Bibliotheca: First Impressions

It's been two and a half years since Adam Lewis Greene launched a crowdfunded project called Bibliotheca. I'm pleased to confirm that good things do indeed come to those who wait!

For those who haven't heard of it, Bibliotheca is not an attempt to augment the Bible with copious study notes, or develop a new translation. It's designed to make the Bible more like a normal book, and encourage a more traditional reading experience. It does this by:

  • Using high quality paper
  • Removing the chapter and verse headings (these were added later anyway, so in a sense the reader is returned to the original form of the literature)
  • Breaking the Bible into multiple volumes which resemble regular books more closely
  • Selecting a translation that is easy to read whilst preserving the flow of the original languages

On the latter point, Adam chose the ASV. I confess that I've not spent a lot of time with the ASV before. From a cursory reading I do like the ambience of it, but time will tell whether I'm comfortable with just the words, and no alternative renderings to refer to in a margin.

My interest was initially captured by the idea of coming to the Bible afresh, without the distraction of study notes and verse numbers. Would I be liberated from the strictures of indented numerals to perceive the word of God anew? Would I pick it up like a good novel, and lose myself in the narrative?

I backed the campaign to find out.

After securing $1.4 million funding of a $37,000 goal, it was clear I was not alone. Bibliotheca had become a mammoth undertaking, with several stretch goals in scope including a slip case and the whole apocrypha. Excitement and expectations were high. The project had even grown large enough to spawn its own parodies!

Delivery progressed slowly (that is to say, according to Hofstadter's Law). Frequent updates kept backers informed, but as time passed it became clear the project would slip. "Improvements" to the ASV translation drew a little ire, and the publishing process seemed agonisingly slow at times.

Then, a few weeks ago, I received a prompt to double check my postage details. A modest cardboard package arrived in the mail this morning.

So how do I feel about the finished product? Am I glad I backed it?

Yes. First impressions:

  1. The paper is really good. It's heavy, opaque, and extremely smooth to the touch. It's off-white, and combined with the fabric covers makes for a very tactile reading experience.
  2. It's surprisingly hard to adjust to reading the Bible without verse numbers. It's weird. It has made me realise I'm rather preoccupied with "where I am" when reading, on a subconscious level. It will take a while to train this out, but it hasn't happened immediately.
  3. The jury is still out on the ASV translation. Honestly, I'm going to have to do a little background reading and some comparisons on specific verses. I'll also have to look for the modifications to the ASV made by the Bibliotheca team. I don't think I'll be able to relax into it properly without doing this first.
  4. The line-matching is excellent. Lines on both sides of the page are at the same position, reducing the effect of bleed-through.
  5. The font is classy. At first glance it's quite Bookman Old Style, but there are subtle flourishes which make it a little more interesting.
  6. The text block feels narrow, but I think if it was wider the page word count would feel overwhelming. I suspect they got the balance right, but I'd love to see a few mockups with different margin sizes to decide for myself.

I'll post again, either as an update or a new post, with some thoughts about the ASV translation once I've lived with it for a while.

Did you back Bibliotheca? What are your impressions? Comment @biblesnippets or on Facebook!


Bible enthusiast, husband, Dad, and tech-head with too many projects and not enough time.