Bibliotheca: A Multi-Volume Reader’s Bible on Kickstarter

Adam Lewis Greene made history over the weekend by launching a Kickstarter project to fund a beautifully designed four-volume edition of the Bible optimized for reading. I backed the project before I’d even watched the video (below), having been tipped off by Crossway’s creative director Josh Dennis. In a little over 24 hours, the project, Bibliotheca, had reached its $37,000 funding goal, and as of this writing (Sunday night) it’s hovering at just over $54,000. If anyone in Bible publishing still thinks there’s no demand for reader-friendly, novel-formatted Bibles in multiple volumes to allow for opaque paper, well … this is the wakeup call.

When I first imagined writing this post the support level was still just a few thousand dollars and I was planning to end with a plea: “Let’s make this happen!” I had no idea just how quickly Adam’s project would go viral. Now it’s going to happen, the only question is on what scale. The more money he raises, the more ambitious the project can become. If you have any doubts, take a look:

If you’ve watched the video, you know Bibliotheca is a project after my own heart. With elegant simplicity Adam makes the case for Bibles that look like they’re meant to be read, not just referenced. His attention to detail — which extends to creating new typefaces for the project, determining the books’ proportion, and much more — is inspiring.

For the curious among you, I backed at the $240 level, the Deluxe Package including the four-volume hardcover set, a walnut slipcase, and a personalized library emboss. I could not resist that slipcase, and I am in love with Adam’s san serif typeface, so the thought of having an embosser in that typeface … well, I had to do it.

Adam and I have been in touch, and he’s agreed to an interview about Bibliotheca later this week. Meanwhile, check out Bibliotheca. You’ll be hearing a lot more about it on Bible Design Blog.

39 Comments on “Bibliotheca: A Multi-Volume Reader’s Bible on Kickstarter

  1. This is a very tempting set. I love the concept, and I love what I see so far. My only concern is with the mash-up of the ASV and Young’s (along with some other modifications by Mr. Greene). I would love to hear thoughts on these translations and I really hope that this topic can be included in the interview when it comes around! I really think this needs strong backing so it can continue beyond the Kickstarter campaign and so it can eventually include other translations too. Let’s go guys! It’s 1/3 the price of an Allan and so much more inventive!

    • If it was kjv I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Like you, the thought of a one man modification just kills my desire. Seems like if he was doing just for himself I could understand his desire to change it to his liking but if he’s appealing to the masses why not stick with what is already available, but what can I say, I’m not the one with a $50k kick starter project already fully funded.

      • I know this reply is over a year late, but it is by no means a one-man modification. He had so much support, he’s hired a team of half a dozen linguistically trained people to do this work. Check out the September update on his Kickstarter page. Two of the proofreaders give an update of their progress. It is anything but frivolous.

    • I think this is a really exciting project, and I hope he continues to successfully blow past his Kickstarter goals, but, like some of the other commenters here, I wish he had had used a mainstream translation. I’d definitely buy a KJV done this way (as long as it retained the traditional archaisms), but even if he was committed to the AV, I’d give that a try. I understand that he probably can’t use a modern translation due to copyright concerns, but I’m just not excited by his personal attempt to mash together two translations and then do his own update.

      Translation can be a difficult thing to do well, so why not stick with something tried and true? From my own writing, with documents nowhere near the size of the Bible, I find it can be difficult to maintain a consistent style, and I can’t imagine trying to merge two Bible translations, consistently update archaisms without introducing weird find-and-replace errors, and end up with a good readable literary product, especially within the aggressive timelines he set for this project (since it sounds like he hasn’t started yet and has no expertise in the area).

  2. I echo the sentiment that the groundswell of support for this project is “Exhibit A” in the case for production of eminently readable multi-volume collections of scripture on weighty paper. Like many of the readers of this blog, I too have experienced a type of wanderlust for at least the past 5 years, traveling from Bible to Bible in search of the perfect design.
    I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Adam Greene via a mutual friend when he visited Pasadena last month. Amazingly, he is even more genuine in person than he appears in the brilliantly-shot video. When he relayed to me this idea over dinner, I was intrigued by it and couldn’t stop asking him questions — so many that I think I truly surprised him. I liked the idea then, but after seeing the images of Bibliotheca, I am convinced: this is Qumran. This is the design I have been waiting for.
    Regarding translation, as has been raised in the comments above (though I know on this blog there is a kibosh on debates of translation), I am reminded of the aphorism, “The best translation is the one you actually read.” I would posit that the increased readability as a direct result of the intentional “work” of the design will yield an organic desire in me to keep reading, to see the stories of scripture in a larger context, and to experience the Word in a new way.

  3. I really like this idea, but the ASV translation is a deal breaker for me. I wish that either the ESV or NRSV people would do something like this.

    The only other thing that would make it perfect (for me, anyway) is to employ content-based breaks in the text. Once the chapter and verse numbers have been removed, there is no good reason to stick to the chapter breaks that have been imposed on the literature.

    That would be a prefect Bibliotheca.

    • I imagine it’s a copyright issue. There is an ESV Readers Bible from Crossway, but the pages look too thin for me.

    • It doesn’t seem to be a copyright issue. Adam prefers the ASV for this project. You can read about it on his kickstarter page at the bottom. Also, JMB from this blog gave a very good reason why the ASV will be perfectly suited to achieve Adam’s goals for this project on this post:

      Basically, an older version of the Bible that you are not familiar with will increase the discoverability factor and literary feel.

  4. I have pledge support. This is an awesome concept and design. Yes, the translation version and slight changes bothered me a little at first, but if this project becomes successful, other publishing houses may take notice and perhaps come on board with him with their translations or design their own. Ver excited!

  5. Regarding Translation
    I’m not 100% thrilled about it either. I would have preferred using an established version without changes.
    However, we have to view this project almost like a concept car. Maybe it’s not perfect. But if enough people get behind it, and if people like Mark Bertrand promote it, maybe the big publishers will take note. Maybe there will be even better things to come in the future.

    • Michael, your analogy to a “concept car” is really helpful. I TOTALLY agree! People need to back this so it can take off.

  6. Truth be told, I’m not that bothered by his quirky translation. After all, this is a reading Bible, not a verse-by-verse reference Bible. It is designed to encourage reading long stretches of the text at a sitting, and in my experience, the more of a text you’re taking in, the less translation issues mattter.

    Let me give you an example. Yesterday, I spent the bulk of my sermon in 1 Timothy 3:1-5, going word by word through its description of an overseer. In that kind of close textual analysis, translation matters A LOT. The NASB’s rendering of “free from the love of money” in 1 Timothy 3:3 has a different meaning than the NKJV’s “not covetous”, even though both of those are similar formal-equivalence translations.

    However, if you read the whole book of 1 Timothy in a sitting, it doesn’t matter whether you use the NASB, the NKJV, or even a dynamic-equivalence translation like the NLT. All of the differences in translation are going to be obscured by the overall flow of content. 1 Timothy as a unit is going to mean basically the same thing (something like, “Here’s how to keep the church in Ephesus running smoothly”) in any legitimate translation.

    The point is, I don’t think the exact translation or even translation mishmash of Bibliotheca will prove significant or even noticeable. You’d have to be a REAL Bible dork to be reading Isaiah and say, “That sentence right there is from the YLT!” As long as the result is readable (in a way that I think an unaltered ASV would not have been), and still an attempt at translation as opposed to paraphrase, I think it will work fine.

  7. Deal Crossway (we know some of you read these comments), you should seriously consider hiring this guy. Clearly, the reading public thinks he knows his stuff.

  8. Mark,

    This may be my all time favorite Bible Design Blog post. I am most excited about this purchase. Just signed up for the three sets support (wish he had an embosser to include with mine — but I could not pass up the opportunity to buy multiple copies of this project). I am equally excited about the modified translation choice. A big thanks to Adam Lewis Greene for all of his hard work on this project.

  9. Would love to do this, but 1) I would have to convince my wife to let me, and 2) I would prefer a more “standard” translation (NASB, ESV). There are good points made about the fact that you don’t normally have to worry about the exact when you are just reading through a passage. What I think about though is the fact that when you’ve been reading through a particular portion of the Bible through the week and you remember what you read at some point while you’re teaching or doing Bible study on Sunday and you want to find it, only to see it said in a way that the connection isn’t as clear. Also, many of us can quote a good book even if we haven’t been trying to memorize it. If this is meant to make it readable like a good book, then it should use a translation that we could quote in conversation (which, it being the Bible and all, would require other people to be able to verify what was said). I too think that this has to do with the translation being in the public domain, instead of requiring permission from the publishers. I would like to see Crossway hire him on or something and produce this set in ESV. I think it would be a natural transition from the Reader’s Bible (mine should come in this week). Glad to see so many people so excited about the project and I really do hope that the project goes well.

  10. I’m in as well. This is a great opportunity to get a project out for hopefully a larger audience someday but it’s got to start somewhere so ASV updated it is. Wouldn’t be my choice but I can live with it as well for now and who knows, maybe Crossway will take notice and work with Adam to produce their own ESV edition someday.

    From the looks of the video shots of the samples it appears that attention to detail and quality are high on Adams list as well.

  11. I jumped on this kickstarter when I first found out about it and pledged my $75. Like others, my concern is with translation. Unlike others, however, my concern over the translation isn’t so much his translation philosophy or desire. I think if he actually meets his vision in the translation it would be wonderful. My concern is that the completing of such a translation project single-handed in the course of a few months without any previous experience and promising anything close to quality work is ambitious, to put it as kindly as possible. I would hate for this kickstarter to be delayed 12-18 months because the translation work is incomplete when, in reality, that’s not the main draw of the project. But, as I said in the Kickstarter comments, I welcome being proven wrong!

  12. In regards to the changes/editing of the text, I wonder if these changes will be printed in italics so the reader will know where and what changes were made? Also, I’ve read no mention of the size of the font.

    • Norm, in a personal correspondence Adam told me, “the text in the set is almost exactly the size of Adobe Garamond set at 11.375 point.” Font size is relative to the font, but if you have that font on your computer, that’s what it’ll be. Sounds very nice.

      • Thank you J. Mellema, I have a Garamond on my computer and printed out at 11pt. it’s a fair size, not as big as I would prefer, but quite good when the bold option is selected.

  13. Such little faith. ASV is a wonderful translation, and the basis for most of the more conservative translations today. Adam will finish it, and it will be wonderful. This books main priority is to be readable and he will deliver.

    • I guess I’m one of those of little faith, so I should explain what I was thinking. I might be looking at this too critically, it’s just that the task of editing the Bible this way sounds really difficult and time consuming to me. In reading the Kickstarter description (i.e., performing due diligence on a potential investment, since it’s kind of a similar idea): He anticipates delivering the final product in five months. In addition to typesetting and managing the printing/binding/distribution, he plans to compare the AV with the original languages to consider substituting the YLT in places. This means he has to spend some time thinking about and weighing the pros and cons of every single passage in the Bible. It sounds like this hasn’t begun yet, it isn’t his area of expertise, and he said he was going to do it on a volunteer basis unless the project really took off, so I assume that means he has a day job (the project did really take off, though, so maybe he’s on it full time now). I’ve never tried doing this sort of editing myself, so I have no idea how long it would take, but I can’t imagine getting it done in a couple months.

      Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s not that hard, and maybe there are good responses to my concerns. In which case, more detail on the website about how this is actually going to be executed against the timeline would allay my concerns. Because you don’t want to rush it and jeopardize the overall literary structure of the book. I really do hope he can pull it off without any issues. I always find ways that things can go wrong, but I also like to be proven wrong myself.

  14. Joshua, I’m not sure who you are referring to exactly, but it should be quite understandable that one would have questions/reservations about any individual, whether a trained scholar of not, making changes or adjustments to any Bible translation. And, some of us as you say might indeed have such little faith, but there is such a thing as blind faith, which we should do everything within our power to avoid.

  15. For me, the Bible is not just about reading, but thinking /studying /comparing. When I start out just casually reading, I often get a “bang go the bells” encounter and later I have to have a study session. I really need some number references, if only chapter, so I can efficiently find comparison texts. I’m not into the “Bible as literature” aspect at all. Maybe that disqualifies me from this set? Single-column paragraphed text is great (actually my preference, now), and I have bought the ESV Readers’ Bible. I really appreciate the subdued chapter numbers and the page verse ranges there. I hope if there is an ESV or NASB four-volume-set that it would have the number references of the ESV RB. Or maybe a four-volume-set with numbering ala Mark B’s beloved NEB single column layout with verse numbers in the margin. I love the opaque paper, sewn binding, multiple volume concept of the Kickstarter project though, and am contemplating support. It’s just that… the phrase “mark my words” applies like no other, to Scripture. Besides the “take to heart” aspect, would rather have those words marked, if only in range, rather than unmarked. Most people don’t ponder a novel after they’ve read it, trying to spin out the wisdom and application — light reading doesn’t usually require heavy consideration (or need verse numbers). Scripture is Way Different.

  16. So after reading the comments it is apparent that many people have concerns over the ASV. While I am sure every understands the impracticality of making multiple translations early on (budgets double, triple, etc.), but yet there may be something you are not aware of. I am a seminary student at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and I have taken two years of Greek. With that, I am far from being an expert, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that almost all of my translations that I did for assignments, matched the ASV most closely. What I mean is that when I took all of the rules of grammar, syntax, vocabulary, MORE GRAMMAR, I consistently rendered the Greek into English most consistently with the ASV. Now you may ask, who is this chump and who cares, but my only point is that (at least in seminary) the translations you provide are very very literal. There is almost zero interpretative changes, or nuanced renderings. It is you job to make it as literal as possible, which may not always be the smoothest reading in English. With that ASV was always closer to my work, then NASB, then ESV. So, all that to say that I believe the ASV may be a better choice than what we are aware of.



    • That’s very interesting. How does Young’s compare with the Greek?

    • Thank you for that Kendall. I’ve tried not to look too much at all the comment threads (the Kickstarter is keeping me plenty busy, and I don’t want to “fuel the fire,” so to speak) but your comment caught my eye.

      It seems to me the ASV is out of favor for many, not because they have read it and don’t like it, but because it’s out of fashion and hasn’t been talked about or utilized by any theological bent for a very long time. And it’s unfamiliarity is understandable. It’s been displaced and out-marketed by newer, more colloquial translations that are copyrighted and promoted by major publishers. These are great translations in their own right, but, I agree with you, every one of them falls short of the ASV’s commitment to formal equivalence. It’s not that I think everyone should love the ASV. I respect readers’ varied translation preferences, and more contemporary vernacular is a worthy preference.

      Westcott and Hort, the heads of the ASV translation committee, were very intent on formally accurate translation, which explains your experience comparing your own work to theirs. Furthermore, their work on the Greek New Testament has been immeasurably seminal in New Testament translation and the study of Koine Greek since. Not to mention the ASV is the English grandfather of many of our major contemporary translations, including the NASB, ESV and NRSV (the intermediate generation being the RSV).

      Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts and your advocacy of the ASV!

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  18. This could be such an exciting project. These ‘reader’ editions really appeal to me, and I found myself saying ‘hear hear’ to everything Adam was saying – his typeface alone is beautiful. That is, until we got to the translation. Why is it so hard to find attractively-set editions of the Authorised Version (KJV)? I do not know of any ‘reader edition’ of the Authorised Version. How I’d love something like this, or Crossway’s ESV (y’know, the one without the verse references, and the red titles) in the Authorised version. Really, the closest we have is the Cambridge Clarion, which I own and use every day. The Clarion is a fantastic setting, and the quality is superb, but I really would love a well-produced edition like Adam Lewis Greene’s project.

  19. Wow, this project looks amazing. My concerns are the same mentioned by most people here: changes being made, possible typos, ect.

  20. I backed his project and I am looking forward to getting my books in the mail – I will not consider this THE BIBLE but more of a tool to grow my desire to read the bible more.

    I love this idea of making the bible more of a book. That’s neat.
    Maybe this will encourage people to pick up their actual bible and read it more like a book.

    Who knows.

    All I know is I am excited to receive my 4 books in the mail around December… 🙂

  21. Where can this be pre ordered as all the ones on Kickstarter are gone. Thanks!

    • Look more carefully, you can still order from Kickstarter. A lot of the options are sold out, but the basic 4 volume set for $75 is unlimited in quantity.

  22. You KJV purists crack me up. “If the KJV was good enough for St. Paul it’s good enough for me,” right? These types of projects are what they are and shouldn’t be evaluated based on serious scholarship anyway. It’s all about readability. Maybe someone will get some good out of it. Besides, it can’t possibly be worse than The Message. I like Young’s, like this idea, and plan to get in!

  23. Yesterday or today, Denny Burk raised the question of the choice of the ASV and provided several examples of his concerns. Anyone have thoughts on this, basically the chunky writing style?

    • Denny Burk makes some good points, and in essence I agree with him. Since translation debating is taboo on this blog I won’t go down that road further than saying that the ASV would have been far down my list of choices.

      I stand by my earlier comment that I view the current Bibliotheca project like a concept car. It’s not perfect, but it gets a point across. Adam Greene himself said that if this first edition is successful then he will try to get it published in other versions later on. That’s what I’m really hoping for.

      • Thanks for the etiquette reminder. This was my first post here, I think, and I admit that I forgot that discussions of translations are generally kept elsewhere. Makes sense to me.

  24. I would agree with many of the above comments, the ASV is a turn off for me. If it was the AV KJV I would also buy at least one set. I can only hope other translations will be available in the future. Maybe with the AV KJV you can also add the glyphs and scrolling/artwork commonly found in the 1611 bible. It would just make a Bibliotheca readers version pop! Thank you for your consideration and God bless you in your endeavor.

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