Monday, September 13, 2010

Review: NRSV Notetaker's Bible

Oxford University Press's NRSV Notetaker's Bible disguises itself as any other beautifully proportioned, classy hardback book, but inside it sports an elegant wide-margin text block. Actually, being a beautifully proportioned hardback book is not such a bad start for a Bible edition. 

What I love most about this edition is the size. This may be the ideal size for a Bible. It's not too tall, a little wider than the average hardback and has a chubby thickness that lets it comfortably fill up the palm. The dimensions give it a good weight and balance and it's a breath of fresh air in a "look! my Bible's as thin as my glasses" industry.

The actual cover of the Bible has a nice aesthetic but looks a little too much like an advertisement, and the back of the Bible is a blatant advertisement for the Bible's features, which makes it somewhat less attractive as an option for a go everywhere Bible, but in no way damages the appeal of its design features.

The NRSV text itself has a reputation for being a "liberal" translation, which probably includes some positive and negative features. It is by far the most extensive in its use of gender inclusive language; however, a number of scholar's argue that this obscures the text in places. In spite of this controversy, the NRSV is also known as both a scholarly and literary translation.

The inside of the Bible contains an efficient, no frills text block, which provides suitable room for notes without miniaturizing the text. The font is a 9/10, identical to the Cambridge Wide Margins, though the font has a little more character to it, which I love, but might slightly hinder readability (if you're that picky, you probably won't find a wide margin with a big enough font to suit you).

The single column setting displays the poetry and prose beautifully in what is actually a spacious and highly readable setting. The text does not feel cramped in any way. The margins are 2 inches wide, but ruled at 1.5, which may cramp some note taker's. Personally I would prefer to do away with the lines in favor of sheer open spaces, but with the single column setting this could look quite disorganized. The header and footer are rather small, but provide more room for notes.

The paper is very white, (which the photo does not reflect) but not necessarily opaque. There is a fair amount of ghosting, but I personally have rarely been bothered by it.

The edition also includes the Apocrypha, a somewhat unusual move, but all Bibles included the apocrypha until 1881 and it shouldn't be a deal breaker for this kind of edition. The biggest downside to the Notetaker's edition is the complete lack of basic study resources. It contains no references, no concordance, no maps and no other study aids of any kind. This makes it an awkward "in between" edition, that doesn't quite have enough basic resources to qualify as a personal, home made study Bible, but includes space for extensive personal notes. For many the lack of maps and a concordance won't be a deal breaker, and it shouldn't be, but I find both of those basic aids immensely useful. I always find myself wishing I had a whole concordance at the back of my Bible, and the complete absence of one could be frustrating. I would love to see OUP bring out a sister edition that added references, dropped the ruled margins for blank space and added a substantial concordance. If they dropped the apocrypha they should be able to keep the edition to the same ideal dimensions.

All in all the NRSV Notetaker's Bible is a beautiful, no frills edition that majors on elegance, but may not qualify as an everyday personal study Bible for everyone. Even if it doesn't, it would be a useful and usable addition to anyone's study materials and provides a rare opportunity to add margin notes to the Apocrypha. It's simple functionality is matched with an excellent price.

Oxford University Press provided a review copy. I was not required to give a positive review.

The NRSV Notetaker's Bible 9855A Deluxe Cloth

The NRSV Notetaker's Bible 9855A Deluxe Cloth

The NRSV Notetaker's Bible 9850A
The NRSV Notetaker's Bible 9850A

1 comment:

  1. Spare us the Apocrypha and improve on the cover material. That way it can walk with without too many puzzeled expressions from church members when I approach the podium with a slimmer more conventional looking Bible that is POWERFUL ON THE INSIDE!!