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.
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).
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.