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“Personal-size edition” of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible

January 27, 2012

Although this is now the 401st anniversary year of the King James Bible, we are still enjoying the fruits of the quadricentennial celebration, as works continue to trickle out that were originally meant to appear last year.

Among them is a new printing of David Norton’s extensive critical edition of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible was rightly hailed for being the best edition of the KJV we have to date.  Some people claimed that the original volume was too bulky (particularly for worship use); I do not agree, but Cambridge University Press let it go out of print soon after it appeared – and then waited six years to reprint this new edition.

The new edition is in a more compact format called “personal size” (Amazon reports its dimensions as 8.6 x 6.9 x 1.7 inches) which is 5/6ths of the original page size.  It comes in four formats:

I have copies of the first two, apparently hot off the printing press.  The format used for these volumes is nearly identical to the original 2006 printing, but with a reduced page size.  In particular, the volume include both the “Epistle Dedicatory” and the not-so-often-reprinted “The Translators to the Reader.”   The volume includes the original translation notes of the KJV, printed, unfortunately, in the inside margins.

(Many annotated books, such as those in the “Harvard Annotated” series or the “Norton Annotated” series have notes printed on the outside margin.  This permits the reader to add his own notes easily – when notes are printed on the inside margin, the bend of book pages and the gutter prevent one from writing notes. )

The layout of the book is, arguably, the most beautiful I have ever seen.  The edition is, true to its title, in paragraph format rather than the verse format often used for reprinting the KJV.  This means that text read normally, rather than starting new paragraphs at the beginning of what are often arbitrary verse divisions.  Poetry is presented in scansion. The  italics used in the KJV to denote words not in the original language are printed in normal font.  The font is particularly elegant (the font was 10/12.5 point Swift; in this edition it was reduced to 87% of its original size so it is approximately 8.7/10.9 point).  The line length (single column) is just perfect.  Interline spacing makes the books highly readable.  And Cambridge reminds us that the “Rights in the Authorised (King James) Version of the Bible are vested in the Crown,” reprints it lion and unicorn crest, and informs us that “this edition is printed and published by Cambridge University Press, The Queen’s Printer, under Royal Letters Patent.”  (I’m a republican  [in the sense of being an anti-monarchist] myself, but am still amused – even though I normally pooh-pooh everything involved with British royalty.  So, even though I was deeply annoyed by the attention given to the so-called “royal wedding” in April 2011, I still find this acceptable — maybe I’m more tolerant because this book is nice to hold.)

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One of the main advantages of this edition is rather complete matching Textual History of the King James Bible, essential for understanding the changes and typographical errors that have accumulated in KJV editions.

Among the defects of the volumes:  in addition to having the notes on the inside margins, the pages have a slight bleed-through (or, more correctly, ghosting) property – this is particularly noticeable on pages laid out as poetry.  The hardcover has no ribbon.  And the cover of the hardcover (once the dust-jacket is removed) looks a little yucky:  the designers were trying to achieve some sort of subtle marbling effect, but instead, the covers just look dirty.

Norton writes (using the British spelling of “judgment”): “Errors of press and of editorial judgement are corrected in this edition of The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible.  Most of the corrections had already appeared in the Penguin and Folio Society editions.  A list of the corrections is available from Cambridge University Press.”  I am writing to Cambridge today to see if they will send me the errata.

Update:  the publisher did send me the errata, which I formatted and put here.

A note on the hardcover and leather editions:  I prefer hardcover editions in general.  The hardcover edition is certainly a lot more affordable than the leather edition, and it appears to be reasonably well-bound.

A few weeks ago, Mark Bertrand, of the invaluable Bible Design Blog, wrote of another translation and edition, that “this looks like the one we’ve been waiting for.”  I disagreed with that opinion, and it seems to me that this edition of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible gets much closer to the ideally designed Bible.

My principle reservation in recommending this Bible is that I suspect that the forthcoming Norton Critical Edition of the English Bible, now scheduled for a March release, will soon dominate the academic market for the KJV.  I have not seen a copy of the Norton editions yet, but I’ve heard from others that they are quite good.  If money is tight, it might be worth waiting until March to decide which version to buy.

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