The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (KJV)

Newparagraph_open_2Ever since Cambridge announced plans to release the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, I’ve been getting e-mails from around the world. Since I’ve campaigned (or at least, complained) long and hard for a modern, single-column setting of King James Version, you can imagine with how much excitement I greeted both the announcement and the periodic reminders. I pre-ordered a copy from Amazon as soon as they were listed, but months passed and the order was never filled, so I canceled the order and placed another — then canceled the second order to place a third. Amazon always claimed the thing was in stock and ready to ship, but they never shipped it. Finally, I broke down and ordered it through a re-seller. When it arrived, I sat down with the New Paragraph Bible and spent several hours turning page by page to unstick the gilt edges and let the pages flow free. By the time I was done, I’d formed some definite opinions.

WHAT IS THE NEW CAMBRIDGE PARAGRAPH BIBLE?
The name derives from the original Cambridge Paragraph Bible, a late nineteenth century edition edited by Frederick Scrivener. The new editor, David Norton, undertook the task of researching the textual choices of the original translators and restoring them. The KJV never had a single, definitive “first edition.” Errors and variants were introduced almost immediately, and over the centuries various editors have attempted to make amends, updating spelling, punctuation and even wording. The last major revisions (apart from Scrivener’s) were made in the eighteenth century. Now, Norton brings spelling and punctuation up to twenty-first century standards, while at the same time restoring the translation itself to its pure, seventeenth century origins.

Of course, the title says it all. This is the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, so named because the KJV text is presented in paragraph form instead of the annoying traditional style, which inserts line breaks after every verse. I’ve argued in the past that one of the reasons contemporary readers — even some well-educated ones — have difficulty reading the KJV text is that it is invariably set in an archiac, unreadable style. In contrast, the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible is pleasure to read. The type is set elegantly in 10 pt. Swift, as befits the text, and the paper feels nice to the touch. Laying open on the table, the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible is an impressive sight.

Fans of the King James Version ought to love this edition. There really is nothing like it. The single-column text allows plenty of room in the margin for the translator’s notes, many of which are missing in other editions. Also included (as it should be with every copy of the KJV) is the introductory epistle titled “The Translators to the Reader,” a well-reasoned defense of the translation and an exposition on translation theory in general. Many of the errors of twentieth century “King James Only-ism” would have been impossible for congregations to swallow if they’d been able to see what the translators themselves had to say.

A FEW SHORTCOMINGS
As far as I’m concerned, there is no justification for double column text settings. Think about it. The only type of books that still use double columns are reference works. The Bible is not a reference like a dictionary or thesaurus. It is meant to be read, and ought to be designed like the books people actually read. The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible gets this right. My only reservation is with the decision to place the generous margin that contains the occasional textual notes on the inside gutter. On the positive side, this insures that the text is never swallowed in the crease the way it is with many other editions. On the negative, it means that the margin cannot be used effectively for note-taking, which would have been a nice touch — especially considering how large this Bible is (but more on that in a moment).

Newparagraph_spineThe New Cambridge Paragraph Bible also lacks a concordance. I imagine the thinking behind this omission was that if the original editions didn’t have one, the restored edition shouldn’t, either. That’s fine, but the decision makes it that much harder to use the New Paragraph Bible for personal study or teaching.

Newparagraph_bentcoverOf course, that oversight pales in comparison with the two I’m about to harp on: the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible’s binding and size. Let’s address the binding first. It’s no secret among connoisseurs that Cambridge Bibles aren’t what they once were. The quality of materials and production has declined over the past ten years or so. There was a time when I was confident that a Cambridge Bible would be better than any other on the market, but not anymore. The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible is a victim of the decline. According to the description printed inside, it is bound in French Morocco leather. My example bears no stamp on the cover itself to confirm this, and all I can say is that if the thin, hard substance used on this Bible is indeed French Morocco, then French Morocco isn’t what it used to be. After minimal use, the edge of the cover is already curling away from the book. As far as I can tell, the binding itself is excellent. I just wish Cambridge had used a finer material for the cover, one that measured up to the magisterial nature of the project.

As a result, my advice to shoppers is to handle the Bible in person before buying. That might prove difficult, I suppose, given the lack of availability, but if you can manage it, please do. In my experience, there is a wide range in quality between Cambridge Bibles of the same time bound in the same leather. For example, I have two copies of the wide margin KJV, both bound in calfskin. One is soft, supple and a pleasure to handle. The other is stiff as a board. Hopefully there are nicer examples of the New Paragraph Bible floating around out there.

COLOSSAL ERROR?
Now, I need to offer a lament about the size of this thing. I was really hoping the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible would be issued in a usuable format. The inclusion of the apocrypha adds thickness to the volume, but still, this Bible is far too big! For comparison purposes, I stacked it against Crossway’s bulky Heirloom Edition of the ESV — which most people agree is too large for practical use — and the ideally-sized Allan’s Reference Edition of the ESV. As you can see from the photo, the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible dwarfs them both. It’s actually bigger than any of the Study Bibles I own, in spite of the fact that it doesn’t have any study notes, concordance or maps. I would have gladly put up with smaller type to have an edition of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible I could take with me to church and enjoy.

I share the hope of the Church Times reviewer that Cambridge will use the new text and layout in other, handier editions of the KJV. They didn’t do this with Scrivener’s edition, now all but forgotten, and I fear that Norton’s will go the same route — reserved entirely for scholarly use — if Cambridge does not introduce a more practical edition at some point. (An edition from Penguin is also available — see below.) For the evangelical market, of course, where the KJV still sells well, a smaller edition sans Apocrypha would probably be the key.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Here’s the part where I wax philosophical. I seriously doubt whether we are going to see a single English-language translation enjoy the kind of popularity the King James had for four hundred years. Even if the various divisions of the church were to settle on a single version — which seems unlikely and might not even be a good thing — the resulting “authorized version” would not have the cultural impact that the KJV has had, because Christianity no longer has that kind of clout. For Christians without much sense of the past, who find the King James difficult to understand and pointless to grapple with, that might not seem like such a tragedy. But I’m not one of them, and I think it is. That’s why anything that can get Christians interested in the King James Version — for the right reasons — is going to get my unstinting approval and support. The Cambridge New Paragraph Bible falls into that category.

SizecomparisonUntil Cambridge makes it available in better, more practical editions — and let’s face it, they’ve hardly made it available at all so far — the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible isn’t going to reach the audience it should. The only thing that might change that is if some fanatical early adopters can generate interest. Bottom line: if you love the KJV, then this Bible should be on your shelf. In fact, in spite of the size, you should make it a point once in awhile to bring the thing to church, show it off, and try to win an adherent or two. That’s my plan.

SidebysideTHE PENGUIN PAPERBACK
When this article originally appeared, the Penguin paperback edition of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible was still in the future. Now, it’s on the market, available at Amazon. Like the leatherbound edition from Cambridge, it is a bulky book — but the paperback is considerably handier than its high end cousin, as you can see from the comparison photo at left. The textual notes are absent in the paperback, but some helpful backmatter has been added: maps and extensive introductory notes on individual books. The paperback includes the epistle dedicatory but, unfortunately, not “The Translators to the Reader,” in which the KJV translators explain and defend their work.

My first question, of course, on receiving the Penguin edition was whether the glued binding could be re-sewn and the whole thing fitted with a nice leather (or possibly hardback) binding. I’m no expert, but I think the inner margins are a bit too narrow to permit this without dragging the edge of the text into the gutter. If anyone manages to pull it off, though, I’d like to know.

Newparagraph_comparedOne of my initial concerns about the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible was that, because of the impractical format of the first edition, it would fail to find traction in the marketplace. So far, Cambridge continues to print the KJV in the antiquated verse-per-paragraph settings most of us are familiar with. Until they decide to use this setting in their ‘regular’ KJV formats, it will probably remain a niche product, a novelty — which is really a shame. The Penguin edition will help by making a handier, more practical version available at an attractive price point. Still, I’d love to see the ‘guts’ of this edition transplanted into a hand-sized, goatskin binding, or even a clean, modern hardback like the ESV Journaling Bible.

This is how the KJV ought to be experienced. Norton’s magnificent edition, coupled with this splendid, paragraphed setting, makes for the most accurate, readable King James Version available today. With any luck, Cambridge will transition its existing, old fashioned KJV settings to this new one and help introduce an amazing piece of scholarship to a much wider audience. Until that happens, the Penguin paperback offers an affordable, relatively handy introduction to the New Paragraph Bible.

LINKS
Order at Amazon.com | Wikipedia entry for the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible | Cambridge University Press webpages | The Listener’s profile on Norton and his decade-long project | The Penguin Edition at Amazon.com

52 Comments on “The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (KJV)

  1. Thanks for the link Nathan.
    Surely £311.00 (Over $600) is too expensive – even for this.
    I can’t seem to find anywhere else to buy it :(

  2. “ought to me experienced.” should probably be, “ought to be experienced”

    • Thanks David,
      A picture is worth a thousand words. Mr. Bertrand did not make it clear whether the phrase, “verse-per-paragraph” meant One-verse-per-paragraph or verses-to-paragraph.

  3. Thanks for the recommending this Bible, I just picked up the hardback up a local bookstore for $55. I looked and looked for the leather version but all I found were too much for my pocketbook. You have turned me on to the single column paragraph format and it really makes reading the Bible easier. To those in the Louisville area, check out the Christian Book Nook, they have good prices and discounts and they will order most anything at a good rate.

  4. With the imminent release of Nelson’s mildly paragraphed KJV (see Marks 9/21/09 thread) and the seeming unavailability of any more leather versions of this CNP, I thought I’d give this thread a bit of a bump. So has anyone re-bound the Penguin?

  5. I also, would really like to be able to get a hold of a leather edition of this Bible. It seems like a really compatible translation for me. Unfortunately, the only edition I can find that is still available is the Hardcover, and I simply cannot justify making this purchase without seeing any pictures.
    I cannot find ANY pictures of the hardcover. *Sigh* Its sad that this Bible went unnoticed, it seems like a great edition. I’d really like one, personally. But leather is too expensive, unavailable, and I just can’t buy a hardcover without at least seeing a picture of what it looks like.

    • I have the leather and love it. Got at Mardel on sale. Dontt think they have anymore.

  6. Mark,
    any word on a Penguin rebind? I want to do it, but I want to see if it will work first. I love the hardback, its just too big to carry around.

  7. Looks like Cambridge listened to Mark…Amazon shows several new versions coming out in June:
    1. leather w/o Apocrypha KJ592:T http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0521190630
    2. leather with Apocrypha KJ595:TA http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/052119881X
    3. hardcover w/o Apocrypha KJ590:T http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0521195012/
    4. hardcover with Apocrypha KJ591:TA http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0521762847
    The links aren’t all working right at http://www.cambridge.org/uk/religious_studies/kjv/ so some more details (like size, page count, etc.) may be coming there.

  8. That sounds like the Penguin paperback dimensions and page count. Should be a very nice KJV Bible.
    Wish they’d put topic/chapter headings across the top of the page, italicized in the classic style. But that would be a considerable addition to the David Norton opus.

  9. Photos are now up at both Cambridge/Baker and Amazon sites. Looks like instead of the Penguin layout, it’s using a reduced version of the original Cambridge layout, with David Norton’s notes on the inside (gutter) margins. Lots of room for notes, but will be a smaller font yet than the Penguin. Oh well, they do call it “personal size”; I probably shouldn’t have expected a comfortable typeface.

  10. Does anyone know exactly what the font size is on the NCPB Personal Size? I’m very interested but I haven’t been able to find out that particular piece of information. I love the Penguin layout (actually, I love the idea of a KJV that’s not verse by verse, period!) and I’m seriously considering this one. It’s nice that they brought back the Apocrypha for those who are interested. Any comments anyone has based on better knowledge or handling a copy will be greatly appreciated.

  11. Amazon gives the page count for both the “personal size” and the “original size” as the same. Therefore I believe the page layout and the page “breaks” will be the same in both, it’s just the personal size is some scale factor smaller. Using the metric measurements for both from the Cambridge site, the personal is 15% shorter in height and 19.5% narrower. So I’d say the scale factor is about 88%. The Cambridge site says the typeface of the original is “10/12.5 Swift”. I’d love an explanation of what that means, but CBD.com says the font of the original is 9-10 points, which sounds about right. (I have the original and I’d call it a comfortable 10 points, while my Penquin paperback is barely 9 points.) So applying the 88% scale factor gives ~8.5 points for this new personal one, so a bit smaller than the Penquin, but not by as much as I feared.
    One test might be to look at the original’s excerpt at http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/43867/excerpt/9780521843867_excerpt.pdf
    and adjust the scaling on your pdf reader until the page width is the 5.25″ CBD is quoting. That should be the size of the “personal” product. For me, a lighted screen seems to be more legible than an actual book so this might give you an optimistic estimate of readability, but it’s a start.
    For comparison, both Crossways and CBD gives the ESV PSR as 7.4pts. For me, that’s positively too small. But this new NCPB Personal, at a full point larger, might just be OK. Timed with the 400 anniversary of the 1611 KJV, I hope Cambridge has a winner on their hands with this one. Plus, you have the option to delete the Apocrypha with the Personal, if you want thinner as well as smaller.

  12. I know its been out less than a week, but does anyone have one yet, any reviews? Inquiring minds want to know? Mark, did you get one?

  13. I mean the Personal Size. My mind moved faster than the fingers. I want to know if it has errors like the new Cameo w/Apocrypha, which was missing the last part of 2nd Maccabees.

  14. Adam,
    Word from Baker is that the personal size won’t be shipping until may-june time frame.

  15. Adam, Kevin Edgecomb reports in a recent update at http://www.bombaxo.com/blog/?p=456 that the Personals will include the errata corrections that were made in the Penquin paperback relative to the original (large) NCPs. Kevin’s a pretty sharp guy, so I’d be inclined to believe him. So my earlier statement that the personals will be “the same” except by a scaling factor may not be exactly true.

  16. What is the deal with Baker saying June and Amazon saying January? Amazon says it ships in 1 to 3 weeks, starting on 1 Jan 11.

  17. Dunno, Adam. But Baker’s info was updated recently and Amazon’s is stale so I fear the later date is more accurate.
    So WHERE are all these special 2011 editions we’ve been hearing about?!?!

  18. Amazon says delivery in 1-3 months, not weeks. At least that’s what they said today when I ordered mine.

  19. @bill – Will do. I’ve been buying many bibles the past few months, which is quite unlike me. Until recently, my last bible purchase was in 1980 when I bought The Companion Bible by the great E. W. Bullinger (an incomparable, indispensable study bible). My recent buying jag began a few months ago when I found a leather-bound Lamsa (who provides great clarity on many so-called difficult verses). A few weeks ago, I decided to celebrate and purchased a 400th anniversary reproduction of a first edition 1611 King James from GreatSite. (WOW!) Last week it was The Note Taker’s Bible from LCBP (awesome, we will become great friends), and now the New Cambridge Paragraph. Must be my season for bible buying.
    My daily bible, my most used and most beloved, is a Cambridge Cameo Wide Margin purchased in 1975. Its front leather cover is coming unglued from the inside binding, so it’s time for a well-earned retirement to a place of honor in my bookcase. That cover coming unglued is what started all this! I’m thinking of a new Cambridge Concord Wide Margin, but will likely wait until I see the Paragraph.

  20. Ed, is your wide-margin in good enough shape to rebind or have repaired? Getting bibles rebound is fun!

  21. No bible botox for me, I’m too sentimental a soul. If I could find someone to properly re-glue the existing cover where it has separated, I might go for that.

  22. It is calfskin, by the way. I should have mentioned that earlier perhaps. The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible Personal Size is available in calfskin cover. KJ595:T. According to the Amazon blurb, it was published January 1, 2011.
    http://tinyurl.com/6bfe7sv

  23. With respect to the latest version of this Bible coming soon, the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible Personal Size in Black Calfskin:
    I had this Bible on pre-order through Amazon for over a year, when they finally e-mailed me to say that my order had been canceled and they would not be able to fill it.
    Strange that Amazon would cancel so late in the game, considering that when I e-mailed the publisher they stated that this Bible is still planned for production soon.
    I believe the date on the Baker website of June 11, 2011, is the most accurate as of now. I’m very much looking forward to this Bible, as it looks like many others are too! In the meanwhile, I use my leather-rebound Penguin Classics.

  24. Hate to be a pessimist, but this doesn’t sound good. Has Cambridge pulled the plug on this project? Can anyone comment? Perhaps they’re just reducing the number of bindings from 4 to 2? (or 1?) Greg, which model had you ordered? 590T, 595T, 590T, or 590TA?

  25. Interesting review, thank you. Amazon.co.uk lists the New Paragraph version of the KSJ as forthcoming in a number of new, smaller formats, but certainly previous experience has not been encouraging.
    The Folio Society is using this copy text for a limited edition of 1000 (in two volumes) at the not-so-affordable price of £500.

  26. Evangelical Bible sent me an e-mail today saying that it would now be Novemeber. It makes one wonder if it is ever going to come out.

  27. The main difference is that the new paragraph bible has the translators margin notes but no cross references. The Clarion has cross references.

  28. Thanks. i also noticed the Clarion is about 1″ shorter and 400pages thicker also the NCPB seems to be a slightly different translation than most KJV.
    Man i really hope the new personal size doesnt get the axe.

  29. Evangelical bible has pictures of the New Paragraph. They had posted a picture of the layout of the clarion a week or two ago, but I can’t find it now. It’s going to be great.

  30. Sorry to mimic my May 5 post, and I again hate to be pessimistic, but the pictures coming down on the EB site doesn’t sound good. I’m not sure coming out with both the small NCPB and the Clarion at the same time is good marketing sense anyway and to practically miss all of calendar year 1611+400 through delays (although production delays can be unavoidable) would seem to be a terrible blunder. If the text blocks haven’t actually gone into production, gotta’ wonder if Cambridge corporate isn’t doing some soul-searching right now.
    I’d love to be proved wrong. Sounds like the Transettos came out in Europe months before USA…can any or our cosmopolitan friends confirm/deny seeing one of the conventional NCPB or Clarions?

  31. Finally gave up on Amazon months ago and ordered the New Paragraph from Borders, who promised a 4-8 week delivery. No joy; their promised delivery window expired weeks ago. EB may be correct about November, wish Amazon or Borders would say something.

  32. I actually have an email into cambridge asking when thye will release the new personal size.. maybe Mark can use some of his pull to find out if this thing will ever be released? :)

  33. I have just got the KJ595:T Calfskin, no apocrypha, it is a keeper for me, and will be my main reading bible. I prefer it to the KJV Clarion editions, having handled all3 the bleedthrough seems much less on the NCPB and more readable as well, the calfskin is good, not great, could have done with being leather lined. But is pleasant to the touch, just not as thick as I would have liked. However my main reason for wanting this is the text block, great formatting and an exact match of the larger original.

  34. Who else has one of these personal NCPBs? How do font size and words-per-line compare with the Clarion?
    How about a review, Mark? A hi-rez pic showing all three together (original and personal NCPB and Clarion) would sure be nice!

  35. Bill, I no longer own a Clarion. As I recall, the font size is about the same. Personally, I like the NCPB layout much better, which is why I still own one of those.

  36. Was the Cambridge Paragraph Bible the first bible with paragraphs?

  37. No, the Douay-Rheims of 1582/1609 was published in paragraphs, as, do I believe, were Tyndale’s, the Great Bible, Matthews/Taveners, etc.
    The more pertinent question is, “which was the first Bible that started that regrettable trend of verse-by-verse?”, and the answer is, “Geneva”, after which all other translators (including the revisers of the Douay-Rheims) followed suit. Now, going on 450 years later, Catholics’ traditional Bible is still stuck in the crap format pioneered by the Genevan Marian-exile(?) Calvinist Protestants (verse-by-verse), whereas the Calvinist Protestants (and everyone else, including liberal Catholics) have gone back to the original and superior setting of the Elizebethan-exile Catholics.
    The Protestants ended up with the superior archaic Catholic layout, and the Catholics with the inferior archaic Protestant layout.
    “LOL”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>