bible.  But, after a wonderful journey with Big Red, it’s going to go online and hopefully travel somewhere in the USA to another reader who would like a good copy of the full Jerusalem Bible and nice biceps to boot.


David said...

I have long had both editions and agree with all your wrote. I got my TPE at a public library "get rid of the books that don't move" sale at a ridiculously low price. I guess I just have a super-emotional tie to my Big Red...was my very first Bible upon reverting to the Faith...but I just can't put it up for my biceps can use more work. :)

Leighton said...

Good find! I too found my "TPE" JB at a public library, in the used book section, and paid $1.50 for it, maybe 15 years ago. Then I found a beautiful black hardcover JB (same edition, with all the notes, etc.)with leather covering (undoubtedly bonded)that is about the same thickness but with better paper, on EBAY some years ago. it is a prize, too. I paid much more than $1.50 for that one, though.

Eric Barczak said...

David-I dont need the workout as I'm already in shape... Round is a shape!

Leighton-Well, I did pay more than $1.50, but it was under $15 total. Including $3.99 s/h. I have seen some leather types also on Ebay and one that had a box said morocco leather. But those were going for more than the Mrs. wouldn't complain about, and she's ready to do an intervention about my Bible habit. ;-)

Leighton said...

Eric, that's still a great price. And I have found the same: JBs with genuine leather are VERY expensive and hard to find. And I sympathize on the intervention!

I like the JB and the NJB, and it's frustrating that Doubleday doesn't publish the NJB in a "real" Bible package: genuine leather and Smythe sewn binding. Even the hardbacks now are glued binding. I assume it is simply a matter of demand vs. cost.

Anonymous said...

Could you tell us, what are the ISBN #'s of those that you liked best?
(e.g. "TPE" & Leighton's "better paper" version. Or are those too old to have an ISBN#...)

Eric Barczak said...

Anon-I was unable to find an ISBN on mt TPE. If youre looking for one online, i would search for Jerusslem Bible 1966 and then check descriptions for flexible cover, thin paper, or less than 2 inches thick (big red is 3 inches). Hope that helps.

Leighton said...

Sorry, Anonymous, I couldn't find one, either. It's a black hardback JB with leather wrapped boards. The spine has three Jerusalem crosses down it, and the JB in script is on the front cover in gold with a fancy gold border. The pages are gilded, and remarkably clean for a 48 year old Bible (1966 edition).

losabio said...

Hi Leighton, I think that my JB must be the exact same edition as yours. It has black textured end papers, and a pair of black ribbon book markers. I've never seen another like it!

Leighton said...

losabio, It might be... my end papers are jet black, semi-gloss, textured, with sort of a weird pattern. Reminds me of a tree pattern, I guess. When you move it around, it catches the light and changes the look of the pattern.

Very unusual!

Jonny said...

Has anyone seen the NJ Bibles from Darton, Longman, and Todd? I only have the hardback JB sans notes, but it is sewn binding.

Their website seems to imply premium leather and sewn binding for the full NJBs, but I have not seen one in person.

Leighton said...


The only DLT NJB I have seen is my compact one, which is beautiful but I'm certain with bonded leather, and the type is so small I can barely read it...

But I am wishing you hadn't told us about that sight...I looked at their offerings... uh oh...

Eric Barczak said...

Just in case anyone was looking, one of the leather ones is up on Ebay (not my auction).