Saturday, December 01, 2007

Liturgical Books: Four Reviews

I was recently sent copies of a few liturgical books for review, coming from two different vendors, and I wished to speak about each of them.

Baronius Press

I. The 1962 Roman Missal (Link to Product)

I want to begin with Baronius Press who sent me a copy of their most recently published edition of their 1962 Daily Missal -- the Summorum Pontificum edition.

Having already owned a copy of their previous 2004 edition of this same missal, it gave a good point for comparison. Evidently, the main internal difference I am able to ascertain as far as its textual contents is concerned is the fact that the missal now includes the text (in Latin as well as in English) of Summorum Pontificum -- a very nice addition needless to say. The Latin text employed is the one which uses "continenter", though the English translation is rendered "stable" in this edition.

On this point, it might have been a good addition to also have included the Explanatory Letter which is an important interpretive key to the motu proprio. Perhaps this might be included in a future edition, alongside any official clarifications to come forth from Ecclesia Dei.

Moving beyond this, while the previous 2004 editon of the missal was quite nice by all accounts, the 2007 edition takes the printing to a new level in my estimation. From a practical standpoint, the new volume is actually bound thinner than the 2004 edition which makes it a little less burdensome. Likewise, the pages are slightly wider in size, which thereby helps in terms of the placement of the text as regards the centre binding -- also helping the missal to stay open better. Both changes bring this edition of the missal into line with typical pew Missal proportions.

Another feature I note is that the pages are brighter white and they tend to stay flatter generally than in the previous edition. In the previous edition, the edges of the pages curled or rippled ever so slightly and the pages were a little more difficult to turn. Moreover, the edges did not feel crisp. All this has been resolved in the new edition.

In addition to this, the gold gilding upon the edge of the book is also better done and the leather cover itself is sturdier and even better made, allowing for the titling and embossed monogram design to show through more clearly.

Overall, this second generation of the Baronius Daily Missal can only be chalked up as a success.

For those who were not familiar with this Missal in the first place, it is worth reviewing that it is a fully parallel Latin-English daily missal based upon the 1962 Missale Romanum. It also includes traditional style black and white art within it and the rubrics are in red for the Ordo Missae. While I would prefer the Belgian missal line-art, it is nonetheless quite attractive. It also includes a number of sewn in ribbons and a Gregorian Kyriale in the back

It is finally worth noting that the publisher informs me that a decent sale of these missals for the Christmas gift giving period is likely to also significantly expedite the process of their publication of the English-Latin Divine Office from 1962.

II. The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Link to Product)

Not so long ago Baronius Press also took to reprinting the Little Office from the 1961 Breviarium Romanum.

This little volume has the same features, binding wise, of the new edition of the 1962 Daily Missal, being bound in an attractive blue leather with gold gilt edging, two sewn in ribbons, as well as the rubrical references being printed in red ink.

Quite nice in this edition is the fact that the pages are of a thicker stock of paper and the titles of the various offices are printed in a lovely gothic script.

The entire text is presented in parallel Latin-English with the English translation employing a more hieratic form of English.

All said it is an impressive little volume that certainly has a deluxe quality about it.

Preserving Christian Publications

Liber Usualis (1962) (Link to Product)

When one starts to get into large volumes like the Liber Usualis one never knows what to expect as far as reprints go. Needless to say, I was suitably impressed by the overall quality of this particular reprinting of the Liber Usualis. There has been another reprint of this book, but it was of the 1952 edition, which puts it prior to the Holy Week changes of Pius XII. This edition brings us right up to prior to the Council which, evidently, is a good and important thing -- it is worth noting that if you look in the Ordo Missae section of this 1962 edition of the Liber, the addition of the name of St. Joseph to the Roman Canon was not in place in this edition. That said, the chants are the primary purpose of a volume such as this, and this is not a new type-setting, but rather a reprint of the volume as it existed when published.

The book is sturdy with a very nice black cloth hardcover and, as is usual for the Liber, red edging to the pages. The title is gilt on the edge of the spine and eight multi-coloured ribbons are sewn into the book. (It must be said that the image found on the website -- see below -- does not do the quality of this reprint justice in this light.)

The page quality inside is very good and the reprint scans themselves are very good, being crisp, clear and with good contrast.

The book is a litle pricey, sitting at $150.00 USD and while it would have been nice to see the volume come in more around the $100.00-$125.00 mark, it is probably not a surprise that a book that is over 2000 pages, printed well and no doubt in not very great numbers given its specialized nature, should cost more. Still, $150.00 is not outrageous for liturgical books, particularly substantial and qualitative one's that will likely be a one-time purchase.

As such, while it might be tempting to pay less for a earlier edition of the Liber Usualis, the benefit of receiving a qualitative copy that brings one up to the Roman liturgy around the Johannine era should not be understimated.

If you are looking for a Liber for yourself, or if a parish is looking to acquire copies for its schola, I'd highly recommend you consider this reprint

II. Breviarium Romanum (1961) (Link to Product)

This two volume edition of the Roman Breviary, published in Latin only, was published in conjunction with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter as the foreward includes a 1995 letter from Bishop Timlin of the Diocese of Scranton, PA. to that effect.

While the picture, again, on the website does not portray the volumes that well, I will have to say that this particular printing is nowhere near as qualitative as the Liber or other two volumes mentioned. There is little doubt that this was done for cost-saving reasons given the origins of the project, and it is perhaps also indicative of the fact that it was originally set out in the early days of reprints, before things advanced to the stages they have now. For example, these employ an imitation leather bound onto a hardcover board similar to what would normally be employed for a cloth hardcover. It would be far more desirable to see a reprinting of the Breviarium Romanum bound in real leather and particularly in a softer cover format as is typical for missals and breviaries, complete with gold-gilt edges. A downside is that while these cost-saving measures were employed, at $160.00 USD, they are priced more as one would expect to receive for the traditional format.

The other issue is that the nature of the hardcover and the interior paper used (which is thin but not the usual onion skin) do make the set a little larger than one usually would see in breviaries and thus a bit more cumbersome than is customary for breviaries.

Because of the nature of the binding and its overall size for something that will be used each day, I do wonder about the longevity of the binding over time.

While it is not my ideal reprinting of the 1962 Breviary, it does serve to at least make it more readily available to those who are trying to find an edition of it in Latin only short of the used market -- and to my knowledge, no one else has reprinted it.

The virtues of the set, aside from the aforementioned fact of availability (though as of this review, it is on back-order), is that internally it does employ red for the rubrics, the edges are done in a nice red and sewn ribbons are also included as one would expect. The text itself is also clear. From this particular perspective it is a usable enough reprint.

Overall, this printing of the Breviarium Romanum fills a gap, and a necessary gap, but we should look at it mainly as an interim, strictly utilitarian solution waiting upon a more permanent one.

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