Review: KJV Reader’s Bible
I’m being generous and hopeful with four stars; I love the idea of this KJV Reader’s Bible, and the the execution is both brilliant and deeply flawed at the same time.
Let’s start with the good.
Most importantly, this is a reader’s Bible: no chapter or verse numbers clutter the text. We get nicely paragraphed (though see “THE BAD” below), single-column text and a much smoother reading experience than most double-column, every-verse-a-paragraph settings of the KJV. I’m so glad this new reader-Bible fad—which I hope transitions into a lasting tradition—has reached the KJV (although this was done for the KJV in the 1930s, I happen to know). This is the best way to read the Bible, though to study it we still have, and ought to have, study editions with chapter and verse divisions, footnotes, cross-references, and lengthy notes. Reader’s Bibles complement study Bibles; they do not threaten to replace them.
2K/Denmark did the typesetting, and I know them personally. They do good work:
- The typeface for body text is well balanced between clarity, beauty, and spacing. It feels slightly compressed, but that helps the Bible avoid being massive.
- The printing includes the now fairly standard line-matching, so that lines of text on the back of a page don’t bleed through the space between lines on the front.
- The copy I received for review has a beautiful binding of reasonable quality and comes in a sturdy box.
But when a review has to praise the box in order to have sufficient bullet points under “the good,” you know “the bad” is coming.
The worst thing about this Bible is truly and gloriously bad: all proper nouns are split into syllables and given accents. So, yes, there may be some readers out there who need some help pronouncing Me-phib´-o-sheth or Ma-her´-sha-lal´-hash-baz´.
I have no idea what anyone was thinking. I strongly suspect no one was.
But who in the world needs help with “Je´-sus,” “Zi´-on,” or “Je-ru´-sa-lem”? The practice is needless, distracting, and ugly. Some genealogy pages in the OT look like somebody dropped black sprinkles all over them. I thought the whole point of reader’s editions was to get rid of visual clutter so readers could focus on reading. No explanation is given for the pronunciation helps, so I have no idea what anyone was thinking. I strongly suspect no one was. It’s that bad. (At least “God” and “Lord” are one syllable, or we’d be in a truly impossible mess.)
The setting of the Psalms is another terrible problem. Each psalm is one big, fat paragraph. No poetic indents. No numbering of the psalms (the way other reader’s editions do).
Reading the Psalms this way—though, thankfully, Psalm 119 is divvied up according to stanzas: one paragraph per stanza—reminds me why I prefer the conventions of indentation most modern Bible editions use for the Psalms. The paragraph format in this new KJV reader’s Bible makes the psalmists feel like choppy writers. The reason my favorite method of settings the psalms is still the one chosen by The Books of the Bible is that there really is a small pause built into every parallelism: right after the parallel lines, you’re supposed to stop for a tiny moment before moving on. A paragraph, however, induces you to keep moving till the end of the thought, the end of the paragraph—only it isn’t the end of the thought. A good psalm setting uses our modern typographical conventions to uncover seams of argument in the psalms. This settings smudges them all out.
Also, I personally found the textual decorations odd. The whole Bible looks classic, so it should remain so. Half-tone minimalist rectangular design elements don’t belong.
I think this Bible is easily fixable, and that a second edition ought to come out soon. Meanwhile, KJV users do have a serviceable reader’s edition, and that’s a step in the right direction.