The Bible is many things to many people, but at its most simple it’s a collection of stories. Bibliotheca boils The Bible down to its literary essence, and the result is a beautiful and approachable version of a complex work which continues to shape what people believe and how they go about their lives all over the world.
I’ve been watching this project closely for the last couple of years and continue to be amazed by the amount of effort that has gone into every aspect of it. I got to handle the end result last weekend and it is beautiful down to the last detail. Custom typefaces, bespoke materials, and the very best printing and binding available.
–Chris Lauritzen, from a Facebook post
Bibliotheca is such an amazing and brilliant release that even some of the most popular publishers (i.e. Crossway and Zondervan) have hopped on the “multi-volume reader’s bible” train. While I can’t compare the physical quality of their releases with Bibliotheca, I can compare the translations themselves and Bibliotheca stands head and shoulders above the rest.
The hidden gem of Bibliotheca and why I’d recommend it over other multi-volume Bibles is the translation used. It's a custom translation they call the American Literary Version and is a thorough update of the 1901 American Standard Version. It’s updated with the help of biblical scholars and updates the archaic words (thee, thou, ye, etc). However, it keeps the elegant sentence structure so even though it’s in modern English it’s a joy to read.
–O. Ortiz, from a review on Amazon.com
An excellent reader Bible. The translation is what I want – a solid translation (ASV) updated to remove unnecessary archaic trappings.
The quality of the books is excellent. Well bound, good quality paper, classy font. You can tell the printer is experienced and cares about making quality books.
My favorite feature is the page layout – no extracanonical headings breaking up the text, no chapter numbers, no verse numbers. Just the text. It’s so hard to spend time reading any other printing after getting used to reading this clean version.
–Josh Duff, from a review on Amazon.com
In a world where almost everything is soullessly mass-produced, including the Bible, it’s extremely refreshing to have an alternative.
And what an alternative! The formation of the Bibliotheca channels some of the first productions of the bible that were carefully crafted pieces of art. This version is ethically sourced from European manufactures that have historically focused on exceptional quality and craftsmanship.
Finally, here is a true reader’s Bible in every sense of the word, a luxury edition that every bibliophile’s collection has been wanting!
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There are a lot of versions of Bibles out there. Many were created to serve a particular slant, or to focus simply on “just getting the Word out there.” But here is the first Bible I’ve ever seen to detach from any alliance, allowing the reader to enjoy it in a purely artistic sense, treating it as the significant work of literature it is.
In this way Bibliotheca stands out as truly original, and I love that I’m supporting a passion project, a small business, and a work of art.
–Timothy, from a review on Amazon.com
What began as a light revision of the ASV (i.e. updating thee and thou) turned into a more in-depth revision as the funding for Bibliotheca increased. The resulting translation is more literal than the ASV, while still maintaining a relatively high degree of readability for those who are well-versed in the Scriptures and who don’t mind looking up an occasional word in the dictionary.
While many modern translations such as the NASB, NKJV, and ESV claim a high degree of literalness, they are not as literal as one might expect. Often these translations make changes to the text to increase the readability for modern readers. However, while the translation becomes more readable, the literal meaning of the actual Greek or Hebrew source is obscured. The ALV more consistently provides a truly literal rendering of the Greek and Hebrew source text.
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Consider, for example, 2 Peter 2:4. The NASB reads, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell…” The Greek word translated as cast into hell is ταρταρόω, which is a verb that means ‘consign to Tartarus’. In Greek thought, Tartarus is a place of punishment and torment located below Hades. Tartarus is different from the word γέεννα, which is usually translated as ‘hell’. The ESV and NKJV follow the NASB in translating ταρταρόω with the word ‘hell’ instead of ‘Tartarus’. The ALV is more literal in translating the underlying Greek of 2 Peter 2:4. It reads, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus…” In addition to rendering ταρταρόω more literally, the ALV also translates γέεννα as ‘Gehenna’ rather than ‘hell’, which preserves the imagery of the Valley of Hinnom, the city dump of Jerusalem where trash was burned. [Read the full review.]
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In conclusion, the ALV is the most literal modern translation of the Bible available today. And despite its literal renderings, it has a relatively high degree of readability. It is certainly much easier to read than Young’s Literal Translation, from which it draws some of its translation choices.
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I highly recommend the American Literary Version to anyone who has a relatively high level of biblical literacy and who wants to know what the underlying Greek and Hebrew text actually says.
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Regarding the format, I find that reading the Bible without chapter and verse divisions, footnotes, or section headings is incredibly refreshing. The beautiful layout of the American Literary Version in the Bibliotheca Bible is unparalleled by any other Bible I know of. I can't put it down!
–Adam Boyd, from a review on Amazon.com
I got mine a couple of days ago. It looks incredible and feels so solid in your hand. It really shifts the perspective of the Bible, and then made me realize what a true ‘design’ is. Design is a problem solving process. The creator saw a problem of the conventional Bible – how the narrative, the most important part of the Bible, was lost and faded when we started arbitrarily dissecting it into different verses. It’s almost like laying the story of God out on a cold lab table after a biopsy. While it may help study and categorize the Bible, it really loses the breath of the words as they were originally written. He wanted to change it, and what an incredible job he has done. Not only does it look great and well built, Bibliotheca re-establishes a reader’s relationship with the scripture.
Beyond visual execution, I think this is really what a great design is.
–A Reddit User
My expectations were not met. They were surpassed. Bibliotheca turned out even better than I expected. And Adam’s interest in typography proved to be much more than a hipster affection (as more than one cultural commentator had opined): the level of care taken in every aspect of the page design and typesetting was breathtaking to observe.
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Bibliotheca’s triumph is a victory of details.
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To understand the spirit of Bibliotheca’s design, you have to recognize first and foremost the kind of reader-friendly book it is. This is not a mass market paperback. Not a thriller off the bestseller list. Bibliotheca is designed like an art book. (Not surprisingly, it is also printed by a firm in Germany that prints art books.) Where one kind of design strives for populist accessibility, another aims for the kind of minimalist purity that exalts its content – or rather, signals that its content is meant to be exalted. The designer doesn’t presume to make it beautiful; rather, the designer recognizes its inherent beauty and designs accordingly. That’s what Bibliotheca does.
Bibliotheca’s revision to the American Standard Version was so extensive that, as I predicted, it has now been copyrighted as the American Literary Version. . . . There is something thrilling about reading familiar passages in a new translation. You feel as if you are gaining fresh insight. The same thing happens reading a familiar translation in a new format. The Authorized Version in a single column, paragraphed edition reads like a wholly different work than it does in an old-fashioned reference setting. (Really, it does.) By presenting an unfamiliar translation in an unfamiliar format, Bibliotheca delivers an experience that is especially revelatory.
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The fact that Bibliotheca used the ASV (now ALV) was always a matter of indifference to me. . . . But for Adam Lewis Greene the translation was an essential part of the puzzle. Bibliotheca needed to be a certain kind of translation, just as the design and typography needed to follow a particular logic. After six months with Bibliotheca, I see the point. Both the design and the translation frame the ancient in a way similar to how a museum might, balancing accessibility with awe.
–J. Mark Bertrand, from his review at Lectio
More information about Bibliotheca (details regarding translation, design, production, etc.) will be available soon. Sign up here to receive a notification when it’s published.