Thursday, June 18, 2015

New Jerusalem Bible Red Leather Pocket Edition (Review)

I have always been biased towards the New Jerusalem Bible. This was the edition that got me interested in the original languages and learning more about the manuscript tradition. After learning Hebrew, the NJB's use of the divine names in the Hebrew text became another mark in its favor.

Regrettably, there have been few editions of the New Jerusalem Bible available Stateside. During the 1990s, the NJB was fairly well represented in American bookstores. For a variety of reasons, the American publisher hasn't seen fit to continue published the myriad of editions available circa 1985.

Darton, Longman, & Todd (UK) have kept the variety of editions of the NJB print and graciously sent the red leather pocket edition for my review. After spending a few days with it, it seems timely to publish my thoughts.

First, the text of the NJB is the text. This is not an update to the 1985 edition. Second, the textual and historical notes are largely removed. This creates a slightly different experience with NJB, as there is little to no opportunity for interaction with the biblical text and the critical notes. The translation is therefore left to stand on its own and does a fine job. This said, the textual and historical notes are an intrinsic part of the New Jerusalem Bible, in my estimation, and I suspect if the volume were a bit thicker the notes could have been included. Ultimately though, this is a personal preference.

The edition, like so many leather bibles published today, is printed (and bound) in China. Take it how you will. The hardcover edition published by Doubleday that I reviewed in April is published in the US. It would be interesting to know if DLT publishes its hard cover edition in the UK. The leather is a thick bonded leather and rather stiff. The copy sent to me promptly produced creases and then cracks in the end paper.

The paper is the now standard "bible paper" used in the industry. Nothing special to write home about, and subject to a good bit of bleed through. It won't distract your reading, but it is there.

The gilt pages are standard as well. Not the best available, but it will like take some years of regular wear and tare.

Reading the NJB in a smaller format underscores the age of typesetting. The pocket edition of the New Jerusalem Bible could use a clearer and more crisp font. Although this brings us to the sticking point with the NJB - there were updates made to the French text in 1998, and the Italian edition got a work over recently. It seems reasonable that the NJB should receive something of an update.

Overall, seeing another published edition of the NJB is a plus. It is one of the better vernacular editions and the scholarship behind it is quite exceptional. As noted above, the variety of editions of the NJB appeared to have been reduced to 3 in the US during the 90s. You won't find this edition in US stores, so look to UK booksellers to fulfill this order.

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