Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guest Post: HarperOne NABRE Rebound

Thank you to reader Colleague for submitting this review:

My newly bound NABRE

For my latest rebinding project, I took the HarperOne New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) hardcover and had it transformed it into a genuine leather softcover.  While Oxford University Press has produced some acceptable genuine leather NABREs, there honestly isn’t a NABRE currently on the market that beats the text presentation of the HarperOne – I mean, you’ve gotta love the classy red-and-black text, not to mention the fresh organization of the footnotes and references! – and I think that such a superb layout deserves a fancy set of “clothes.”  Some of you may remember the article entitled Healing Catholic “Bible Envy” written this past May by Mickey Maudlin, Senior Vice President, Executive Editor and Director of Bible Publishing at HarperCollins.  In that piece, while discussing the merits of the NABRE translation, Mr. Maudlin lauded that the (then) to-be-released NABRE in black imitation leather was “stunning and should assuage any Catholic still suffering from Bible envy.”  To our misfortune, he was wrong.  What we received was a poorly packaged NABRE thinly disguised as a NRSV Catholic Gift Bible.  Obviously there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to HarperOne’s binding and design!  While this rebinding project was clearly meant for my own edification, maybe this post will further signal to the many Directors of Bible Publishing that there is a significant and growing segment of Catholics who desire a higher-quality standard in our Bibles.

The first thing that you notice is that this Bible is very blue!   This is a soft, flexible and supple royal blue pebble genuine top grain cowhide with 3/8” yapp on all sides.  Absolutely stellar!  I chose royal blue for three reasons: first, I’m pretty bored with the same ol’ black and brown Bibles and I thought it would be pretty awesome to own a blue Bible (and it is!); second, my fiancĂ© thought it would be more mannish than a turquoise Bible; third, and most importantly, since the Blessed Virgin is most commonly depicted in blue, I couldn’t think of a better symbolism to hold the Word of God.  Hats off to HarperOne for making the hardcover with sewn binding!  The silver embossing on the spine is complementary and really stands out beautifully, I think. 

On the inside, there was some minor surgery required.  Those of you who own the Harper NABRE already know about the glossy Presentation and other Sacramental pages at the front end of the Bible.  There is even a photograph of Pope Benedict XVI.  Even as a practicing Catholic, I find these pages to be largely a waste of space in my Bibles – not to mention unappealing – so I had them excised.  In their stead, I added four blank note pages to the back of the text block for general note-taking – which is more than sufficient for my needs.  Three 3/8” red ribbon markers were added.  I had originally opted for silver ribbon markers to (again) complement the blue, but then I realized that the white pages would make the silver seem sort of bland.  I was reluctant to go with the red ribbons since the red, white and blue might make this seem too much like a patriot’s Bible – especially considering that this is the New AMERICAN Bible (oy vey!) – but then I realized that the red(, white) and blue really do complement each other exceptionally well. 

You’ve got to admit that this Bible really grabs your attention!  Many thanks to Eric and Margie Haley over at Leonard’s Book Restoration for not only the quality craftsmanship which you see here but also their personalized customer service.  It had been about two years since my last rebind, yet my name was immediately recognized when I contacted them – and they were very patient and understanding, especially considering all the last minute changes of mind I had!


Christopher W. Speaks said...


It looks like you've duplicated one of the pictures. I did send three different ones, yes?

Timothy said...

All fixed!

Timothy said...


When I was first reading that you got a blue cover I thought you were crazy. But after viewing your pictures, I must say that it looks fantastic!

It really seems to go well with the black and red in the page layout.

Amfortas said...

They don't seem to have done a very good job of the lettering on the spine.

Christopher W. Speaks said...


Something about the blue actually makes the text seem more crisp and pronounced. The black-with-red text was already stately enough, but the blue really accentuates such stateliness.


I just looked at the Bible itself and compared it to the picture. For some reason the picture seems to exacerbate the centering of the spine - perhaps it is the angle. Granted, while they seem to have had some issue getting "Revised" and "Edition" perfectly centered in relation to "NAB", each of the words is perfectly centered in proportion to the spine.

RLM said...


What is your opinion on having a Bible rebound? Do you think a project like this is worth it. I admit, I'd like to have a HarperOne NABRE in this kind of binding, just can't convince myself it's a good idea.


Timothy said...


If you are going to make it your everyday Bible and really desire a high quality leather cover, I say go for it. Perhaps Colleague will chime in as well.

losabio said...

I had Leonard's recover an RSV from Ignatius, and it was just heartbreakingly bad when it came back. There was glue spilled on the gilt binding, the spine stampings spilled over onto the cover, the "RSV CE2" stamping on the spine was positively mangled (appeared to have been mis stamped, painted/dyed over, then restamped, leaving a mangled mess), there were torn remnants of the previous cover protruding from the end papers, there was glue all over one of the ribbons, etc., etc. Caveat emptor! It's hard to imagine that I'll ever do business with Leonard's again. I dropped $350 having a pair of books rebound by them, and if I had to do it all over again, I would spend that money on a copy of Logos and never look back.

Christopher W. Speaks said...


I can understand your hesitancy in proceeding to get something rebound as I've been in your shoes. In fact, I even had serious doubts about this project because it was hard to envision how it would turn out, there's a sort of helplessness knowing that you're paying good money to have your Bible surgically operated on and, unlike most other customizing operations these days, you don't get to see - much less supervise! - the work. In essence, you're paying good, hard-earned money to have your Bible left at some craftsman's disposal to (hopefully) faithfully exact some design decisions, which, were it Cambridge or R.L. Allan, would require an experienced staff. To that I can only say: Thank God for Eric and Margie Haley over at Leonard's who really do take the time to help deliver back to you a quality product. Not only do they understand the value of our personal Bibles, but they also understand the value of each and every paycheck. My experience working with them is that they will tell you upfront when either something just isn't feasible or, in the interest of aesthetics, is just a plain bad idea!

While I have seen the results of some other bookbinders, though I couldn't name them, I can't speak to any experience working with them. I am sure that they are great, extremely skilled individuals as well, but I've never been particularly impressed by the work I've seen. The end result is often a like a shirt that doesn't quite fit. Perhaps their prices are a bit more manageable, but I think it's definitely an instance where you get what you pay for.

All I can say is that, for once, after nearly five years, I'm done with spending money on Bibles. I'm extremely pleased with the end result of this project: it fits all of my needs, not to mention my aesthetic sensibility, and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction every day to use it.

As they say, your experience may vary.

Matt said...

This Bible looks fantastic. My HarperOne NABRE is arriving today. I may just send mine away for a similar treatment.

I have always used McSpadden's Bookbindery and have had good success. They have done 2 Liber Usualis, a Roman Breviary, and a hardcover book for me. It takes a month and about a hundred bucks but the results are worth it.

RLM said...

Colleague: Thank you for your response, it was quite helpful and I have to say I'm tempted to try this myself. I would really like to have one Bible to use for reading and lectio and, like you, I've spent enough on Bibles, still not having found the perfect one. Thiss seems to come close.

Thank you again.

Duncan said...

One remaining downside I see is that while you like the new text block from HarperOne, it doesn't come gilt like the St. Benedict's does. Guilting should be done when the text block is created so you're out of luck (unless your TB has wide margins and you don't mind spending $150 for guilding).

Whenever I hit Catholic bookstores, I see a bible wall of some of the ugliest book coverings in the history of publishing. They make 1950's Thomas Nelson leather look like Highland Goat in comparison.

I have no idea what these covers are made of aside from being slick and brown.

I assume the difference is that the somewhat Protestant UK has supported decent bindings even into this secular age while others have let them drop.

Chrysostom said...

I used a smaller bookbindery to have my New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (with its notoriously stiff cover) rebound in goatskin - it's worth it, but it cost over $500 (on the large, pulpit-sized NCPB, with gilding), and I would not recommend it unless 1) you're rich; or 2) you've found a Bible you're going to use nearly exclusively.

I tried for a long time to find a D-R or DRC or Haydock textblock that could be rebound with good results, with no luck - they're almost all glued, and 100 per cent, without exceptions, formatted in the "reference book - dictionary" style.

Margie Haley said...

Losabio, this is Margie at Leonard's. If you are not satisfied with the look of your Bible, drop me a line and let's see how we can take care of the problem. :-)