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Tolle et Lege: Best Physical Latin Bibles

So your Latin is good enough that you now want to read St. Jerome’s translation of the Old and New Testaments. Since he began his work of editing and translating the entire Scriptures in 386, it slowly gained popularity until it was the only Latin version in existence called simply the common translation, Vulgata in Latin or the Vulgate.

But you’re tired of reading online. While BibleGateway and New Advent both have decent Greek and Latin parallels that I use regularly for reference, nothing beats a Bible you can take with you and mark up with bible highlighters or pencil, aging just as you do, in a good way. I have a post on the best Greek New Testaments, and this is its cousin on the best physical Latin bibles.

Bibles often are not the cheapest books, in terms of production quality or cost to purchase. That said, as long as they don’t just collect dust on the shelf, daily use can still make them a good deal. I put the cheapest option at the bottom because it’s not really the whole Bible, but just the New Testament.

Latin and English Side by Side – Two Options

Heirloom Quality

Baronius Press offers a heirloom-quality Latin and English side-by-side in a prodigious tome that fits the whole Bible twice! Check out their sample page to get a sense of the care they’ve put into crafting a Bible in which you’ll never be lost, because the English will always be just a glance away. This can help particularly when reading the Old Testament. This Bible will likely outlast you and can be handed down to the next generation of Latin enthusiasts.

Leatherbound Latin NT + Psalms

An alternative to the entire Bible in one beautiful tome would be this edition, which breaks the Old Testament into two volumes (one still forthcoming, it seems) and puts the entire New Testament into these leather bound covers. Since this is also the only other edition that puts the Latin and English together in one volume, I offer it here instead of down below with the students’ New Testaments.

Just the Latin – Scholarly and Durable

This hardcover—though not as robust or fancy as the Baronius Press edition—will last many years and a bit of back and forth. I generally keep my paperbacks in one place so they stay in better shape, but this Bible can go into a bag and be carted back and forth from school to work to home and still come out looking good years later. That said, there are no vocabulary or grammar aids, merely an apparatus criticus to help you see the manuscript tradition and alternative readings that scholars fight about.

Latin and Greek – Why Just One Dead Language?

If you have learned or are planning to add Greek to your Latin, for about the same cost as the Latin text above, you can own both languages between two covers. This is the Bible I use daily and, even though I’ve lost it once and had to replace it, it’s been well worth the price tag. I already gushed about it in my post about Physical Greek New Testaments, so check it out there if you need more information or pictures.

Affordable Reprint? – Hardcover OR Softcover

I haven’t physically owned this one and therefore can’t speak to its quality. What it certainly isn’t is a hasty reprint to make a buck on Lulu (I think we’ve all ordered enough of those to be wary). It seems to be a reprint of a beautiful Latin edition from over a century ago that keeps the illustrations and illuminated capitals at the beginnings of the chapters. One thing it has on the other editions here is built in book-ribbons (plural!) for the hardcover. Those are nice for keeping one’s place without having holy cards falling out of one’s Bible.

If someone does own this and can speak to the paper and binding quality, I’d love to hear more in the comments. The hardcover is the same price as the Green Vulgate above, but if that price seems too steep for you, the softcover edition seems in anyone’s price range for a normal Bible in English these days.

Just the New Testament – The Student’s First Latin Bible

Thankfully there are Bibles now being produced in the price range affordable even for students, and not just fancy birthday or graduation gifts. This paperback edition is the one I recommend to all my students who are just starting out. It’s affordable and portable because it keeps itself to the New Testament, which is what most Christians are most familiar with anyway. Take note that this edition does not distinguish between consonant V and vowel U in its typography: that is, they will all look like u’s. Anyone with more than a year or so of Latin should get comfortable with that fairly quickly, as it was a common way of typesetting Latin for centuries.

An alternative may be this one, and I like that they include the Psalms as well as the New Testament. I can’t speak to the typesetting and binding quality, though, so I recommend it only with caution. Since the point of buying a physical Bible is having a pleasant reading experience, I’d hold off on this one until someone sounds off in the comments or Amazon adds a “Look Inside” option that seems legitimate.

What Would Be Nice to See? Pocket-Sized and Lexicon Included

While there are nice editions of the Psalms in pocket-sized Latin, I’d love to see a Latin New Testament produced in a portable (preferably pocketable) size like some of the more famous Psalms and New Testament Pocket Editions that float around in so many other languages.

It would also be nice to have a student edition that had a focused dictionary in the back. In addition to that, the less common words could be glossed on the page and the most common words reserved for the lexicon in the back. While there is a separate glossary for Biblical Latin, the additional book makes it possible for home study but less likely for on-the-go reading. That way, by grabbing one book the student would have everything needed right in that text. They make Reader’s New Testaments like this in Greek, but they don’t seem to have caught on, or the demand just hasn’t been there to make these in Latin.

But I haven’t seen these in a couple decades of learning and teaching Latin.

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