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September 25, 2007


Clay Knick

Agreed. The NRSV XL is awful, IMO. But the standard is good.
I suppose there are few quality editions of the NRSV because
publishers are worried about sales. I think it is quite good,
although I don't like it as much as the RSV. There are places
I don't like it and places that are very good. The very good
ones far out number the bad ones.

Adam Copeland

Thanks for the post. My Oxford NRSV Pocket Bible split a week ago and I'm in the market for a new one. I'm a seminary student who prefers the NRSV, but for hospital and home visits, a pocketable bible is really nice.

I'm not sure what I'll buy, but you've been quite helpful. I'm going to blog on my old bible after Christmas, and will link to your post.



Hi. I recently had my own run-in with the new Harper NRSV Bibles and I have to say I am one of those people who is driven nuts by the bleedthrough. Yes the books are beautiful, but reading them is a chore. Why do we accept bleedthrough in the most important book in our lives?


I really wish that there were more option in NRSV as well. I go back and forth about using it as my main translation and if I ever found a decent edition I would probably make the switch. I can even deal with crappy bonded leather, just give me decent margins and single column. The hardback just wouldn't work for me.


I bought the Standard and the bleed through is horrid. The single column is good and would have been excellent with wider margins. The Duotone wrap over the hardcover is OK but leather or Duotone flex would have been better.

For a few hours I had the Go Anywhere but returned it. Nothing good can be said about it. It won't open comfortably let alone flat. The font is too light and too thin. The format begs for single column and we get two very narrow columns with enough hyphenation to make anyone go mad. I will stick to my compact RSV CE 2nd Edition for travel. It is truly able to go anywhere.

Thanks for the interesting read.


I have the New Revised Standard Version Bible and am currently happy with it. http://store.bibles.com/products/ABS_NEW/104911.aspx


I have recently found your website via Better Bibles blog, and find it fascinating. I thought I might point you towards another edition of the NRSV that you might find interesting, and that I only recently discovered myself.

I only came to the NRSV rather late, unfortunately, having usually restricted myself to the NASB95 as being my preferred translation although I have a number of others too, such as the NIV, TNIV, RSV, ESV etc., all in varying styles. Like you I also preferred my copies to be leather-bound, but it was the purchase of a TruTone pocket ESV for my daughter that changed my mind. She is a vegetarian and therefore doesn't want much to do with leather. The ESV I bought her she loved as it looked and felt exactly like leather - only it isn't leather at all! It's also durable, can be wiped clean if necessary, and there are now so many lovely bindings using this material it's difficult not to admire it.

Here in the UK the choice for decent NRSV's is very limited, especially in pocket-size, which I find rather surprising as the NRSV has been out for such a long time. But I was browsing our local Christian book shop and found this bible - ISBN10 000724245X - and have fallen in love with it. It is Anglicised which is superb as, although I acknowledge the work Americans have done in translation, it is so nice to have a bible in English English rather than American English. Although Amazon describes it as leather bound, it isn't. It's this same artificial material and it looks and feels very soft and supple. It is the only bible copy that I have which I am truly happy with my, and I now carry it everywhere with me. It's small, easy to carry, lays open flat without having to be held down, has plenty of space at the back for notes, and looks and feels lovely.

The only drawbacks are 1/ The text is a little small, but provided I carry my reading glasses with me for when my eyes are tired, that isn't a problem. 2. It doesn't have any marker ribbons, but again, that isn't really much of an issue.

If you like I can send you some photos of the copy I have so you can see what it is like for yourself. Let me know and I can get right onto that for you.

Now, if I could only find an Anglicised version of the combined NRSV/BCP, lol.


Reviving a long dead thread, I just came across the NRSV Go-Anywhere Compact Thinline Bible, to be published in September (and will come in versions with and with Apocrypha):


There's no way to see the contents, but we can hope that it's a shrunken down version of the single column Standard. The dimensions look like they would fit the bill for "short and stout" as Mark would like to see. It looks like it could be quite handy.


I just rec'd one of these Standards and the design is beautiful! Font, binding (opens flat immediately) and the artwork at the beginning of books is all I hoped for.

But the ghosting is awful. Did I get a defective one? I don't think this thing is usable as it is, in any light.

Mark S


All the copies I've seen have the serious ghosting issue you've described. It's a bummer.


Mark, my Friend, you are the Bearer of Bad News. But truth is what truth is.
And some pages are worse than others, right?

I love this thing, but it's just not usable. Hope CBD lets me return it. I'm surprised the market's not flooded with Imperfects and Refurbished's!

So snooping around on Amazon...
What's the difference between
1. the 2009 edition ISBN 978-0061946516 at 1.4" thick
2. the 2007 edition ISBN 978-0061231186 at 1.5" thick (CBD gives a pub date of 2005)
Both retail at $26 and have 1536 pages. I have the older one. Have they quietly fixed the problem? And with thinner paper?

And then there's the Apocrypha model 978-0061231193 at 1872 pages (22% more) and also presumably 1.5" thick per Amazon. I seem to recall seeing this in a black/black cover as well someplace.

The Augsburg Fortress Peoples' Bible would be my 2nd choice for an NRSV (note the less intrusive colored verse numbers)and the square XL versions a 3rd choice (but I'm getting a little scared of Harper/Collins products I'm afraid.) They're both double-column but have a reasonable ~10 words/line which is close to Mark's perfect dozen.

Still, I'd really like to make this single-column work. Can anyone comment on the other editions I mentioned?



I also was really wanting one of these as they are fantastic to examine online. However, once I saw them in the flesh everything was great except the ghosting. Just awful! I have personally looked at many copies but have never found or purchased one that was acceptable. In my case this is just too sad because I really like the layout and size.


This also looks interesting in a single-column NRSV:

Nice layout, font, artwork, readable text. The "study bible" notes are fairly innocuous (get the ESV Lutheran Study Bible by Concordia Publishing House if you want heavy-duty study notes) and allows plenty of room in the margins for personal notes.

If ghosting is a problem in all the Harper standard NRSV text bibles perhaps this is a substitute, albeit thicker. Has anyone seen one of these "in person"?

Mark S

@Bill: I've seen one in person. It's thick, all right. There's moderate ghosting but nothing like the Harper editions of the NRSV. And there are articles on Lutheran insights into read the Bible.


Thanks again, Mark S!
Speaking of Augsburg Fortress, have you seen their "The People's Bible"? It's a two-column NRSV, but at ~10 words/line it's not too choppy for reading. And the brown-colored verse numbering looks like a great design feature. Plus, CBD is being pretty understanding about my returning the "Standard" and they have an awfully good price right now on the People's Bible.


As a fan of this translation I, too, bought an edition of the Standard NRSV. And I, too, greatly admire the size of the font, the single column layout and the nice scrolling artwork that decorates the beginning of each book. But alas, to echo some of the previous comments, the bleed-through and ghosting was an extreme disappointment. I find myself wanting to use it in the worst possible way but every time I get it out and start reading it again, it (sadly) gets put back on the shelf. I really believe Harper has a potential winner here if they would fix this one problem.

I have found a very nice edition of the NRSV from Abingdon Press(Classic Bible New Revised Standard Version) which has just recently hit the market. The cover is synthetic but has a nice soft suede feel to it, is a dark smoke gray in color with well done black artwork and Scripture text on the front cover, and has stitched panels on the front and back. The pages are thicker than the Standard NRSV with minimal bleed-through and has a sewn + glue binding. The only drawbacks are, it is personal-sized with scant room for notes, and it only has one ribbon. The layout is black letter, text-only, and is double column - which I don't really have a problem with, although I am increasingly becoming an admirer of the single column format thanks to Mark's influence on this site. The font is about a 9pt and dark ~ very readable even with my aging eyesight. It also comes with a few nice surprises like a Daily Bible reading Plan, among others.

As a new seminary student (change in careers after 20 years of nursing) I'm beginning to carry this practical, little Bible with me more and more. This is a very simple, easy little edition to take to Church or Bible Study as it fits the hand nicely. If you are an NRSV fan, this one bears serious consideration. At least until Harper gives heed to our pleadings for this Standard NRSV to be mounted on thicker, better quality paper!

Classic Bible New Revised Standard Version
Abingdon Press
ISBN-13: 9780687656837
Publication Date: Apr 2009

Wandering Friar


Thanks for the tip, Scott, and good luck in your new career.

I also picked up a World Publishing, bonded leather, "Pocket Companion" NRSV. The font, sort of a Bookman, is not particularly attractive, and most of the proper nouns suffer from a "pronouncing text" format, but at $5 from CBD it was hard to ignore and the ghosting is quite tolerable. Like yours, it's two-column, paragraphed format, black-letter. The binding is very tight; I initially thought it was side-stitched, but there are saddle stitches between pp 18 & 19 and every 64 pages thereafter so I guess it just needs to loosen up. The pocket size has some advantages, but prolonged reading isn't one of them.

Hendrickson makes some low-cost, 2-column versions of the NRSV as well. This sample looks quite attractive to my eye:


I appreciate this review - my frustration is trying to find an NRSV - or any version that doesn't have the "Paragraph titles" added to them. I loathe the added titles since they presume to tell me what the text says, and I find many of them irrelevant and unhelpful. Do you know of NRSV versions that do not have these titles. I did have an NRSV large print by "world publishing" (ISBN: 0529110083) but they are no longer available (certainly not in the UK). Is there anything similar? The text was a good size and it was leather, and it did not add silly titles within the bible text


The Oxford text editions lack text headings. Here are the ISBN's:
W/out Apocrypha: 978-0-19-528358-7
W/ Apocrypha: 978-0-19-528361-7
Both editions have 2 gold ribbons. The leather on these varies, I got one with the apocrypha that was really nice, and one without that felt like plastic. I like the text block so much though that I had it rebound. It's just about perfect for me.


Nice suggestions, Ryan!
I went looking for them at oup and got a little side-tracked by their new 2010 catalog on line:

but saw no page samples for these NRSV text editions. CBD has a sample for only the paperback version:
which I assume is the same layout.

Although these are just what Otiumsanc requested, in that there are no headings WITHIN the text, I note that these editions still have headings, it's just they've been reduced to one per page and are located, in brackets, at the bottom of each page, analogous to traditional KJV Bibles where they appear in italics at the top of the page.

I recently tried to start some discussion on this topic in Mark's verse-by-verse thread:
with my 11/24 post:

I argued that this "out-of-the-text" heading style was less intrusive (and even less doctrinally controversial) than the fairly widespread practice of embedding within the text multiple headings per chapter, while still giving the desired advantages: they help you find a story/section of Scripture if you only know its approximate location, they give you some general preview of "things to come" during serial reading of the text, and they give you some easily-recognizable "landmarks" when you just open up the volume to help avoid that "lost in a big city" feeling.

I also praised the practice of the early REBs of keeping the headings more generic, and spacing them about every 3 pages, which is about 10x less dense than most modern settings.


I agree that removing the headings from the text is helpful. They function more like "landmarks" as you said. It is helpful enough for those who need it without being obnoxious. Their font and placement keeps them out of my eye's range most of the time. A bible without paragraphed without headings is for me what the single column text is for Mark. This is as good as I have found. and its pretty nice. The only problem is that with Oxford, you always run the risk of uneven text darkness. Both of my copies vary.


oops, i meant a paragraphed text without headings.
and to answer your question, Bill, yes the layout is the same.


I don't want to put words in Mark's virtual mouth but I think the important thing is the 12-14 words per line goal that is a practical standard in other printed works. Some single-columns, God's Word Thinline comes to mind, use such a small font, and with tight kerning, that it's packing 20 words per line. Combined with tight line spacing as well, such a single-column format can be harder to read than some 2-column editions.

For example, I have an NRSV People's Bible, an NLT LP with embedded references, and an NCV Everyday Study Bible, all 3 of which are 2-column editions but are still highly readable paragraphed editions, having close to the magic 12 words per line that Mark extols. Of course, all 3 are a little wider than most folks like, and none have the dreaded center-column reference list, which I think is the worst thing that ever happened in Bible design.

My least favorite Bible is a Nelson Large Print that I purchased from a big-box store while still in the shrink-wrap. The little text snippet on the packaging looked like it would be a joy to read. Problem is that with 2-column text, plus center references, plus large print, you only get about 5-6 words per line. Reading it just gives you this choppy feeling, I don't know how else to put it. It wasn't until I started reading this blog that I realized what it was that I so disliked about that Bible!

I still prefer single columns over 2, but if you're going to get a single column layout of just 12 words per line, it's going to fill a lot of pages and be pretty thick, which a large segment of the Bible market doesn't seem to like. That's why I'm so excited about the new Nelsons that Mark highlighted on Sept 16 & 21. They're still a comfortable 14 words per line and under 2000 pages so I'm hoping this will be a market success for them. Just hope they use the expensive Bible paper (lots of titanium dioxide!) for good opacity if they're going to come in at under 2" thick.


Let me say a bit more about that NRSV People's Bible by AugsburgFortress that I got in exchange for my impossible-to-read, but oh-so-beautiful to look at, HarperCollins NRSV Standard, since that was what started all my posts to this thread. It arrived yesterday, after a snafu with the postal service, and I give it mostly thumbs up.

The paper feels cheap, but it's a good .002" thick so ghosting is quite tolerable. With its generous font size it runs to 1750 pages, so with hard covers it's over 2" thick. I find the hardcover binding (the only one offered) to be easy to hold on the lap or at a desk but I'm a big guy; smaller folks might disagree.

The text is a modern serifs font, about 10 points, and is about medium blackness/boldness. It looks great against the creamy white paper. It's nowhere near as brown as the tan paper of some of the new Peterson Message bibles, but it's not stark white either.

The layout is gorgeous, with brown "apparatus" (chapter and verse numbering.) There are NO section headings anywhere on the page, which I suppose the purists among us will like but I'd have liked something, maybe italics across the top of the page? Still, this is a Bible for reading, so if you don't know where you are, it's your own darn fault.

The binding gets mixed reviews from me. It consists of 48-page (24-leaf) signatures which you can see Smyth/saddle sewn starting at page 36/37 and every 48 pages thereafter. So what's not to like? The spine shows a ton of glue and the thing was so tight when I got it that the text just disappeared into the center gutter. In proceeding to break it it, I managed to break away the last signature at Revelation. Oops. It doesn't appear to be going anywhere and the product now opens, although still with some effort, relatively flat, at least so that you can read every book readily.

And that's where this thing shines. The combo of brown apparatus, 12 words per line, and generous spacing both between lines and between columns makes this thing a real joy to read. I'm no language geek but the NRSV version continues to grow on me. And I'm a sucker for illustrated Bibles so the 32 pages of maps and artwork between the testaments seals the deal.

However, I doubt it will be a roaring success in the marketplace due to the left-leaning nature of the "notes", which I would disagree with a previous poster are particularly "Lutheran" at all. There's about a dozen 10-page essays in the front of the Bible, dealing largely with the church and culture through the ages, that I, as a fairly politically-liberal person, don't find particularly offensive, but I think would probably "spin up" the typical Republican evangelical.

My beef is more with the theological content of some of the little paragraph notes, set in brown boxes about every 10 pages or so. Take this zinger at John 3:16... "Salvation means that humans have sufficient food and that the earth is safeguarded from those that would commodify it for gain." If a hallmark of Lutheranism is rightly dividing Law and Gospel, I'd say that note's a little less than Lutheran, even if you were to agree that a socialistic economy is a proper fruit of faith.

Be that as it may, I still love reading from this thing because of the great design. However, if you want good Lutheran notes, get Concordia's Lutheran Study Bible.


It seems there's a new "Go-Anywhere Compact Thinline" NRSV with different dimensions than the Go-Anywhere (6.4 x 4.5 x 1.1 inches vs. 8.6 x 4.4 x 1.4 inches for editions with Apocrypha). Does anyone have this? A comparison to the other Harper NRSV editions might be in order.



Thanks, Rob. I see it also comes without Apocrypha and ~20% thinner/fewer pages:

Unless you have awfully good (ie young) eyes, I'd sure suggest zooming out on that "look inside" feature (cntl-thumbwheel on my browser) until you're at 4"x6" page dimensions--it's probably only 5-6 point text size--before I'd get too interested in extended reading from these editions. Plus, there's the caveat that the bleed-through/ghosting is probably atrocious like the other Harper Collins NRSV's that I (and others) lament about throughout this thread.

Then again, at the price, you could argue that you really can't go wrong.


Rob, I was skeptical about your suggestion but there was such a cheap one available from a used distributor I couldn't resist. My ISBN13=9780061827211 model just arrived today (the very model for which you provided the Amazon link) and I am quite impressed. My eyes aren't good enough to get real excited about ANY pocket-sized bible, but this is one of my favorites. The cover has a highly artificial feel to it, although advertised as bonded leather, but the grain is well done and in navy blue w/ silver page edges it looks very nice. The sans-serif font could be a little darker but it's still very attractive and readable enough if I employ the proper optical devices! It's smyth-sewn so should break in nicely. My other pocket NRSV (ISBN 0529122189) has a nicer (still bonded) cover and even a point or so larger font (in an old-fashioned, bolder Bookman style) but it's "pronouncing" which I find highly distracting. And like the Look Inside shows, this is a nice paragraphed setting, which many NRSV's aren't.

But the thing that most impresses me is the paper/ink combo. The ghosting is quite tolerable, pretty much as good as any modern Bible. After the huge disappointment I had with the HarperCollins Standard NRSV reviewed above (the ghosting was totally intolerable in the one I purchased!) I pretty much swore off Harper Bible products. But this one's made me willing to give them another try.


I took a chance on a brown XL too, which arrived yesterday. Another great volume! The paper, in fact, is particularly nice, at least in feel. Yes, there's ghosting, quite bad compared to Bibles of a few decades ago, but quite tolerable by today's standards.

My experience now with Harper NRSVs is 2 out of 3; only the Standard Text was a loser, which is too bad since it's my favorite layout of them all, for the reasons Mark so aptly notes.


Speaking of Harper NRSVs, has anyone seen the new "C S Lewis Bible"? Although I suspect this will be of particular interest to CS Lewis fans, I'm more interested in the execution of the product than I am one's opinion of the aptness of the notes to the text, or of the translation itself.

So who's seen one? I'm curious about the quality of the binding (sewn or glued? flexibility? visible threads?) and, given my experience with Harper's "Standard Text" above, the paper quality (ghosting and feel.) The typeface, fontsize, leading, and kerning appears gorgeous in the page samples, but I have a low tolerance for ghosting and bleed-through.

I've seen it referred to as a study bible, but rather than commentary on the text, I'd say the selections should be viewed more as artistic embellishments, like pictorial art in illustrated bibles. In that regard, I'm quite intrigued by this edition, if the paper is decent or at least decently thick.


Just received the new Collins Go-Anywhere Thinline, and it is surprisingly nice. It is 6x9, and less than an inch thick (about as thick as my NIV Pitt Minion). It has a sewn binding and end papers are gray thick paper with reinforced hinges. The paper is way better than the Standard edition reviewed here. This edition is very usable for me, and I really don't like bleed through. This font is a nice san-serif at a very readable size, probably 9pt. It is a double column simple text edition with silver edges and 1 black ribbon. The bonded leather leaves much to be desired, but one could rebind. Al in all, it is not a bad $20 investment. I am really pleased.
They sell it w/Apocrypha and in a Catholic Edition. I am speaking of the protestant edition here.

Frank McManus

@bill Don't know if you'll see this, but oh well, here goes: C.S. Lewis Bible. Attractive but rather traditional page layout, double column. Ghosting is a problem, especially when the reverse page has anything bigger than plain text -- then the reverse page's type drowns out the normal type on the page you're trying to read! Binding seems good -- sorry, don't know all the terminology, but the text block in sewn in signatures. Lies quite flat when open. To me the concept seems like just a marketing gimmick: it combines a Bible with an anthology of excerpts from Lewis' writings. Meh.

I also have AND LOVE the HarperCollins Catholic NRSV with Anglicized Text. Ghosting is about average for modern Bibles, much much less than the CSL Bible. Single column (as Mark describes above), nice large font, adequate white space (though not enough for note-taking), classy two-tone blue hardcover. In-text subheadings are excessive, and I really have no need for a photo of the pope in the front of the book, but that's minor. And the text at the end, a 40-page concordance, is printed on the very last page before the endpaper, which is ugly. But apart from that: Beautiful, beautiful book. Would love to see it in a really high quality leather binding.

But wait ... there actually is a bit of excessive ghosting on the reverse of pages that begin a book. The big font of the book title and the 2-inch bit of art at the beginning of the first paragraph are quite visible on the opposite page. Too bad. But I still love this Bible.


Thank you so much, Frank, for the ghosting warning on the CSL NRSV. The page layout samples looked great and the street price was really becoming tempting but after a horrid ghosting experience with the standard text HarperCollins/HarperOne edition (that Mark gave his imprimatur to above) I should know better than to order one without first seeing it. I'll look into your's and Ryan's suggestions instead.


Despite Frank's warnings, a "seconds" of the C S Lewis NRSV appeared on an Amazon reseller at a price I couldn't refuse so I took the plunge. I am very pleased. The font is at least a point larger than the Collins Standard Text Mark reviews above and which I had to return due to intolerable ghosting. Plus the text is perfectly aligned with that on the reverse page, which helps a lot too, although as Frank notes, when there's a CSL note on the other side, you don't get that benefit and even have to lift the page away from the text block to get a good look. The layout is nearly identical to the Fortress People's Bible I comment on above, with the addition of CSL selections instead of the mostly weird notes in the PB. I'm a CSL lover, and find the selection and arrangement of the notes superb, but if you're not it's as easy to ignore these as the PB's notes.

I got the bonded leather which I find particularly nice, although my son thinks the near lack of a pronounced "grain" is unattractive. (The grain is comparable to the early verseless leather Message bibles, FWIW.) But it feels good in the hand, takes Lexol leather treatment like a fine leather, does the Bertrand Yoga, and the paper, with gilded edges, is quite nice as well...overall a much better production than the PB. (OTOH, the PB has the deuterocanonicals, while the CSLB has the standard 66-book canon.) I also recently picked up a very nicely bound Oxford NRSV, but with fewer words-per-line, it is a not a pleasant reading experience,regardless of the gorgeous leather in your hands!

All in all, I'd say the brown bonded leather CSL is my favorite NRSV, with an honorable mention to the square XL, whose type is quite a bit larger than I need for anything other than public reading from a distant podium.


I revisited this thread and thought I would offer an update. I ordered a black NRSV Standard and, as has been mentioned, the paper was thin and ghosting was unbearable. I wrote a letter to the chief editor at HarperCollins and explained my frustration with the paper. She wrote back and told me to send it back in and they would exchange it with a new run of the edition in which they changed the paper. Apparently they received enough negative feedback to change the paper they were using. I sent my old one in and the new one I received was a remarkable improvement! The paper was, indeed, better and thicker and the bleed-through was barely noticeable. The ISBN is 9780061946516. Try one out. I do think you will be mildly surprised.



Thanks Scott. I asked about this on 10/21/09 (afternoon post) noticing that it had a 2009 pub date and the others that most of us had a horrid experience with were published in 2007. You mention thicker paper but Amazon lists the 2009 edition as actually 0.1 inch thinner...not true? What is the difference in overall thickness? I'd be happy with it at 2" thick if it were readable.

I assume the "poetry" sections are still double-column while the rest is single-column?

The Amazon listing for it
includes some new user pictures that were posted just last October. The user complains about ghosting, but they don't appear near as bad as what I had.

What is the cover like? Plain brown artificial leather? How does it compare with the 2007 edition?

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