Many thanks to Ave Maria Press for sending me a review copy of their new notetaking Bible, which features the RSV-2CE translation. I received the clothbound hardcover edition, which is navy blue with gold lettering on the spine and cover. There is also an imitation leather edition available.
Overall, I think this Bible is very well-designed. It checks a lot of the boxes I look for in a good quality Bible: a sewn binding, good quality opaque paper, line-matched text, and a single-column layout. I have a soft spot for hardcover bibles, and this one is especially nice. The cloth feels slightly softer than I would have expected. This is not a rough, burlap-like cloth. It is soft enough that I enjoy holding it, but it also has texture and solidity. I think the feel is a nice balance between plush softness and rough solidity.
The proportions of this Bible are also very good in my view. It is definitely larger than the average Bible designed for portability (I measured the dimensions at 6 7/16 X 9 7/16 inches), but it doesn’t feel heavy to me. It feels quite comfortable to hold in my hands for reading. I don’t get tired of holding it as quickly as I do with the New Oxford Annotated Bible, which I usually read on a desk or a bookstand.
The pages are simple and unadorned, and the additional essays which are included are very short (a few pages for each essay). At the beginning of the Bible, there is the original introduction to the 1966 RSV-CE, followed by an Overview of the Bible by John Bergsma, Introduction to the Old Testament by Anthony Pagliarini, and Introduction to the New Testament by Sarah Christmyer. These three introductory essays were granted an imprimatur by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.
At the back of the Bible, there are Advent and Lent reading guides, as well as a chronological reading guide for reading the Bible in a year.
In between the front and back matter, the biblical text is laid out simply and clearly in a fairly dense single-column text layout. The paper is plain white and opaque with a minimal level of ghosting from text on subsequent pages. The text is also line-matched, so the small amount of ghosting is even less noticeable. I looked at poetry and prose sections under a variety of lighting (natural light from windows as well as light bulbs indoors). I could not find a situation when the ghosting caused any problems for me.
Cross references to paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Textual notes from the RSV-CE, as well as the brief explanatory notes in the RSV-2CE are printed in the margin below the notetaking lines on each page. Unlike the Didache Bible, which includes explanatory notes that reference the Catechism, the Ave Catholic Notetaking Bible only includes cross-references to the Catechism. That keeps the amount of notes on each page very minimal, even in places where there are several Catechism references, like this sample from the Gospel of John:
Each biblical book begins on its own new page. This provides extra room for notes or drawings on the final pages of some biblical books. Here is a sample showing the Second and Third letters of St. John on their own separate pages:
When I first opened this Bible, I was struck by the density of the text layout. I wondered if it would be tiring to read for extended periods. I haven’t had a chance to test that question yet, but I’ve found it easier than I expected to read short sections of the text. The printing is clear, and the font is easy to read. The last page of the Bible contains information on the font that Ave Maria Press chose. It reminds me of the new NRSV Comfort Print font in the NRSV-CE Personal Edition from Catholic Bible Press.
As a final comparison, I pulled the NRSV Notetaker’s Bible from Oxford University Press off my bookshelf. This Bible has been out of print for a number of years, but it has a very similar page layout. The font in the new Ave Catholic Notetaking Bible is larger and easier to read, and its proportions make it more enjoyable to hold in my hands. Although the Ave Catholic Notetaking Bible has a larger footprint, the NRSV Notetaker’s Bible feels too wide, and my hands become tired of holding it more easily.
Overall, this Bible has all the major features I would look for in a good quality Bible, and it achieves a good balance of size, margin space, readability, and paper quality. As far as I know, it is the only single-column edition of the RSV-2CE. The full prices for both the hardcover and imitation leather editions seem high to me, however. The hardcover is listed at $49.95 and the imitation leather is $59.95. If you prefer the RSV-2CE, you might find the price worthwhile. On the other hand, there are other decent options available at lower prices, such as the NRSV Catholic Journal Edition from Catholic Bible Press or the Catholic Journaling Bible (NABRE) from Our Sunday Visitor. The Catholic Journaling Bible features a glued binding — a drawback compared to the Ave Catholic Notetaking Bible — but the editions from Catholic Bible Press are sewn.