Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Guest Review: Owen's Opening of the King Bible

The following review is largely photo image driven and it's focus is on the physical book itself including contents but not speaking to the "translation." 

Thanks for Timothy for the invitation to do this when I mentioned that I had acquired a copy.

There are a lot of photos. Don't say I didn't say so :)  And, the following could seem a little fanatical, perhaps it is but as the specific bible is not easily found outside the UK and with few suppliers it seemed it might be helpful to offer a detailed view. Some of the images are fuzzy. I do not present them so you can read the text but so that you have a general idea of the look of things.

Shipped from thebookdepository [UK]

In the photo I've covered my address with my art-business cards. Otherwise, this is as it arrived with the contents very well protected. The photos that follow happened in real-time as I took the treasure out of it's package; other than the white in the display box window (below) which is the packing slip that sat on top of the bible inside. I removed the paper and closed it up again without removing the book itself.

The book was in perfect condition and truth, that is not always the case when ordering online from well known non bricks-n-mortar stores. It increasingly seems we get "seconds" from A-zon for example.

[Caveat emptor: oddly, the day my copy arrived the seller had dropped the price by $16.00, at the time of writing this post, from what I paid. I wrote them. They have no intention of offering me anything more than the "fact" that prices fluctuate according to availability [and recent purchases is my honest guess as I have seen this occur more than once - but that's good news for anyone who has not yet purchased]. That said, thebookdepository sells for less than I have seen at the publisher's site or when you find it on ebay. ]

Out of the box:

Opened roughly to center without doing any of my usual careful page-by-page from the center out to the left / out to the right, to gently break in the binding. Such a fastidious task is often not necessary in bibles that are sewn and covered with one kind or another of synthetic "leather" as is the case with this edition. Speaking of leather, this has what the publisher's promotional material calls a "[s]oft leather effect". The whole affair looked pretty flexible so I went for it and . . .

. . . was happily not disappointed. Without delay then I went front then back to see how the brand-newly opened book cover would respond - as in, just how flat would it lay and therefore what's the potential for a lovely flat sitting bible with a bit of usage?

That bods well. Onward. Let's go find that ribbon.

Purple? Ack. What were they thinking of? How about a nice tan or brown or even black. Ah well, at least I know why the display box and hardcover editions are purple. Maybe all the other colours used to distinguish a brand of bible were used up. Perhaps the colour will grow on me or I make my own set of ribbons as I have with other bibles. A little DYI is a bible-geek's wont.

Looking at those images enlarged one begins to have good sense of the ghosting/show-through but more about readability late. Next-up, "size maters"?

A sense of size:

Guest  reviewer Russ, in another post showed you the King Bible along with the New Oxford Annotated NRSV with Apocrypha, Hardcover. I reprise that comparison here adding another large bible to the mix, the New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition [copious notes and cross reference], real leather board cover with slip-case.

And, below, here is the King Bible, sandwiched between the NOA-NRSVwA and the Life With God, NRSV with Deuterocanonicals reviewed on this blog. Clearly this is not an easily taken to Mass or bible study bible.

Readability and the like:

Margins. Impressive, I think. Plenty of room for marginalia such as bible-geeks like myself are wont to add. The inside margin on left facing pages throughout are plentiful; none of this bend the page nonsense in order to read the copy. The right hand margins on all pages, left and right facing, throughout are wider; a good 1.25 inches.

Ghosting/Show-through. Very good, as in not much, as in pretty standard to slightly better-than. I've selected these pages with minimal text and even with all that white space things look good and read well. Pages with lots of text read very clearly.

Single Column Text:
Correct. You read and have seen correctly. This Catholic bible is SINGLE COLUMN TEXT in the Hebrew portions [here called the Old Testament] AND in the New Testament. This fact alone numbers it among the few Catholic bibles with single column text and is desirable to many a reader for that reason alone.

And, it is a beautifully set single column text at that. How so?

Font and font size:
The font is the very pleasing Adobe Garamond and is used throughout including the text notes and bold subheadings. I find this uniform text makes the content shine rather than screaming, "Look at our clever design team." 

Using allbibles sample bible font chart [a print out laid over the bible page] I make the main text to be 9.5pt with the Old Testament footnotes to be a surprisingly legible 7pt. Fellow reviews Russ guesses 9pt for the main text. Subheadings, paragraph breaks at a 10pt bold.

The kerning is very good, open but not loose and certainly not crowded as is the case in too many bibles. Line spacing is roughly 1.5 times the text height. 

Setting of the Notes:

As shown above in several images it is a fairly standard two column setting in the Old Testament. In the New Testament it's a whole different thing. 

A page from the New Testament shows the inset Notes. Above on the page shown the Notes appear at the top and in the lower third of the page with the scripture text running the full column width  The font size of the inset Notes is the same as the main body text. I find it very easy to read. The inset Notes do break the flow of the bible text yet should you care to skip Notes reading the bible text only flows very well. Right now I am reading everything. Perhaps more on that in another post. Love it!

The following is a good example of a page that has Notes and Old Testament quotations within the New Testament. Most are center text. Occasionally, a quotation is very short or a fragment it will flow within the main body copy and not be centered as a drop-quote.  

I have found but one instance of a page that has this boxed note below. It is in a New Testament book. Perhaps there are some of these in the Old Testament but I haven't uncovered every page by any means.

Below, I do so briefly and limitedly verge into "translation" yet only relation to the look more than the content.

Here then, you find highlighted with purple is an example of the a) seldom used list of references at the bottom of the page and b) convention of using square brackets to indicate questionable translation choice or more often words used to make sense in the English that are not present in the Greek.

Cross-Reference Citations:
Regarding referenced verses, "forward" or "back" they are limited and are primarily found within the copy of the inset Notes though sometimes in the bible text itself. In both these cases the citation is within closed square brackets. Very readable and not distracting. Less often "cross" references are listed as a footer [see above].  In the Old Testament cross references are given within the two column footer notes.

Translator's Emphasis:
In the bible text words are occasionally made bold, or italic or both. Sometimes the reason for this is explained in the inset Notes but just as often not. One must intuit why this may be. Overall I have not found it a problem coming to the text with some pre-knowledge. Honestly, I don't think it matters.

  • The only other bible using inset notes in this manner that I am aware of, Protestant, Catholic or otherwise is Eugene Peterson's [standard Protestant book selection not the Catholic/Ecumenical edition of] The Message translation called Conversations: The Message With Its Translator, now O.P. with a re-print under a new title revisions and additional material.

Book Introductions, Maps, Other:

The book introductions tend to be short. Most come in at under one page while some run to two pages as in the second example image below.

Maps are few. Two a the back of the New Testament . . .

and but one in the Old Testament, located at the close of the Historical Books presenting Palestine of the Maccabean period. The maps are in my preferred grey scale. They are, I believe, intentionally simple so as to keep the reader from wonderful but not entirely necessary head knowledge; just enough to help you "place" events if you even want/need to.

Oh yes, Other. 
Apart from a two paragraph About the Author page, the translator's page and a half "Dear Reader" preface and an Acknowledgement page there is no Other. No charts of weights and measures, no timelines, no glossary, no cross-reference system, no thing that will detract the reader from reading. Frankly, I find it wholly refreshing.

Aesthetically and subjectively[!] speaking:

I can live with two-tone and as I must lucky for me these are two tones that suit me for a bible. The stitching around the edges is well done and attractive. The "soft leather effect" is pretty much that. One is either OK with it or not. I'm OK with it. Feels smooth, flexible and warms in the hand. It doe not smell, at all, not like leather unhappily yet happily not like the backside of a chemical plant as is with some synthetic materials used as bible covers.

Now, the logo. Ick! Nasty. Yuk. It's HUGE. The "The" in the middle top of the "B" drives my artist/graphic designer mind crazy. And, it's huge; both on the front cover and on the spine [as seen way above]; huge! Did I mention the logo and author name are huge? Why do bible publishers do this to us. However, the new Didache bibles [NABRE and RSV2CE] are worse stinkers for clutter so console myself that I'm not looking at those.

I do rather like that it's title is simply, The Bible and not The Holy Bible because every Christian bible is holy. [This reminds me of at time I worked in a Mom n Pop Christian bookstore. A women asked for a Holy Bible. After some information gleaning questions to help find some suitable translation/editions I began showing her selections to which she said, "None of these say Holy. I want a Holy Bible not just a bible".]

For "fun":

I have never really understood why the following kind of images get bible-geek's mojo going but, well, here:

And, "in closing": 

After a few hours of use the book is already opening nearly flat at either end. That's impressive. 

P.S. I have some thoughts about how the page design and content aids reading the sacred text and have found some very interesting translation peculiarities that have quite "blessed" me. There's a post. I also have a copy of the 2005 Pocket Edition that curiously has more introductory material than this full bible does. Odd. There's another post. Perhaps.

Related posts to date on this translation:

Guest Review: Holy Bible King Translation

Review of King's LXX Translation

#frnicholaskingbible #kingbible #frnicholasking


Anonymous said...

Thanks Owen for such an extensive and helpful review.
Bless you for your application.

Deacon Dave said...

Does anyone know if the NT Pocket Edition contains the intros and notes as in the full edition?

Biblical Catholic said...

This is yet another book that leads me to say 'I wish this was available as an e-book'

owen swain said...

Deacon Dave, you anticipate a future review ;-)

The N.T. (pocket edition) actually has a translator's Introduction that the edition reviewed above does not have. Otherwise the N.T. intext notes and book introductions are identical. In fact the page by page layout is exact.

owen swain said...

Bible Catholic, I wrote the publisher to ask about an eventual ebook edition. Their reply was that there is no such plan at present.

wxmarc said...

This is an excellent overview, Owen! Thank you for taking the time to provide so many pictures. I just received my copy of the King translation (boxed presentation edition) in the mail today from Book Depository. Your descriptions match my experience so far pretty well.

I will say that I was struck by how "floppy" the imitation leather cover is, and how thin the pages are. As you say, the show-through is pretty standard. It's certainly not worse than the Harper NRSV Catholic Reader's Edition which is the bible I've spent the most time with lately. But the flexible cover seems to accentuate my impression that the pages are quite thin. Within the first few minutes of use, the first and the final page in the bible became creased after failing to lay flat when I flipped from one section of the bible to another. It's not a major problem, but I'll need to get used to handling this bible. The pages also turn with any slight breeze. I began to walk slowly across the room with the bible open in my hand, and pages began turning.

My initial impressions of the translation and commentary are certainly positive. Fr. King includes some standard scholarly details that I would expect from either the NABRE or the NOAB-NRSV, but he integrates these details with comments about the broader meaning of the text and its application to modern Christianity. I was especially happy to find that his footnotes in the Old Testament often comment on the meaning of a passage, both as it would be understood by pre-Christian Jewish readers and later by the New Testament writers. He gives a lot of good insight and context for Old Testament passages.

owen swain said...


Congrats on your knew "sword" (as we used to back in the day).

I concur about the page thinness and I should have mentioned that so thanks for doing so. It won't help but yes, I had exactly the same experience with the front (first) title page. The slightest action caused one fold line which multiplied to many before two days were done. Happily the has not happened with any other pages.

It is a bible that wants to be treated gently when page turning. Normally this would be a disaster for me but as I find I am reading it as aone does a novel - start here, read, turn page, read, turn page etc - without moving back and forth so for me it's working well with daily reading.

The N.T. Pocket Edition has non-bible, regular paper and somehow manages to be only 1 inch thick with no sacrifice of content.

I'm finding the cover quite pleasant and prefer material such as this to the modern crop of bonded leathers that have the flexibility and tactile pleasure of tree bark.

For sheer atrocious paper thinness nothing in my experience beats the NRSV Standard Bible (Catholic et.al) for THIN pages. To breathe is to turn a page. Oddly, I love the darn thing as it has what I find to be the most appealing single column layout and setting to be found. I gave my copy to our eldest and had to get another because, after all, I missed it.

You have done more roaming than I. I have only touched the O.T. as seen above for the review. More on the reason for that in a possible follow-up post.


Thanks all for your comments.

Deacon Dave said...

Thanks Owen!

Leonardo said...


Thanks for a great description and photos.

Anonymous said...

Does his translation have a Imprimatur?


wxmarc said...

Sadly, it does not have an imprimatur. I'm starting to get the sense that the process of reviewing a scriptural translation and notes for an imprimatur is so onerous that people shy away from it for all but the most promising translations.

rolf said...

Anon, it does not.