Monday, August 10, 2009

Review: TAN's New Paperback Douay-Rheims

Today, I received in the mail the new Douay-Rheims published by St. Benedict Press/TAN. The publicist saw my initial mention of it a few weeks ago and sent me a copy to review. As everyone knows, I don't make any money from book reviewing. I do this as a service because I am a lover of books. It can be frustrating purchasing books online without being able to hold them and really look them over. So hopefully this type of post helps people make better purchasing decisions.

TAN sent me the paperback edition so I will be mainly discussing it with other paperbacks in mind. Although we will compare it to other Douays as well. We should begin by noting that paperback Bibles don't necessarily fill the same need as their more hardy cousins: the leatherbounds and hardcovers. In the conservative Catholic world the Ignatius RSV (1st Edition *1) is king. I believe this Douay is now its main "competitor" in the Catholic paperback Bible market.

This is the first Douay-Rheims I have ever held in my hands that did not remind me of an antique. Almost everything about it is nice...modern. It feels like a new Bible. Even the printing inside favorably compares with modern editions. More on that later. The cover is your standard paperback Bible cover. Nothing to write home about. Compared to the Ignatius the TAN edition seems a little more flimsy. Definitely shinier. If you have ever seen the (Protestant) ESV Outreach Bible *2 , you will have an idea of this cover. They are almost identical.

I include this picture to show you the size. It is perfect. Much more portable than other Douay-Rheims out there. You can see it is almost exactly the same size as the Ignatius. I think there are a few reasons why Douays are generally bulkier than modern Bibles. One reason is that publishers will not break from the traditional practice of one-verse-per-line formatting. Not sure for the reasoning behind this. But TAN has gotten around the bulkiness by using thinner paper. In my opinion losing the bulkiness makes this a worthy purchase.

Paperback and leatherbound Bibles should be floppy. They should lay flat when opened and be able to bend back around on themselves to be held in one hand easily and then return to a normal close when finished. This one performs well but the Ignatius Bible does one small thing better which could help with durability.

The new TAN Douay-Rheims Bible as held by the spine. There are ridges on the cover to help take some pressure off but they don't seem to do much. By comparison...

The Ignatius Bible, also floppy, does achieve the goal of taking pressure off the spine by bending at the ridges.

Now let's move onto the inside. The Ignatius Bible gets around the formatting issue by basically not doing any formatting at all. Here you see Daniel 3:8. Much of the Ignatius RSV runs together.

By comparison the Douay format is like this:

Ah look at that nice red text for the words of Christ! Also take note that the footnotes in this new Douay have undergone formatting changes. The font is clearer than in other printings and the reference verses have been given the modern rendering. In other Douay printings those cross references would have looked like this: b Mark 6.53 ---c Mark 7.1 . The periods rather than colons made it somewhat confusing when a lot of them appeared on the same line. This is not a problem in TAN's new edition. The text in this Bible is much crisper than the Ignatius (although the RSV has a heavier weight to it ) which might prove easier on the eyes for some. I noticed one strange thing ... Christ's words in the Apocalypse are not in red. Not sure why. I've seen protestant Bibles where they are. Perhaps this is an editorial choice?

[Update 8/13/09: I contacted TAN/St. Benedict and asked why they did this. Here is the response:

Regarding the words in the Apocalypse not being red-lettered, our decision was to use only words spoken by Christ while on earth. We compared this to other publications and found that the only exception to this was Jesus’ words spoken to Paul in Acts. In an effort to remain consistent, we followed that lead.
So there you go.]

The inside also improves some long standing Douay-Rheims references in the back as well. Here we have Baronius Press's edition as compared to TAN's. The Table of References has been improved*3 to a modern format and is now much easier to use.

"Old" Douay method of reference formatting. It can be difficult to find what you are looking for.

And here we have the same table (under a different heading). Now you can easily find what you need. And of course the modern scripture verse rendering is present here too.

Old table of Sunday/Feast Day scripture lessons.

New table of scripture lessons in the TAN edition.

Here is an example of one of the nice color paintings.

What makes a paperback Bible nice are 1) Portability. 2) You can beat them up and not feel guilty. 3) Affordability. So something must be said about the cost. This Bible costs $29 which is edging a little high on the paperback scale. By comparison the Ignatius Bibles (second or first edition.) are both around $20. However Douay fans want Douay Bibles and probably won't be swayed by an extra $10. If you are interested in the Douay-Rheims but want to hold off on a more permanent hardcover or leatherbound edition then this is a nice choice.

As an experienced Douay-Rheims user this all comes back around to the fact that this Bible doesn't feel like a relic. I really get the impression that I am reading a Bible printed today for people in today's world. This review is in no way putting down the beloved Baronius edition. Baronius prints fine Bibles. This review is of TAN's paperback. And like I said above, paperbacks and leatherbounds are two different animals. However, if the TAN leatherbounds are just like this softcover...well let's just say they are going to be nice.

The wrapping of this edition indicates they are also releasing a new RSV edition. That should also be a really nice Bible. We'll have to wait and see. Nevertheless, I think this should put any fears some may have had about St. Benedict Press' aquisition of TAN Books. They have put out a really nice, new edition of the Douay-Rheims that any Catholic would be happy to own. Yes there are a few minor details that could be improved, but if you are looking for the perfect Bible you aren't going to get it from anyone.

Nice job TAN.

*1 - I have a 2nd edition in the house. The formatting is much nicer than the first edition. But that is another review. I am merely trying to compare the new TAN edition with the standard Catholic paperback Bible, which the 1st edition is in my opinion.

*2 - I own an ESV Outreach Bible that I bought for $7 at a bookstore. Some verse renderings and certainly the helps in it are problematic and even heretical. I do not recommend this version especially to someone who doesn't know their faith well.

*3 - the formatting of the references may have been like this in the original TAN edition published eons ago but it is no longer in print. I have never seen those references so this is least to me.


Moonshadow said...

I'm sold! :-)

this Bible doesn't feel like a relic.

Important observation.

I'd have to look at my red-letter NAB if I can find it, but I'm pretty sure Christ's words in Revelation are in red.

Matt said...

If you get one, let me know what you think!

DrewMON said...

Thanks for the review, sometimes it's just not practical to carry around a large leather bound bible and this seems to fit the bill. You mentioned at one time reviewing the lulu breviary project. I know they are not selling it now due to canonical reasons but I would be very interested in seeing a review of it.

Matt said...


Yeah I was holding off until it got canonical approval. However - I wouldn't mind snapping some pictures of it to show what it looks like when printed.

Its actually quite big for a breviary, about the same size as the Catechism, but certainly usable.

Anthony McDonald said...

I am a fan of the Douay-Rheims Bible since it is the closest any English speaker can get to St. Jerome, but what's this I hear about Pope Pius XII? In his 1943 encyclical, Divino afflante Spiritu, Pius XII stressed the importance of diligent study of the original languages and other cognate languages. Pius XII characterized the original language texts as "having been written by the inspired author himself" and opined that such texts "have more authority and greater weight than any even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern." This shifted the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine's focus off the Douay-Rheims (and St. Jerome) and onto ancient sources. The CCD translations formed the basis of the 1970 New American Bible. Was Pius XII right when he shifted their focus to ancient sources, or was this a mistake? Wasn't St. Jerome forced by Pope Damasus I to be conservative, or are we missing critical elements because of this? Just curious.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton