At long last, I am finally ready to show you St. Benedict Press' new release of the Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition. Above you can see both the Ultrasoft and Genuine Leather versions. I have a favorite of the two which won't come as a surprise. However I'll just say from the start that when put toe to toe (ribbons to ribbons?)they compare very favorably to each other.
Do you read your Bible mostly in your home and occasionally take it to the Adoration Chapel, Church, or Bible study? Does the way a Bible feels in your hands matter to you? Do you want a soft leather bible that flops around but can't afford to rebind your old one in calfskin or goatskin? Then let me show you the Ultrasoft RSV.
The Ultrasoft version, like its Large Print Douay cousin feels great in your hands. It opens flat after an initial out-of-box workout. You will have to gently flip all of the pages and bend it around a few times. Do not mind the creaking noises. But don't be hasty or rough with it. After all, you've just dropped $40 on a new Bible.
It does Bible yoga moderately well. The flexibility is tempered only by the size of the book and its glued binding. Tall form factor Bibles do the yoga much better because of their shape. This however is a good showing for a hand sized bible.
It lays flat and stays open...most times. But when you are in the beginning of the Old Testament or the end of the New it will not. This is an issue with the glued binding. The day it lays flat when opened to Revelation chapter 21 is the day you need to purchase a new one because the binding has probably split. Just sayin'.
[Lauren at St. Benedict Press wrote this in an email to me:
"I’d also like to mention that the glue we use in our bindings will not crack as many older glues have in the past. Our binderies use a glue that will stand the test of time and will not crack or allow pages to fall out. (I am told the only way pages from a book bound in this way could come out is if you physically ripped them out yourself.) "
Good to know. This makes me feel even better about these editions.]
I really like the feeling of this Bible and can say that it is worth the $40 you will pay for it. It is probably the nicest of the RSV-CEs on the market.
On the other hand...
Do you take your Bible everywhere you go? Do you make a daily holy hour or read your Bible on breaks at work? Maybe you are a traveler or a truck driver. Things fall on your Bible or you have a messy house. You are prone to spills or knocking things over?
Let me introduce you to the Genuine Leather version. Originally I believed this was bonded leather, but it is fact NOT bonded leather. Lauren wrote this in the same email from above:
"These are Genuine Leather – not Bonded Leather. They are purchased from Cromwell Leather Group and are complete, whole hides – not manufactured. We pride ourselves on selecting true leathers for our bibles."
So yes this is a tougher feeling leather but it is REAL. So feel good about paying more for a Bible with a real leather cover on it. I also assume this could soften with time, given the oils from your hands will have an effect on the cover of any book.
It is also less flexible. The GL would have stood upright on its spine with no problem until I gently flattened it out with my hands for about a minute or so. Do that slowly. A little creaking noise is ok. It will lay flat once you have finished.
The results are a pretty nice Bible for someone who tends to be a little rough on their things. It also looks good too. The cover makes the book feel less expensive than its lower priced Ultrasoft counterpart but its strength is that you really can't nick this one or dent it.
Yikes! Bible yoga fail! The more durable cover has its natural consequences.
On all editions from St. Benedict/TAN Books the gilt edges are nice and shiny. I hope they hold up this way because it really makes for a great looking book.
The leather edition has nicer end papers, btw. They are some sort of leather or leather-like material.
Of course the covers and physical aspects of the Bible are not the most important but the since Bibles are a dime a dozen these days they certainly factor in our purchasing decisions. Nevertheless the text is penultimate.
St. Benedict Press has done a nice job here. This is a straightforward text edition with notes in the back. The print is readable and relatively easy on the eyes. The poetry sections are set apart. (not paragraphed)
You will notice a moderate amount of ghosting. Just a quick note here; Ghosting is not "bleed through." Bleed through is what your highlighter does, when the ink actually comes through the page. Ghosting is when text on another page appears due to thin paper. Ghosting is a problem for Bible publishers because while we all want thin Bibles we also want readable text. Most Bibles these days have moderate ghosting. Sometimes it can get really bad with the ultra-thin editions.
As a Bible reader, it is nice to have the notes in the back. As a Bible student it is not. Personally I would have like the notes to be with the text. I also would have liked the notes to be in a larger font. This is the only potential draw back of this edition. ... besides the missing cross references.
The plot thickens.
I loved this email from the publicist. My comments and emphasis.
Our translation is the original version kept by the National Council of Churches. I have followed your and other’s blogging about the confusion over the different RSV-CEs available. It has been quite confusing to us as well. The version we have is the only version licensed by the National Council of Churches, [NOT the RSV-2CE apparently...] through HarperOne (a division of HarperCollins).
Wow. Pretty interesting eh? They didn't put cross references in because nobody knows who owns them.
A new feature in this edition is the Calendar of Readings for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. This is nice to have if this is your normally attended liturgy, especially if you can't make it to daily Mass. Many protestant Bibles these days come with a yearly reading plan. This is the Catholic answer, and its a good one.
Is that your final answer?
If you purchase this edition I hope you really enjoy it. St. Benedict Press has put together a nice Bible for every day use. In fact I haven't seen one I didn't like yet. If you put the Genuine Leather side by side with the Ultrasoft...I would go with the Ultrasoft. I showed it to some people after Mass on Sunday and they universally thought it was high quality leather until I told them it was a chemical concoction. But again, you might be rougher on your Bible than I.
All my reviews of the St. Benedict/TAN Bibles: