Thursday, January 26, 2012

Four Missals Reviewed (Part 2 of 3)

In part one of this review of four editions of the new English Roman Missal, we focused on the outer binding; I now wish to turn our attention to the inner aspects of these four missals, but before we do, let us review once more the four missals in question that we are looking at:

1. The Magnificat "Altar Edition", priced at $199.00 USD.
2. The World Library Publications (WLP) "Deluxe Edition", priced at $395.00 USD.
3. The Midwest Theological Forum (MTF) "Regal Edition", priced at $500.00 USD.
4. The Catholic Truth Society (CTS) "Altar Edition", priced at £230.00 GBP


Working our way inward from the binding itself, we come to the endpapers. In two of our missals, the CTS edition and the WLP edition, these are simply plain red coloured papers of sturdy weight:

WLP edition

CTS edition

These are fine as far as they go. That said, I do appreciate that the MTF and Magnificat editions added some traditional ornamentation here as well. Magnificat went with a marbled endpaper:

Magnificat marbled endpapers

MTF adopted a very striking gold design that employs stylized crosses; this one really jumped at out me when I saw it and it works particularly well with the gilding on the interior leather:

MTF endpapers

Make no mistake, details like this do indeed matter in relation to the overall beauty of the final product and they are more visible than one might think. I'd give the edge here to the MTF edition.


Under typography I primarily want to consider elements such as drop capitals and at the end of that detailed consideration, I will give a general summation of my thoughts on the typography generally. Of the drop capitals I will say in general that three of the four missals under review could have benefited by a more liberal use of them, including major and minor capitals. Aside from adding to the beauty of the text, these are very useful in helping to visually identify particular points within the text.

Now I said three of the four because the Magnificat edition did an excellent job in crafting major drop capitals, complete with art, and they will certainly get high praise from me for that; this particular aspect certainly sets them apart from the other missals at least in this particular regard:

Large capitals within the Magnificat Missal

The Magnificat edition also had three other styles for minor drop capitals, two of which I found a little less than desireable stylistically. Here is one such:

One style of drop capital in the Magnificat Missal

However, the drop capital style Magnificat adopted for the propers was far more classic and very well done; they generally did a good job in their edition of the missal insofar as they used these for each Mass of the liturgical year, and for all the proper prayers themselves.

Another style of drop capital in the Magnificat Missal

The MTF missal also uses some drop capitals within it, and they appear as follows:

The typography of the MTF Missal

Speaking personally, I prefer something a bit simpler for drop capitals of this size, but that is merely personal preference. My primary critique here is that these drop capitals are basically limited to the prefaces and the Ordo Missae. It would have been nice to see more drop capitals used for the proper as well.

The WLP edition, like the MTF and CTS editions, also has a limited use of drop capitals. They chose to use a black colour:

WLP edition

Here too, my personal preference is for a more classic style. My other critique is that, again the use of these drop capitals is extremely limited within the text, being mainly reserved to the Ordo Missae.

Turning finally to the CTS edition, they employ very classic drop capitals, my primary critique here is that I think they, like MTF and WLP, likewise could have used them far more liberally. As it stands, they are included for the Eucharistic Prayers, as well as for the Sundays of the liturgical year and a few other major places. They sit a bit high, but are otherwise very nice.

The typography of the CTS Missal

Now, all of that said, with regard to the basic typography and layout of each Missal, I don't wish to dwell on this a very great deal, but I can say that I find each missal perfectly legible. That said, of the four missals in question, I do generally find the CTS type the most pleasing generally. That said, the MTF and Magnificat editions also have their respective strengths in this same regard.

Missal Tabs

With regard the tabs of these various missals, some of this is really going to hit into a matter of priestly preference. The tab sizes vary from Magnificat which has the fewest and largest tabs, followed next by CTS, WLP and finally, MTF. Here they are in the same order:

Magnificat edition

CTS edition

WLP edition

MTF edition

Speaking of the construction of the tabs, I find the tabs used on the CTS edition to be, overall, the nicest. They are of a decent size and also made of a very nice material.

Regarding Magnificat's use of fewer tabs, while they do include additional tabs you can affix, I do think it would have been better if they had done as the other missals did and include the page tabs for each of the pages of the four Eucharistic prayers.

This now brings us to another matter surrounding the tabs. A curious feature of three of these four missals is that the first tab for the respective Eucharistic Prayers is, I will be so bold to say, incorrectly placed. (I should note that in the case of the WLP edition, they do get it right on Eucharistic prayers III and IV, which happen to begin on the left hand page, but wrong on Eucharistic Prayers I and II, which begin on the right) What do I mean by this?

What I mean is that if you look through traditional missals, the tab to turn to the Canon Missae page is placed upon the left hand page which typically bears the crucifixion artwork. That way, when you use this tab, you turn exactly to the page to which you intend to begin simply by pulling the pages leftward. However, in the case of the Magnificat and CTS Missals (and also the WLP missal for EP I and II), the tab is instead on the right hand page, and therefore when you use these markers, rather than being put directly to the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer with a simple leftward turn of the pages with the tab, you must first do that and then flip the tabbed page back rightward in order to get to the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. These images might better give you a sense of what I mean. I am holding the tab marked for EP 1 (and you will note that the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer is on the opposite side of the tabbed page being held):

CTS edition

WLP edition

Magnificat edition

The MTF edition was the only edition of these four missals that got these tabs correctly placed for each and every Eucharistic Prayer. Here is how this should work in my estimation:

This is one of those elements that could be easily corrected by the other publishers in future printings. I hope they will take note of it for little things like this do make a big difference.

Missal Ribbons

My final consideration for this second part of our review is with regard to the ribbon markers of the respective missals.

I am least impressed with the ribbons of the Magnificat edition which I think both too long and also too narrow for a book of this size. I also wonder if they might not be the sort whose ends will easily fray. These sort of ribbons strike me as better used for smaller liturgical books, but not full sized altar missals. Personally, I find thinner ribbons in larger, heavier books make it hard to use them to their purpose -- and also more likely to slip out of the pages.

Magnificat edition

The WLP edition's ribbons are better than those Magnificat, being both a bit wider, not so long, and feeling less likely to wear. I would call them acceptable.

However, 'top of the class' for the ribbons are the CTS and MTF editions. Not only do they include one extra ribbon (which is always useful), these ribbons are very nicely done, of good material, they are about one inch wide, and they also happen to be quite beautiful; they are thus both useful and ornamental (and the little flourish at the end will not only be more resistant to wear, it also makes them easier to grasp):

MTF edition

CTS edition

In terms of the colour of the ribbons, I was pleased that each of the four publishers used ribbons coloured, for the most part, in the liturgical colours as was often traditionally the case. This not only gives the ribbon markers a liturgical aspect, it also makes it easier to remember which ribbon to turn to for the proper -- provided you set the missal up that way. (e.g. using the violet ribbon to mark one the propers of the day in Lent and Advent, green during "Ordinary Time" and so on.)

I was a bit disappointed that none of these editions chose to include a black ribbon however, for this very reason (being useable on All Souls Day or in Masses for the Dead generally). Perhaps our publishers might consider that for a future printing.

In the third part of our review, we will turn our attention exclusively to the art of these four missals.

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