A few days ago I decided to go back and look at some of my earliest posts on this blog, which began ten years ago. One of those posts, a favorite of mine, was titled "Catholic Bibles Stink" and was published only a month after I started this blog. At the time, I was dismayed by all the different quality editions that one could find in any of the major Protestant Bible translations, yet we Catholics still had so little to choose from. I mentioned a few things in that post, including the fact that at that time the best bible I had was the late 90's version of the NRSV Reference Bible w/Apocrypha. Ironic? I also wished that we could see the NAB in more stylish editions. Did that happen? Yes, for the most part it did, thanks to publishers like the USCCB, HarperOne, and Little Rock Catholic Bible Study. (We also got a brand new edition of the NAB Old Testament in the process.) Yet, we are still waiting for a premium NABRE. Then there was the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible which at that point hadn't even been released in a single volume New Testament edition yet. Back then I joked that it had been eight years at that point since the first volume (Matthew) was released, which seemed like a really long time to wait for a completed ICSB. Re-reading that comment seems kind of funny now.
Yet here we are in 2018, ten years later. And while there have been some truly wonderful bibles produced in Catholic editions since then, there still really hasn't been a high-end, premium leather edition. Which leads me back to Cambridge University Press and their newest NRSV Reference Bible w/Apocrypha. As I stated in the first part of this review, the NRSV Reference Bible w/Apocrypha is the best premium bible on the market today that a Catholic can use and enjoy. The content is top-notch, as I said before, but what makes this a truly fine bible are the quality materials used to create and manufacture each edition. Let me briefly explain to you why I hold this bible in such esteem.
We have discussed the issue of sewn versus glued bindings dozens of times on this blog. So often I (and many of you) have come across a really cool Catholic bible edition, which unfortunately has a binding that is glued. Now if you are looking for a bible that you will use occasionally or planning to use when travelling, a glued binding on that bible will probably do the job. However, if you want something that will last (which means you are actually using the thing every day) then you want the best possible binding that is available. Also, if you are shelling out a lot of money for a bible that is covered in a premium leather, like goatskin, but has only a glued binding, you are asking for a disaster. Fortunately, every bible produced by Cambridge is sewn to the highest quality. And it is glued. Yes, glued. Cambridge University Press explains: "Note that all sewn books and Bibles are also glued. The sections are glued along the spine (usually with gauze fabric attached) to hold the book block together properly. The glue penetrates a little between the individual sections, but the advantage of a sewn book is that the individual pages are not separately attached only be a single thin line of glue to the cover: each page is part of a folded section (a 'signature') of multiple pages; each signature is sewn to all the others; then all the signatures are glued to from a book block before being cased in the cover." This means that a Cambridge bible is created to be used and to last. With care, it will also open flatly on a table or in your lap. This is the type of bible that can be handed down to your children (and children's children) because of the quality binding process which stand the test of time.
Previously, Cambridge only offered this edition in a black French Morocco leather, which came in varying quality. Fortunately, this time around, they are offering the edition with the Apocrypha in goatskin, French Morroco leather, and hardback. (If you want one without the Apocrypha, they are available in cowhide, French Morroco leather, and hardback.) The full grain leather burgundy goatskin edition is incredibly smooth and supple. The Cambridge goatskins are procured from "arid areas where environmental conditions are ideal for producing hides with the balance of strength and suppleness." In comparing this cover with the other bibles I own, none of them compare to it. The only one that would be remotely close is the Baronius Press Knox Bible that I had rebound by Leonards in a brown goatskin. The goatskin cover from Leonards is still quite good, don't get me wrong, but the Cambridge one is of a higher level of quality. The biggest difference between the two is that the inside cover of the Knox Bible was done in a "paste-off" process by which they glued the cover to the endpages of the book block. The Cambridge NRSV is edge-lined, meaning "the hand-made edge-lined cover is attached to the book block by means of a flap of the inner cover material being glued to the endpapers of the book." This goatskin edition is actually leather lined in black leather, which again increases it's softness and flexibility. If you haven't held a bible that is leather lined, you are missing out. Its smooth, supple, and durable.
Have you ever purchased a bible and realized that it didn't have ribbon markers? While that isn't terribly unexpected when you get a hardcover or paperback edition, but when you get a leather or (even) a bonded leather bible I have always found it a bit jarring when one isn't included. Fortunately, this isn't the case with the bibles produced by Cambridge. The larger lectern and goatskin editions contain two ribbons, while the other leather ones contain one. Each ribbon is produced at the appropriate length and strength so that they don't get lost in the pages or curl up after repeated use. Those of you who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, with all the flipping between pages, know that well-produced ribbon markers are an essential.
The last final touch that sets this bible apart is the art-gilt page edges. This edition is decorated on the edges of the paper with a metallic foil. When it is done in an "art-gilt" style, as this one is, a "lustrous finish is created by a combination of red dye and gilt foil." The reddish tint to the metallic foil goes really well when paired with the burgundy red cover.
If you have desired a truly high-end bible in a translation that can be utilized by Catholics, you need to order this one. Are they expensive? Yes. (Although there is an introductory discount as of this posting available.) Are the made of the highest quality of craftsmanship and care? Absolutely. I am convinced that there will never be a Catholic-specific edition of the bible made in premium leather and other materials until it is clear that there is a market for it. It seems that it still remains more popular in Catholic circles to spend money on an expensive rosary or leather bound missal than the Word of God. I am all for having nice rosaries and missals by the way, but there are plenty of options there. With the Bible, there simply aren't many. So, if you are still on the fence about getting one of these new Cambridge NRSVs, I'd encourage you to take a chance on one. You will instantly see and feel the difference when you open the box for the first time. And it also smells terrific, by the way! :)
|The CUP NRSV is 9.5′ x 7.2′ x 2′|
I want to thank Cambridge University Press for providing both the goatskin and hardcover editions of the NRSV Reference Bible with Apocrypha in exchange for an honest review. Cambridge University Press also provided a helpful catalogue which contained detailed information about the workmanship that goes into their bibles.