Many thanks to the readers who commented with their first impressions of the brand new Augustine Bible ESV-CE over the past two weeks. I ordered a copy and have some first impressions and photos to share.

As noted in the previous post announcing the Augustine Bible, this is a paperback edition in a hard slip case. The slip case and the paperback cover have a gold-colored foil pattern stamped on the front, as shown below.

The paperback cover is sturdy and thick, and it has a large fold-out extension which could potentially be used to mark a page. The bible has no ribbon markers, so this extension of the cover can serve that purpose if needed. Overall, this paperback cover reminds me of the cover for the Catholic Youth Bible (NABRE) from St. Mary’s Press (see my impressions of that bible here). The cover felt thick and sturdy on that bible, but after a short time of looking through the bible, I managed to crease the corner of the cover. I would not expect the Augustine Bible to resist wear and tear much better.

On the plus side, the binding is definitely sewn, as advertised in the product announcement. This bible should hold up to normal use reasonably well, but I would expect it to show its age more than a hardcover or leather edition. The slip case will help to protect the cover when not in use, but it won’t help with normal wear from reading.

A sewn binding.
The fold-out extension on the paperback cover.

The front pages feature the nihil obstat and imprimatur from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, and there is a foreword by bishop J. Susaimanickam (chairman of the Indian bishops’ Commission for Bible) and Cardinal Oswald Gracias (president of the bishops’ conference).

Imprimatur and copyright page

As Jean E. mentioned in the comments, the text is not line-matched. The pages are thin enough to allow moderate ghosting of text from the back of the page and the adjacent page. In most cases, I still find the text to be easily readable, but in some areas, especially in the narrative sections with less white space, I find the ghosting to be more frustrating. Overall, the level of ghosting is similar to the HarperOne NRSV Standard Bible — Catholic Edition, and I consider that edition to have too much ghosting for comfort.

There are no explanatory notes and no book introductions of any kind. The only notes are the minimal ESV translators notes. The books of the Old Testament are laid out in the traditional Catholic order, with the books of Maccabees arranged after the other historical books and before the book of Job. Here is a photo of the beginning of the book of Daniel to illustrate the lack of book introductions:

Overall, I would say this edition is passable, but not outstanding. For anyone who would like a copy of the ESV-CE, this is the only game in town for readers in the USA right now. It also is a reasonable reader’s bible for anyone who does not like explanatory notes and introductions (although the moderate ghosting might frustrate some readers). The cover design and the slip case are beautifully designed.

On the other hand, at a full price of $49.95 at the Augustine Institute Store, this bible is very high-priced for its lack of features. Many cheaper bibles feature hardcover or imitation leather covers, a ribbon marker, and line-matching. With none of those features available, it’s very hard to justify paying full price for this bible. Given the very minor differences between the ESV and the ESV-CE, it would make sense to consider the ESV with Apocrypha from Anglican Liturgy Press (which Timothy reviewed on this blog) as an alternative.

14 thoughts on “First Look: The Augustine Bible ESV-CE”

    1. I can say with certainty that it is sewn. Many publishers place a layer of glue along the spine of a sewn binding for extra durability and stability, but the presence of glue along the spine does not indicate whether a binding is sewn or not. The hallmark of a sewn binding is that the pages are grouped together into several folded sections (known as “signatures”), and the signatures are all sewn together with thread. It’s possible to confirm this by opening the bible to the exact middle of one of the folded signatures and carefully opening the pages as far as they will go near the spine. The thread which was used to sew the signatures together will be visible deep in the groove (sometimes known as the “gutter”) between the pages. When doing this test with the Augustine Bible, the thread is clearly visible.

      By contrast, a glued binding is generally constructed without grouping the pages into discrete signatures. The stack of pages is simply glued together with a strip of glue on one edge. This is why pages are much more likely to fall out of a glued binding as it ages, compared to a sewn binding. Once the glue no longer holds onto an individual sheet of paper, it comes loose and falls out.

      1. Thanks for the clarity. I stand firmly against this edition, though, as the price point is ridiculous. Yet, it is within the pricing standards of Augustine Institute. I’ve requested a reason, from Augustine Institute, to justify the price point. I was informed that I would need to wait until after the new year has commenced, as the department which has the pricing responsibility is “out of the office”. I also inquired as to when hardback or leather editions are planned for publishing. When I receive a reply, I shall forward it to this group.

          1. I received a rather disappointing reply. I was informed that if I felt the price point was not such to be warranted in regard to the text, I should consider “shopping around” for a lower price. No reply as to future binding options was included.
            I leave the response to speak for itself.

  1. Marc,
    I hesitate to comment because I am not a fan of the ESV, so I will limit my thoughts to these two:

    1) Even though the Anglican Press one I reviewed earlier this year is glued, it seems to me that it is a superior choice for the price.

    2) Comparing the two most recent reviews on this blog, mine focusing on the Bible for Everyone and yours on the ESVCE, I simply can’t get over the fact that the Bible for Everyone is a sewn hardcover, with a ton of maps, a ribbon marker, shipped from the UK, and costs $20 dollars less. That this ESVCE costs $50 is insane. I’m truly happy for those who have wanted an ESVCE, but that price is ridiculous.

  2. I have paperbacks published by Dover that have lasted 30 and 40 years, though not with daily use. For those who aren’t familiar Dover used to publish high quality paperback of older books. So, a well done paperback can last. Still one would expect a hardcover for a Bible at the price.

  3. I ordered this bible when I saw that it was available (cyber week deal for preorder) as I have been waiting for a version in the United States. I’ve been reading and praying with it since, to give it a chance.

    Overall, I share the sentiments above. I like that it is compact. It can sit open on the table unassisted from about the beginning of Exodus through the beginning of 1 Peter. I find the ghosting to be somewhat distracting; it’s bad especially in the poetic texts, and I think it generally makes the type look soft or almost blurry (but if you look at a page with no text on the back, it is evident that the type is clear).

    It will certainly serve the purpose to get the translation on the shelf, but the price point doesn’t match the quality.

  4. Thanks for the overview. For the price, I’d say the Great Adventure Catholic BIble from Ascension Press (using the RSV-2CE) is a FAR better Bible with superior features and binding in a comparable translation.

    1. I agree, with the possible exception of the binding. I criticized the Great Adventure Bible for not offering a sewn binding at its price point, but every other aspect of its production quality is excellent. The printing is top-notch, ghosting is negligible, the imitation leather cover is decent in quality, and the study helps come from a well-known and well-loved Catholic study series.

  5. Well… I just checked the shop and the price has dropped by 40% to $29.95. Maybe now some people will be interested in purchasing it?

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