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.

33 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?

  6. After international shipping costs, this costed me over US $60 which is over NZD $100…. Looking at the sleeve I honestly thought I was getting a cloth covered hardback….. Not to happy about this being a paperback….

  7. I emailed the Augustine Institute inquiring into when they’ll be releasing a hardcover edition. I received a reply today and they informed me that one will be released, at the earliest, in 2021.


    1. That will be a good development. I remain puzzled by their choice to release a paperback at such a high starting price. I suspect that heavy criticism played a role in their decision to reduce the price from $50 to $30. Still, it’s unusual to release a paperback first with no higher-quality option.

      1. I actually just received my copy of the Augustine institute ESV-CE. Unfortunately it came with the corner dented…but that’s alright.

        Over all I am amazed with the quality of the translation this is certainty an improvement on the RSV and I can not wait to see it go mainstream for all English Speaking Catholics as a more commonly owned bible translation.

        Though the Augustine Institute I agree needs to make a Hard Cover. And Also to be honest a bit more portable version would also be great such as like the RSV made by Ignatius that comes in a zipper pouch I love that size bible for everyday carry.

        1. Update:
          As I have continued to read and use the ESV-CE I began to notice many translation choices…small, yet a bit annoying. I think that the translation over all is good and acceptable, yet after closer consideration I believe that the RSV-2CE remains at least generally a better pick as a study bible and boasts a very similar readability.

          It seems that the ESV takes a number of liberties in translating certain passages in Genesis and also others which I find to be a frustration due to their use of inclusive language which distracts from the true meaning of the text. Granted, the RSV is also not free from this though it seems to be less apparent in major moments of the text and rather occurs in less notable sections.

          Therefore I would recommend sticking with the RSV while of course also referring to the Douay-Rheims which has a special place in my heart as it was the first Bible my parents bought me and I believe it is good to get a feel for the Latin Patrimony of the Church.

          1. ESV’s philosophy is explicitly to use non-gender specific language when translating a word that in Hebrew/Greek is not gendered (e.g. “The good person” in Luke 6:45), but to use the gendered English word when the original language word was gendered. Not all “inclusive language” is taking a liberty with the text — in some cases the masculine English word is in fact less literal.

      2. The Augustine Institute has a tendency to release projects at a high price and then lower prices.

        I believe they do it for two reasons:
        1) to attempt to recoup development costs as quickly as possible in order to start new projects
        2) they lack a true market price research team, so their initial pricing is a guess (on the higher side) to what the market will support. They, then adjust as they learn from people.

  8. Where can I purchase a copy of The Augustine Bible in the UK? I’ve tried Amazon Uk, not available, do not ship to the Uk. Catholic Market online charge more for shipping (understandably as its shipped from the US) than the cost of the Bible itself. Thank you.

  9. Exciting news! Looks like there will be other editions of the Augustine Bible coming out later this year:
    “We will have other versions of The Augustine Bible coming out in the fall. We’ll have a very nice leather version. We’ll have a more affordable paperback version and a hardcover edition. We have generous margins. A lot of Bibles get printed with very narrow margins because they’re trying to save space and save money and just be efficient. But we want people to live in the Bible. We want people to use their Bible to study, to pray, to read daily.”

    1. That is excellent news! As I was opening this article, I was lamenting that there are so few Catholic bibles with sufficient margin space. I will be (im)patiently awaiting the leather version (or even the hardcover if it’s sewn).

    1. I guess, I will probably being making a purchase in the fall. Either the hardcover or leather. And with the WOF version coming this summer, I hope neither is too expensive.

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