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The Oxford NRSV Catholic Reader’s Edition

The frontispiece of the NRSVCE Reader's Edition.

The frontispiece of the NRSVCE Reader’s Edition.

The picture above found its way into my post on JPII’s apostolic letter, Salvifici Doloris. I had been so excited to receive this bible, and to finally have a copy of Scripture that was a good size to carry around. When I finally did get my copy in the mail, I was simultaneously happy and disappointed. Happy, because the bible was great. Disappointed, because I knew this particular copy just wasn’t going to cut it. For the sake of this review, I’m going to give you all the good news first and ignore the sad, unhappy bits.

A Bible Packed with Extras

In-text maps!

In-text maps!

What, you mean a Catholic bible with useful things inside? Yes, dears. Unfortunately, this particular version is out of print, but if you can find it and are satisfied with hardcover (the leather version has disappeared), this may be a good bible for you. Actually, it is a good bible. The Reader’s Edition is a great size at  roughly 6.5″ X 9″. It’s no slimline, but this isn’t a giant bible you’d never read away from your desk. The print is easy-to-read with good margins and headings in the text. What really makes this bible great are the in-text maps and charts—64 maps and 12 charts altogether. For example, in the beginning of the New Testament, there are a few pages entitled “A Harmony of the Gospels” that show parallel events from each Gospel and the corresponding verses. Check out the above map of the return from exile. All of the maps and charts are placed in relevant spots.

In addition, this edition has a table of lectionary readings, the papal encyclical Dei Verbum, the text of several common Catholic prayers, the usual Oxford maps, and a helpful concordance. The prayers in the back even include the Divine Praises, so you’re all set for Adoration! All of the goodies just had my Catholic heart a-twitter; if this bible had cross-references, I may have very well fainted. It really is a nice bible, and I have yet to figure out why Oxford won’t print something like this again, perhaps in their usual NABRE or RSV translations. A NABRE edition like this would be a welcome gift option!

A Binding Packed with Problems

Oxford's usual black and gold.

Oxford’s usual black and gold.

That, dears, is where the sparkly-eyed happy fit stops. For all the inside that’s just great, the binding has too many problems to justify keeping this bible. First, the good—the leather is beautiful and soft. It’s thick, too. The end result is a Berkshire leather cover that flexes without being flimsy and feels great in the hand. If you look back at the picture of the in-text maps, you’ll notice the bible also has the gold outline around the inside; it’s a nice touch also found in other editions like the Oxford Pocket NRSV with Apocrypha.

However, it seems this bible has been printed cross-grain, which I mentioned the other day. I had trouble snapping a photo of the issue, but this post over at Bible Design Blog does a good job of explaining and illustrating the topic much better than I could with dorm furniture and an iPhone camera. The pages crinkle very badly near the gutter, and to a lesser extent on the whole page. The spine cracks every time I open the book or flip pages, and the pages themselves have a very bad habit of sticking together. At first I thought it might be humidity, but the bible showed no signs of relaxing. In addition, the page crinkling shows up in the gilding as a subtle wavy line all through. I wanted to like this bible, but it’s too distracting to read when every single page is crinkled. Thankfully, the seller I got it from is willing to refund me. I can happily recommend Bell Wether Books!

You can check out Timothy’s post on Catholic Bibles here, and peruse possible buying options here on Amazon. Perhaps one day I’ll find a good, usable bible for everyday reading, but that day sadly isn’t today. I’ll be shipping the Reader’s Edition off tomorrow and heading back to the drawing board for “Project Reading Bible.” Next week is spring break, so I hope post more when I’m not working on schoolwork. God bless, and thanks for reading!

In His Sacred Heart,

Erica