Saturday, June 19, 2010

Old and New Breviary Comparison

Recently I ordered two copies of the Breviarium Romanum. The price difference was quite significant, one being an old used copy. Showing them together gives a good comparison between what book publishing used to be like compared with what we have today...

A quick disclaimer. The new breviary I have here is the "Econe Breviary" published by the SSPX. It does not fulfill Canon Law's requirement for publishing. Neither did my Diurnale, Anglican Breviary, or apparently the new Mother Angelica prayer book...or some other books that have appeared here. I've recently discovered this. We're going to look at these solely for quality.

Top: Desclee and Socii (1961) Below: Econe Breviary (2008)

Left: Econe at 7x5in. Its an odd shape for a breviary. Right: Desclee at 6x4in. Smaller than most.

The edging. The top one is 49 years old and used. Think about that for a second.

A closer look. The new edition's edging will flake off like fairy dust if touches water. The top one has lost all that it will. Notice the dent on the Econe. It came like that...grr....

The edging on the Econe Breviary.

Let's move to the insides. Here the Econe Breviary will fair quite a bit better. The layout is identical to the Diurnale Romanum published from PCP Books. However it is retypeset and they did a great job making it readable and pleasant on the pages. The Desclee and Socii Breviary is double column and very similar, save for the font choice, to the recent Nova et Vetera Breviary.

Desclee and Socii page layout. The font adds a nice touch to the book, which is small and designed with convenience in mind. Without engravings the fancy font is welcome.

Psalter in the Desclee.

The Desclee has one of those nifty secret compartment flaps in the back for storing your cards.

Page layout in the Econe. The font choice and size make it extremely easy on the eyes. I have to say this is really the best feature of the book. Also, the ribbon color choice is interesting. All of the colors are rather muted and I appreciate that they aren't flashy.

Econe Psalter. It is very nice. I've seen in some breviaries where people have written notes in them. May they did that word translations or if something struck them in a passage as important. There's plenty of room for that here.

Supplemental Propers for the SSPX... they appear to come from older office books. Would using these fulfill ones office obligation?

The ghosting (NOT bleed through) is significant but not terrible.

Econe binding. Pretty solid as far as I can tell.

The cover is rather a disappointment. I think its bonded but I'm not sure. Anyone know? It feels hardy.

The Desclee leather cover. In its day this must have been magnificent.

I bought the SSPX Econe Breviary because I saw my priest's Nova et Vetera edition. After only 2 or 3 years of use it looked like it had been through a war. These things are expensive and they need to last. Will the Econe? I have no idea, but I doubt the edging will. The binding...I think so. If you are looking to buy a new Breviarium you should consider every aspect. If you are obligated to pray the office you should inquire as to whether or not it will fulfill your obligation if you use a non-canonical book. (We could even discuss whether or not we are participating in some sort of sin by even purchasing it...but I digress...)

Here we are only looking at quality. Suffice to say even our nicest books today are shadows of their much older and distinguished cousins. I suppose there are many reasons, mostly financial, for this.


sekman said...

On the subject of brevaries, however, regarding the liturgia horarum, I noticed in rereading your post on the LH that your volume is in fact the economy edition, which only costs $87 a volume, I recently purchased a full economy set from ebay for a very reasonable price. I have seen the more expensive set and it is indeed quite nice with guilded edges and the band of gold around the inside of the covers. Just thought I'd clarify that. Have a good day.

Sek :)

Matt said...


Yes I have the economy edition of the LOTH. I wasn't aware that the leather edition had the gold border on the inside. I've seen that edition a number of times and don't ever recall seeing that. The gold border is an oft forgotten but nice feature. The leather wasn't very impressive at all to me and now that you mention it, the Econe breviary cover feels similar in construction.

Thanks for the comment!

sekman said...

Yes the leather most certainly isn't worth the $200 per volume price tag. I have recently seen a copy on ebay that is in a brown leatherette with red page edgings. I'm wondering where it came from, it most certainly is an original cover as it has that strange harp/lyre kind of symbol on it.

Ben said...

I can't stand anything but real leather, the plastic stuff is terrible.

Of topicish: I love the Monastic Diurnal from Farnborough, do you know of something just like that, with the Latin/English, but a Roman Diurnal?

Matt said...


What a second. My volumes of the Liturgia Horarum are not the economy, they are the leather. Did you mean my Liturgy of the Hours (English)? Because those are the economy editions...

Perhaps my leather copies are a different printing than yours. But they are indeed leather. Can you send a photo of yours to ossian1898 [at] Thanks and let's figure this one out!

F.G.S.A said...

Where is the Econe breviary available?

Anonymous said...

Matt, please would you email me? I've got something private to ask and I don't know how to contact you on here. My address is sw291 [at]

And no, this is a serious thing and not spam!

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