Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Physical Comparison of The Catholic Study Bible 1990 + 2016

Over the past few years, I have slowly been gifting away most of the bibles I have accumulated since this blog started in 2008.  Two bibles I have kept, however, are the 1990 and 2016 The Catholic Study Bible (CSB) published by Oxford University Press.  They represent the first and the most recent update in this venerable edition.  I am not going to spent that much time discussing the content in both of these bibles, but rather I am going to look at their physical and visual qualities.   However, as we get started, it is important to note that the 1990 edition contains the original 1970 NAB OT (including the original NAB Psalter) and the 1986 NAB revised NT.  The 2016 edition contains the now branded NABRE, with fully revised OT and 1986 revised NT.  (The 2016 edition is also important since it finally updated the extensive reading guides to reflect the NABRE OT, which was not reflected in the 2011 edition.)  The reading guides in both editions are a little under 600 pages in length, but the content is different reflecting updates to scholarship and translation.

The first thing you will notice is the size.  The 2016 is thicker than the original, even though its length is a tad bit shorter.  There are two reasons for this: The first is that the 2016 has considerably more study helps included compared to the original 1990.  When the original came out, it was praised for the extensive reading guides, essays, appendix materials, Sunday Lectionary Readings, and Oxford Maps that accompanied the NAB translation and notes.  Yet, times have changed and the demand for "more" in a study bible have continued to increase.  The newest edition contains all of what the previous edition had, but also more essays, full lectionary readings, updated Oxford Maps, concise concordance, and dozens of in-text mini-essays, charts, drawings, and maps.  The second reason for the size difference is that in the early 90's Oxford created their study bibles with generous margins.  I own the 1991 New Oxford Annotated Study Bible (NRSV) and it too has the same generous margins. 

The cover materials have also changed in the years since 1990, at least for these Catholic editions.  My 1990 CSB was bounded in genuine leather.  Being almost 27 years old, it still has a nice feel to it and continues to have no structural issues.  The sewn binding allows it to still lay open flat, just like it did when I first got it.  The 2016 is made of a fairly stiff bonded leather.  No genuine leather edition is available currently.  A genuine leather cover was not available for the previous edition as well.  Now, if you are suggesting that Oxford isn't doing quality genuine leather editions any more, I will point you to their most recent NOAB NRSV 4th Edition.  That is a beautifully crafted cover, which may be the nicest genuine leather cover I have ever held in my life.  So, it can be done.  The only reason I can think as to why Oxford hasn't done the CSB in genuine leather is the fact that Catholics simply don't buy premium bibles in the numbers that will allow most publishers to make a profit.  Over the many years of this blog, I hate to say it, but I think that remains true for the most part.  

Lastly, the differences in the page-layout are striking.  The 1990 has much more space to it and feels less confined and cramped.  The 2016, while still attractive to read from and enhanced by the many in-text maps, charts, and essays, just isn't as appealing compared to the original.  This, I know, is completely subjective, but I also feel the same way about how the page-layouts have progressed in the NOAB NRSV's as well, which in many ways parallel each other.  

Overall, these are two very different study bibles from Oxford.  Over the span of 26 years, the translations changed, twice, the reading guides were updated, more material was added, and the physical/visual quality morphed into something different.  If I were to sum it up in one sentence, it would be this: While the content improved in almost every way, the packaging of that content decreased in quality.  

As always, your thoughts?


Biblical Catholic said...

Is that the one edited by Donald Senior et al?

To be honest, I care less about issues like binding and whatnot than I used to because I now buy e-books almost exclusively.

Timothy said...

The '90 is indeed

TSO said...

In some sense it's odd since many have made the argument that ebook revolution will make physical books more beautiful:

"[James] Daunt doesn’t feel that the current vogue for beautiful books is anything new, but, rather, a return to the values that existed in a previous publishing era. After the financial crash, he says, 'there was some cost-cutting and shortsighted penny-pinching that went on, trying to boost profit margins by cutting back on production values, and I think publishers realised that consumers needed a reason to go to bookshops. And that was to buy proper books with decent paper and decent design. We’ve seen a clear relationship between books that were successful and books that looked nice and had been made well. So it then became a commercial imperative to do it.'”

From https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/14/how-real-books-trumped-ebooks-publishing-revival

Mark D. said...

I purchased a copy of the 3rd edition and returned it almost immediately. The font size and page layout simply made the text unusable to me. For the life of me, I do not understand why it is impossible for Catholic editions of the Bible to be formatted with some thought and attention to detail. Along with poor bindings, this is a recurring problem with Catholic editions of the Bible. Type too tiny to read comfortably, especially with the footnotes, text cramped on the page, etc.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully by the time the "nah bruh" '25 comes out, they'll have the physical quality of this study bible back up to snuff. I'd like to check it out then. But that's 8 years in the future.

JDH said...

I have the hardcover edition of the 2016 CSB, which I bought because the leather edition was bonded. I agree that the quality of the content is very high, but I also like the page layout. My main complaint would be the level of ghosting, which can be pretty distracting.

Jerry Mc Kenna said...

Given my own experience as someone new to bible reading, I don't care all that much fancy bindings. I do care about good paper and a hard bound book is all I need.

Thomas said...

This is an off topic comment but why can'take we buy a copy of just the old testament, why is it always packaged with the new. You can buy a new testament alone but not the old?