Friday, August 06, 2010

Review: Nova et Vetera 1962 Breviary

You can click on any image in this post to make it larger.

Thanks to the generous lending of Maximus Scriptorus over at I was finally able to get my hands on one of these to show you. When this edition of the 1962 Breviary first came out I always thought the cost of acquiring such a set would prohibit me from sharing them with you.

Of course, I have seen them before. These breviaries are used by many members of the FSSP and so I've had the chance to hold one and look inside briefly. In that past, I have heard complaints about them and indeed I've seen the results of what they look like after 2 years of steady use. It is not pretty. But they could have been dropped, stepped on, who knows really.

At any rate I can compare these now to the Econe Breviary. One thing right off the bat that I'll say is this: This set makes a better case for the $300 price tag. I'm not saying they are perfect, as we'll get to, but they do certainly have a more expensive feel to them.

The leather is calfskin and I believe it is what we would call an "ironed" calfskin which makes it very thin. In fact it is too thin. The cover, however beautiful, makes the book seem "delicate". The Econe breviary, for whatever else may be wrong with it, is a warhorse by comparison.

Yet the calfskin is still nice overall for a cover. It feels better in your hands even if it gives you the impression the book could fall apart (though it won't). Not all calfskin is like this by the way.

Many older breviaries typically had their cover glued or at least attached in some way to their spines. This one doesn't. Nor for that matter does the Econe. That style keeps the binding tight indefinitely. The thinness of the leather here creates an odd lump in your hands when reading. I've tried to give an example here in the following photos:

(The following photo looks horrible, but I assure you I am being extremely gentle with the book! No worries Maximus!)

The actual binding is very decent. It is of course sewn. The breviary contains six ribbons whereas the Econe has 4. Having used both now I can say 4 are necessary, but 6 is convenient.

Which brings me to another topic. The N&V Breviary comes with a massive amount of cards. I only ever use the Matins and Benedictus/Magnificat cards. But some people may have a different preference. Again, this is a convenience and it is nice to have options in this regard. It also came with a Hymni Antiqui card, which contain the old office hymns still found in the Benedictine Monastic office. We won't go into that subject at the moment, but I really like this feature.

Let's talk ribbons. These are soft, dark colored ribbons. I greatly prefer these to the Econe which are much brighter. These have a serious quality that others do not. However I would prefer them to have been stronger. These will fray very easily. My parish priest has them tied in knots on his set so they stay in tact. Once they are frayed, which for some could be a matter of months, you will either have to pay to get the whole thing rebound, re-ribboned, or cut them and go to your local Catholic book shop and try to squeeze in (or mangle) one of those Catholic Book Publishing Company sets down the spine.

The end papers are perfect. I like them a bit rough like this because it helps keep the cards, which are slippery and laminated, inside the book. Sure, leather would have been nice too, but you have to use this thing, right?

The text inside could not be more clear. They've done a nice job on the fonts and the presentation of the text. The set up is double column the whole way through. Some find that irritating, others appreciate that. You decide. For my part, I've found that sometimes it can be difficult to tell where you are in the book when you first open it because it takes a more careful look to tell the difference between the sections. In the Econe the Psalms are single column so it is simpler. This is a matter of preference and the major experiential difference between the two editions.

I would have preferred if Nova et Vetera indented the first line of each verse in the Psalms as some breviaries have done. It makes it easier to find your place should you get distracted.

The fonts in this edition are superior to the Econe in my opinion.

In the front you have card stock pages for the ordinary parts of the offices.

Maximus also sent his covers along. The first is the one sold and produced by Nova et Vetera themselves. Its very nice.

You have to put the cards in after the book, just so you know. Its difficult the other way around.

This one he made himself and it makes great way to store your non-used volume.

And this one, by the way, works well too. It is the Volume I leather cover from Catholic Book Publishing company. It fits nicely but test it first before you just shove your extra thin calfskin breviary covers into it.

Given the fact that this version carries an imprimatur and the overall quality is superior I would recommend this edition over the Econe breviary. However the Econe is definitely sturdier construction. There isn't a whole lot else more to say, its really just that simple.


Robert said...

Matt, did you get your Blessed Be God back yet?. How do you like it?.

Matt said...

Hi Robert,

Yup I got it back. They did a nice job. Review forthcoming!

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