It seems we are amid a golden age of premium bibles that can be utilized and enjoyed by Catholics (and others) who prefer their bibles to contain the Deuterocanonical/Apocrypha. This is most notable in bibles like the Schuyler Quentel RSV w/Apocrypha and the Cambridge Diadem ESV w/Apocrypha. There are also some lovely editions of the NRSV, as well as NRSVUE, that are readily available in various editions and bindings containing the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals. Never has there been such an array of quality selections of the NRSV for fans of that translation to choose from. Even the RSV-2CE can be found in many different and exciting editions, though none of them would be considered premium. With everything going on in the world these past few years, including the disruption of supply chains, it is remarkable that a Catholic looking for a high-quality bible has so many options in 2022.

ESV Cornerstone and Schuyler Quentel RSV w/Apocrypha

Enter Cambridge’s ESV-CE Cornerstone Edition, which will be published in September. Available in two faux leather editions (burgundy and black) and a more premium black cowhide, Cambridge has now firmly entered the bible market for Catholics.  My comments will be focused on the burgundy faux leather edition that I received as a review copy from the fine folks at Cambridge Bibles. As I comment on this edition, I will have a few of the more recent premium bibles in mind (Schuyler RSV and Diadem ESV), as well as the imitation leather ESV-CE from the Augustine Institute.

(Top to bottom: ESV Diadem, ESVCE Augustine Institute, ESVCE Cornerstone)

The Cornerstone is listed as a large format Bible. The size comes in at 6.89 x 1.46 x 10.16 inches, which is similar in size to the Schuyler RSV. When you open the Cornerstone, you will find that it indeed opens flat in almost any situation. Printed and bound by Lego S.P.A. in Italy, the binding is smyth sewn and has no issues being open to Genesis while laying on a table or sitting on my lap. After regular use, I am sure the flexibility will only increase. The faux leather is indeed smooth (as advertised) and the etched rose window on the front is a nice touch. The Cornerstone also comes with one ribbon (the cowhide edition comes with two), edge stitching, and the paper has gold gilt edges. Overall, the Cornerstone succeeds in presenting the reader with a traditional look and feel, while also being constructed in a way that will last. If you are not a fan of the faux leather, this bible would be an excellent candidate to have rebound or perhaps go for the cowhide cover.

The ESV-CE Cornerstone is typeset in 9.5 point Milo Serif font by 2K/DENMARK on a creamy colored India style paper. It is a very readable text, which those of you who have the SPCK editions of the ESVCE will instantly recognize. The page is line matched which minimizes most issues regarding ghosting. I know that several of you commented on the previous post that there appeared to be an issue with ghosting. I will say that, in person, it is not an issue. Almost all my bibles have some degree of ghosting. (I have provided a few pictures for comparison.) For many bibles, when you are in a section that contains more blank space, like in the Psalms, you will notice the back page a bit more. But I have been reading from this text in various settings and have not found ghosting to be a problem, say like those older HarperOne NRSVs from over ten years ago. The text is the Anglicized version of ESV-CE approved by the Indian Bishops Conference in 2017. It has also been approved for liturgical use by the Bishops of England and Whales, and Scotland. Unlike the Diadem, it is not red-letter bible, which I think most people will approve of. Along with the biblical text, you will find the standard ESV textual notes at the bottom right of each page. Overall, a very readable, comfortable text to read from in any situation. I love the Diadem ESV with Apocrypha (which is smaller), but I find reading from the Cornerstone to be a better experience overall. I will often read the bible to my kids at night as they fall asleep, which usually means the lights are dimmed. I have had no issues with reading to the kids with the Cornerstone in that situation, which I can’t say the same for the Diadem.

Schuyler RSV (left) vs. ESVCE Cornerstone (right)
ESV Cornerstone (left) vs. ESVCE Augustine Institute

This is a text-only edition, hence there is not much in the form of extras. Outside of the introductory material about the ESVCE, all that is contained is a presentation page, a six-page family records section, a table of weight and measures, and twelve pages of grey scale maps. It is here that I am a bit disappointed with what has been offered in this inaugural offering in the Cornerstone brand. First off, unlike the Augustine Institute ESV-CE which contained cross-references to direct OT references in the NT, they are mysteriously absent in the Cornerstone. I don’t know if that was due to a copyright issue or simply an oversight, but I was surprised to see them missing. Secondly, for the price of this edition, I would have hoped that full-color maps would be included. Perhaps I have been spoiled by the Diadem, but for a bible with a list price of $115.00 ($175.00 in the cowhide leather) I would expect something more than monochromatic maps. Even the bonded leather Augustine Institute ESV-CE (which I criticized when it came out due to its list price) came with a set of glossy color maps. It just seems strange to have such a nicely bound and printed bible to close with an inferior set of maps.

So, let me end with three concluding thoughts: First, I am grateful that Cambridge University Press has offered a high-quality Catholic edition of the Bible. I am not sure that has ever happened before in CUP’s history.  (Perhaps someone could comment below if I am forgetting something or am completely mistaken.) Either way, I hope this is merely the first of many offerings from CUP for the Catholic bible market. Secondly, in my opinion this is the best edition of the ESV-CE available today, even more so if you purchase the cowhide edition. The binding is solid, the paper has a nice color and feel to it, and the print is eminently readable. This is a bible that can easily become a daily reader that will last a lifetime. Thirdly, my only negative comment is that it feels like it could have been a level better if they had included those things which are found in most of their other editions. Perhaps I have been spoiled in recent months with the Diadem ESV w/ Apocrypha and the Schuyler RSV w/ Apocrypha (each of which is admittedly more expensive), but if you are asking people to pay over $100 for a bible in these days of high inflation, I would expect a little bit more regarding the little things that help to transform a high-end bible into a premium one.

With all that said, if you are eager for an ESV-CE that you can take with you anywhere, read in any circumstance, and keep as a constant companion along your spiritual journey, the ESV-CE Cornerstone is a great option. Even with the aforementioned caveat, I think this bible is well worth your consideration. My wife has already absconded with my edition and has made it her own. She loves it!

I want to thank Cambridge University Press for providing me a copy of the Catholic Bible ESV-CE Cornerstone in exchange for an honest review. 

40 thoughts on “Review: Cambridge ESV-CE Cornerstone Bible (Burgundy Imitation Leather)”

  1. Timothy,

    Thanks for another thorough review. It’s funny: I do remember you lamenting the lack of premium Catholic bibles on your blog, a lamentation many of us shared. It’s so good to see Cambridge breaking the sad tradition!

    I was surprised when I realized that it’s got the same layout, font, etc. as the SPCK edition. I have the black hardcover of the ESV-CE SPCK edition and love the layout and text size, etc. I, too, am disappointed in the lack of cross-references, but I’m looking forward to seeing the black cowhide edition in person. I’m not expecting it to be of the caliber of the Diadem, which, aside from the smaller text size as mentioned, is one of the highest quality bibles with the deuterocanonical books to come out in a long time.

  2. Leighton,

    At some point I would really like to see the cowhide as well. Depending on the quality of the leather, it might bump the Cornerstone up to premium bible status. I just can’t give it that with the faux leather, even though I think it is a really solid bible. Hoping that this will be the first of many new offerings from Cambridge for Catholics.

    1. I hope there are more premium Catholic editions down the line, too. I suppose it depends on how well this one does. I noticed that Evangelical Bible doesn’t have the Cornerstone listed.

      Speaking of Evangelical Bible, I neglected to mention the Schuyler RSV with the Deuterocanonicals. Its quality is exceptional. Though the Schuyler and Diadem are not really “Catholic bibles,” it’s encouraging to finally have premium bibles a Catholic would happily use, and now we have a Catholic bible in cowhide. The Cornerstone will be a good proclaimer’s/catechist’s bible, with its large font and subject headings. Cowhide is good, though it won’t match the Diadem’s calfskin in quality.

      $115 seems steep for a faux leather bible, even from Cambridge. Bibles seem to be going up in price along with everything else. I’d settle for the modestly priced black hardcover SPCK edition rather than paying $115 for a faux leather edition.

  3. Tim,

    This really is a golden age for premium bibles. For the ESV, the Cornerstone is wonderful though I prefer the Diadem with Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical for the reference material. The NRSV editions that are out now and soon to come out are very exciting! Catholic Bible Press arguably makes the best quality catholic bibles and provides so many options! A gift, personal size, thinline, large print, journal, and hopefully a reference bible in due time (fingers crossed)…all Smyth-sewn. Just wish they offered some premium cover options and thicker quality paper like their Zondervan counterparts. We will get there eventually…

    1. Rodolfo,

      I think the big issue is that Catholics aren’t known, generally, for paying a lot of money for bibles. The fact that we have these options right now is a very good thing. Hopefully it will lead to more. However, the best we might get, as with the ESV Diadem and Schuyler RSV, is an edition that includes the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals. I am ok with that at this point. But as you say, maybe we will get there eventually!

  4. Thanks for this review. It is very helpful. Probably will stick with the Augustine ESV for now.

    IMO, the best Catholic bibles remain the Douay-Rheims (by Loreto), and the RSV2CE by Ignatius Press. The NCB is good, too. (I think the NABRE, NRSV, and RNJB are all dreadful.). Don’t care for the RSV by Schuyler because it lacks subject headings.
    Hoping that we get an ESV-CE soon in a reference edition.

  5. Nice review! Could you please tell me if there is any difference in the text layout between the spck and this version aside from the cover? Is it the same?

    1. Comparing my SPCK edition and the video from Tim Wildsmith, the entire interior is exactly the same, including maps, etc. I’m assuming it was a joint project between Cambridge and SPCK.

  6. Anyone interested can purchase the leather edition from Blackwells in the UK for $118.13 including free delivery to the USA. Way cheaper than Amazon or ordering directly from Cambridge.

  7. This is off topic, but I recently emailed the Catholic Truth Society and asked them if they plan on updating their CTS Bible once the new lectionary is released. They told me they have plans of publishing a ESV-CE with the Abbey Psalms once the lectionary work is done. I’m very excited for this upcoming Bible as it’s the perfect size for taking to an adoration chapel!!!

    1. WHAT!!??!!! Oh no! That’s crazy! I’m so excited! After years of agonizing over Bibles, I’d recently settled on the ESV-CE. I was lucky enough to get an ATC edition that I prompted sent off to be rebound. I like it a lot, especially how compact it is compared to every other ESV-CE I’ve seen come out since. The one thing that I really lamented about it though was the lack of a Liturgical Psalter. I like the ESV psalms well enough, but I spend a lot of time reciting them, and I had really wished I could have the esv with the revised grail. I hope this is done soon! Do you think they’ll print it in single column like they did with the CTS Jerusalem Bible? Or was that maybe just because the Jerusalem Bible itself seems to have a tradition of being printed in the center column format?

      1. Yes, I, too, am very excited for this Bible!!! As far as I can tell, nothing is set in stone, yet. This is the response I received when I emailed the C.T.S. about this (I’m omitting my name and the name of the C.T.S. worker):

        “Thank you for your query. Yes, as you may be aware there will be a change in the lectionary within the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and that of Scotland in the not-too-distant future. Although not yet confirmed, it is anticipated that the earliest this new lectionary will be promulgated is Advent 2023. It will be based upon the Catholic Edition of the English Standard Version Bible and the Abbey Psalms. The CTS New Catholic Bible uses the scripture translations currently in use for the lectionary i.e. the Jerusalem Bible and Grail Psalms. However, when the new lectionary comes into effect it is our intention to produce a bible where, similarly, the translations of scripture within it are the same as you would hear at Mass. We do not have a date as yet for when such a bible will become available to pre-order, but hopefully it may be some time next year.
        I hope this is of assistance.”

  8. Thanks for the review! I’m interested in supplemental Bibles after purchasing the Schuyler, but I think I might be better served putting resources into commentaries and atlases etc. I really love everything about my Quentel, though I have not been able to bring myself to mark it up yet.

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Joseph,

      If you really connect with Quentel, stick with it. While it can be great having a lot of different versions, if you have one you love and it contains all kinds of helps (like the Quentel), then just get commentaries to supplement your reading. I love my Quentel and use it daily.

      1. Agreed! I will probably pick up the occasional paperback version etc, but recently I started purchasing the Navarre Bible one book at a time. The notes are excellent! I really appreciate that they bring in insights from the Fathers and later Church Doctors and masters of spirituality. I’m trying to learn our Catechism a bit more personally in my 40s.

    2. If you wanted an ESV-CE just for reference-sake, the hardcover SPCK editions are $18 from Blackwells, and the paper doesn’t really seem much better on the Cambridge, certainly not enough to justify the price difference.

      1. The Cambridge Cornerstone has French paper 33 GSM. I don’t have the SPCK but I highly doubt it has this quality of paper. You’d be surprised how much better the text block and quality of printing appears when the paper is better. I learned that after comparing my SPCK NRSV with the Allan NRSV with the same SPCK layout.

        1. I agree on the importance of excellent paper. I just didn’t think the Cambridge paper paper looked very good at all in the photos, which was a shame.

          Your description of the details sounds encouraging though (better than I expected, as many premium Bibles are using 28gsm these days). Maybe it was just lousy lighting in the photos…

  9. The Cambridge Cornerstone is a fine bible. The price dropped significantly to about $125 (the lowest price was guaranteed on preorder) — in my opinion, quite reasonable for a premium Cambridge bible. It is clearly a step down in quality from the Cambridge Diadem (ESV with “Apocrypha”), with calfskin leather and edge lining, etc., but the Cambridge Cornerstone is nonetheless a beautiful edition.

    To my mind, the Cornerstone meets the “Finally, a premium Catholic bible!” standard (as opposed to the recent, “Well, at least they have a premium Bible that includes the Deuterocanonical books in a separate section” that came with the Schuyler RSV and the Diadem ESV; both are fantastic bibles, top quality, but not with the Deuterocanonical books in the proper Catholic order, etc.).

    Interiorly, as we’ve discussed but as I see in person now, it’s the same as the SPCK edition, but with the cowhide exterior and Cambridge brand. It’s a wonderful candidate to serve as a ministry bible due to font size and readability when proclaiming, etc. For those unconcerned with having a premium leather cover or the Cambridge brand, the black SPCK hardcover is economical and of good quality, with the same interior.

  10. I have the spck black edition. It’s a good bible. If I’m not mistaken, the cornerstone also uses 28GSM and not 33. It basically the same as the sock with the leather cover being the difference.

    1. There is a “deluxe” SPCK I’ve considered which has a synthetic cover and silver gilding with ribbons. It runs about $30 delivered. I’m just not sure I’d ever read it. I have a lovely ESV Readers Bible already, and while it doesn’t have the deuterocanonical books, I doubt I’m going to gravitate to those in the ESV anyway, when I can read them in DR, RSV, or KJV.

      But at the very least, I know I am going to get the illustrated SPCK for my kids. It is hard enough finding a decent Catholic Bible for adults these days, but for kids, it is basically impossible. For that reason alone, I am thrilled the illustrated SPCK exists. They have a white slipcased version for special occasions as well.

  11. Thanks for another helpful review Timothy. I ordered the burgundy faux-leather ESV-CE Cornerstone. It should arrive Monday. I’m hoping this will be the goldilocks ESV for me in terms of readability. I’m actually fine with the paper quality and font of the ATC ESV-CE except that the font size is too small for my eyes. The Augustine ESV-CE is fine but still a bit too small and not quite as clear to read as I’d like. Readability is key to me; I’m not so picky as to the other stuff (maps, references).

    I enjoy reading from the ESV. Right now I pair up an ESV with me NOAB RSV when I want to look something up. But pairing with commentaries would make more sense.

    Do you or Marc have any plans for a summary review of the best commentaries and supplementary aids (like concordances)? Or maybe you did and I missed it?


    1. Steve,

      I think you will occasionally find commentary and other study tool reviews here. I posted a review of the ICSB Psalms edition recently, and Marc has done similar books in the past as well.

  12. I’ve been using my ESV-CE Cornerstone bible for a few days. It’s a very good bible. I think it will become my daily reader. The font, layout, and paper color make it easy and pleasant to read for me. There is some ghosting but no worse than any of my other bibles, and the line matching means that usually I don’t notice it. The cover is nice and bendy, it’s easy to lay it open to any page, and it feels like a quality binding.

    If I were king of Cambridge I would make 3 changes:

    1. Get rid of the presentation pages at the beginning.
    1. Get rid of the black and white maps at the end.
    1. Add back the cross-references to direct OT references in the NT.

    They could then truthfully market it as a great reader’s bible. This is not a family heirloom kind of bible, so ditch the presentation pages. It’s not a reference bible either and the back and white maps feel cheap. Less is more for this kind of bible. If you can’t do it well then leave it out.

    OTOH the NT -> OT cross references would not add significantly to the thickness, and are basic and useful.

    These are minor quibbles though. Thanks again Timothy for the accurate and helpful review. It’s exactly what I was expecting based on your review, and I like it!

  13. Thank you for the nice review. I am not familiar, may I ask what is the exact difference between ESV-CE and ESV with Apocrypha.
    Is the paper from Cornerstone better than the Augustine one?
    Thank you so much.

    1. Helena, the placement of the Deuterocanonical books is the biggest difference. As for translation differences, here is a YouTube video done by a Protestant that covers some of the changes:

      As for paper, I’d say the paper in the Cambridge is slightly better overall.

  14. Thank you for this review! I am wondering if this Bible is manageable or unwieldy in the hand as a take-everywhere Bible? If a Bible is described as ‘floppy’ or ‘limp,’ especially at this size, it is a no-go for me…flexible is ok, though I like it to have enough rigidity to hold it with one hand without it being draped over or feeling like I’m going to lose my handle on it. Would you prefer to have this edition or the bonded leather ESV CE from AI, and why?

  15. Thank you for the review! I am curious as to whether this edition is unwieldy in the hand, given the combination of imitation leather and size? I tend to prefer something with a little structure vs. Bibles that are described as ‘floppy’ or ‘limp.’ I anticipate this one to be flexible, but is it a feasible, take-everywhere, use-everywhere Bible? Do you have trouble reading it with one hand? Do you prefer this edition or the bonded leather AI ESV CE, and why? Which do you anticipate holding up better to regular use?

    1. Simon,

      Tough to say, I’ll be honest. Everyone has their own preferences. I’ll say this, the Cornerstone is not limp in any way. It fits well in the hand and my wife really likes it. She uses it often. I think I lean toward the Augustine Institute edition because I prefer it’s more thinline feel and the fact that the textual notes contain the OT references in the NT.

      With that being said, if I were to guess, the Cornerstone would likely last longer. The materials are superior to the Augustine.

      1. Thanks for your reply, Timothy! It certainly helps to have this information. Hoping the AI puts out some editions that utilize superior materials. Their hardbacks, etc. do look great, however.

  16. So I own both the calfskin diadem with Apocrypha and the Cornerstone edition in Cowhide. I must say there is no comparison in quality. The Cornerstone is nowhere near the premium quality of the diadem. The diadem also has an entire cross reference suite for the Dueterocanonical and Apocryphal books. I’m actually encloned to use the diadem over the Cornerstone. From a Catholic perspective what advantage if any does using the ESV-CE vs the ESV w/Apocrypha? I’ve compared both text in Verbum and their is virtually no difference between the two text.

    1. Robert,

      Go with the Diadem. There are only minor differences in the NT, and in the OT the only thing would be that Tobit is translated from the longer text. But not a huge deal. The Diadem is superior.

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