Bible Typography Manifesto Signatories, Rejoice

by Jul 7, 2014Bible Typography5 comments


It’s time you checked out the amazing new project called Bibliotheca. A full-fledged typography nerd and Bible-lover has put together a truly groundbreaking reader’s edition of the Bible. It was all a little mind-boggling when I first heard (hence the time it’s taken me to post): four separate volumes, opaque paper, a Kickstarter campaign, the ASV, two custom-designed typefaces, ragged-right type—a lot to process.

de93db841698615dd6f88adf5e3000a3_largeThe beauty is undeniable. The designer, Adam Greene, has really done his homework (J. Mark Bertrand is the guy to follow on this—here are two great interviews and a follow-up post). The books are gorgeous and optimized for reading. Adam has read deeply in the typographic tradition, and it shows. He’s really making an advance, simply by going back to the basics. Having recently reduced my own book budget, I won’t be buying in. =( But I urge you to do so.

I do have a concern or two. My biggest hesitation has to do with the translation. Not only is Greene using the ASV (not the NASB, the 1901 ASV), but he’s making some unilateral (?) adjustments to it. The ones he’s described are pretty sensible (though I’d go ahead and add the vowels to YHWH—or stick with “LORD,” given the NT’s use of κύριος as a translation for יהוה), but he’s said he’s interpolating other changes from Young’s Literal Translation, and I’d feel a lot safer having a committee of biblical scholars do this work. I don’t mistrust Adam or his intentions, but since most people don’t read Greek and Hebrew (does Adam?), they’re required to trust the Bible translators behind the Bibles in their laps—and I just don’t know Adam. Also, I don’t want Bible translation to be democratized. I’ve done enough work in the biblical languages to recognize that it takes a lot of training and gifting (beyond my level) to be a good translator. Adam might do himself and all of us yet another great favor if he would ask for some help on this point. (Perhaps he has, but I haven’t seen him say so in all his public communication about Bibliotheca.)

Still, this is so exciting. What a world we live in. My heartfelt kudos to the skill and dedication of Adam Greene. Watch the video below:

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  1. Duncan Johnson

    Mark, thanks for posting this. As soon as I heard about this project, I began wondering what you thought (I didn’t have to wonder about Mark Bertrand’s thoughts).

    I won’t be buying in either. I have the same concerns about the translation choice. I’m just not interested in reading the ASV, and especially not an edited ASV. With so many literal translations available today, it doesn’t make sense to have a book designer making individual decisions about the text.

  2. J. Mark Bertrand

    Thanks for the mention. For the record, it’s J. Mark Bertrand, but the J. doesn’t stand for John. 🙂

    • Mark Ward

      For some reason I stopped getting notifications of comments… Sorry for committing this error twice!

  3. Dustin B.

    I did buy in, and here’s why: What’s the purpose of a reader’s Bible? To read—duh. I have other Bibles and Bible software that can help me exegete, exposit, etc. This is how I currently use my TBOTB—to get the overall storyline of the Bible. When I come across a text I don’t think was translated well, or something strikes me as odd, I grab an ESV or Accordance to see what the commentators say about it.

    Plus, at the outset of his project, he had no way of knowing whether this would be successful or not. Thus, he wasn’t exactly trying to pay royalties for a modern version. The ASV is the best of public domain options, in my opinion. And I’m thankful he’s modernizing the thees, thous, haths, doths, since few in today’s time want to read those.

  4. manthano

    Wondered when (not if) you would post about this. I’m still on the fence, but leaning toward it. He definitely seems to be coming at this from almost strictly a design perspective, not necessarily a bad thing, but not as full-orbed a perspective as I would like. ASV is an interesting choice, but he has made pretty clear his reasoning behind the choice, and I think I understand it. His revising of the ASV’s syntax with YLT is even more interesting, but as it seems to be minimal (his example or re-arranging “created he them” to “he created them”) it’s not as unnerving as it seemed at first mention. So I think he’s convinced me, I’m just waiting to see if any announcements about the future of the project come out before it reaches its deadline. As I didn’t find out about it until it was already fully funded, I didn’t see a point in jumping in right away, anyway.