Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review of The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John

No, this isn’t going to be a review of these Gospels, as such -- that’s far beyond what I or anyone is qualified to do. Rather, I am happy to present to you a gorgeous new edition of these two Gospels that has just come out from Bloomfield Books, as part of their newly-launched Sacred Art Series.

Could someone tell me what’s in the air? Even as there seems to be so much confusion in the Church and disarray in the passing on of the authentic faith, the number of beautiful resources for Catholics continues to increase and diversify (recently, I reviewed the book Treasure and Tradition, one of the most magnificent works of its kind that I’ve ever seen). So, too, with this new Sacred Art Series. The goals are spelled out by the editor William R. Bloomfield, who writes at their website:
The Sacred Art Series provides a variety of products featuring beautiful images of sacred art to help families and individuals grow in holiness. The centerpiece of the Sacred Art Series is The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John, which is a unique version of the Gospels that presents the Gospels story-by-story alongside beautiful images of sacred art. It also is beautifully bound with a leatherette cover so that both the exterior and interior of this book are stunning.
          Both children and adults will appreciate the large font, story-by-story format, and beautiful images as improving readability. The English edition’s text is based on the Challoner revision of the Douay-Rheims translation--an excellent Catholic translation--with minor updates to remove most thee’s, thou’s, thy’s, and -eth endings. A Latin Vulgate Edition is also available. The art includes exquisite works of sacred art, with many from master artists such as Fra Angelico, Caravaggio, Duccio, Giotto, Murillo, and Titian.
          A volume of the Sacred Art Series makes an excellent First Communion or Confirmation gift. It also makes a great birthday, feast day, or Christmas gift for your children, godchildren, nieces, or nephews. And unlike many bibles that are gifted (which are really adult bibles and are often for show), this one is truly designed to be read.
(Far below, I have included a photograph of the volume’s full Preface, which gives more details about the project’s genesis and purpose. My apologies that the photos are not the crispest ever; the printing is, in fact, extremely crisp and clear.)

As usual, it will help NLM readers far more to see lots of photos than to hear me going on and on about how beautiful a book this is. But I ought to say loud and clear: it is handsomely done, its cover, gilt edging, sewn binding, ribbon, rounded pages, and full-bleed artwork make it look like the sacred and special book it is, so that its very appearance transmits an unspoken message about reverence. The gentle updating that has been done to the Douay-Rheims text makes it at once reader-friendly (especially for younger readers) and utterly traditional in tone. The choice of St. Luke and St. John again is a winner, as you get a very full synoptic narrative from the one, including favorite parables uniquely Luke’s, complemented by the more “mystical”  and dialogue-centered narrative of John. Most strikingly, the full-color artworks on every other page are exquisitely tasteful, well placed to match exactly the text at that point, and guaranteed to fascinate many a reader with their own way of telling or commenting on the adjacent story.

My photos don’t really do it justice, but they will give you a sense of how Bloomfield has made a reader’s Bible that is both maximally useful and unquestionably beautiful. As a teacher of Scripture, I can testify that Bloomfield is right to say that beginning readers are often distracted and discouraged by the unfriendly layout of most Bibles, with their tiny print, dual columns, chapter and verse numbers, footnotes, and other paraphernalia that almost amount to a warning: “This book that you are now holding is an old, technical, difficult, forbidding tome that you can’t just open up and enjoy reading. Think twice before diving in.”  This new book has just the opposite effect: you want to take it up and read it as the story that it is -- the greatest story ever told.

A sign of the integrity of the editor, Will Bloomfield, is his choice to use only public-domain text and images, so that it is entirely copyright-free. He even makes the whole PDF available for free. Of course, the published version he has made is worth every penny of its cost, in my opinion -- a PDF does not come with a leatherlike cover, gilt edges, and pictures you can lovingly linger over in a sunny corner of the living room.

Parents, teachers, catechists, pastors, lectio divina enthusiasts -- whoever you may be: look into this Bible and see if it might not be the missing edition we have been waiting for. A last piece of good news: Bloomfield Books says they will be bringing out other companion volumes done in the same careful, thoughtful, and artistic manner. May God bless you richly in this literary apostolate!

Also, be sure to check out their other available product, the Rosary Flip-Book, an excellent resource for any family trying to pray the Rosary while keeping little ones occupied and/or older ones meditating rather than day-dreaming. I have included a few photos of this product below.

Buy The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John at
Buy the Rosary Flip-Book at (8"x10" or 4"x5")

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