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Various editions-  'Deluxe' editions on the left bound in finely tooled Moroccan Leather with two color (red/black) text. In the middle, moving to the right- "Classic' editions- Slightly smaller than the deluxe editions, presented in decorated leather hardcovers with banded spines down to the more economical paper covered hard back and an un-decorated plain leather or cloth covered hard back.


Henri and Jules Desclee.jpg

We must first thank 2 men for what is nothing less than a very significant contribution to liturgical and devotional printed matter for the Roman Catholic Church.  Henri and Jules Desclee had a vision. To restore Christian art in Liturgical publications. They named their newly founded mission "The Society of St. John the Evangelist" (I will refer to it with the acronym "SSJE" from this point forward) More information about the brothers Desclee can be found


Henri (1830-1917) and Jules (1828-1911) Desclee- highlighted in the top row, center.

The brothers also played a large part in the founding and construction of the Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous in Denee, Belgium- opened in 1892. They also donated land and funds for the erection of the abbey.

Official Abbey website

maredsous abbey.jfif

Maredsous Abbey, present day.

Title page Le Baron Bethune.jpg

Architect, artisan, and designer Baron Jean-Baptiste Bethune who shared this vision of the Desclee Brothers.  Baron Bethune was an adherent to the "School of St. Luke" of which he was a co-founder in 1862. This school offered training in the traditional Gothic style of Christian art, expressed in architecture, painting, wood carving, stained, glass, etc... He had a direct hand in the design and artwork of Vulgate editions we are so found of, as well as many other liturgical publications of the SSJE.

His definitive biography can be found here.

Baron Jean-Baptiste Bethune 1821-1894 

Biography of Baron Bethune by Jules Helbig, 1906

Dom Anselm Schott, who, according to my research probably composed the preface to this Vulgate edition and worked directly on the editing and arrrangement of the biblical text itself.


Dom Anselm Schott 1843-1896

It was a "perfect storm" that resulted in some of the most beautiful liturgical/devotional books produced in the latter part of the 19th and early into the 20th century, if not ever. Certainly there were other publishers producing very excellent liturgical books during the same time period...but the combination of three things allowed the publications of the SSJE to stand out among the rest- stunning and beautiful artwork, well thought out typography- which leads to  excellent readability, and most importantly-textual integrity. A beautiful sampling of what I'm referring to can be seen to the right.


Breviarium Romanum (The Roman Breviary) 1886 edition


They set up their printing establishment in Tournai, Belgium. Historical information I uncovered placed them at "76 Avenue Maire", of which I have not been able to pinpoint on any map. It could have been in the outskirts of the city.

City of Tournai, Belgium


Desclee adv..jpg

An advertisement for their Missals, Breviaries, and Diurnals. These are only the tip of the ice berg. They offered literally hundreds of publications in several languages. Latin and French dominated their offerings. They also released titles in English, Italian, and Spanish.

Another advertisement- This one accentuating their contributions to chant/church music. The SSJE worked closely with the Benedictines of Solesmes Abbey, known for their tireless work, restoring church music to it's ancient beauty.

Desclee adv. page 1.jpg
Desclee Vulgate Cover (1894 E.M. ed.).jp

The SSJE was not shy about advertising their other publications right on the back covers of their 'classic' Vulgate editions. (cloth hardcover, then covered in paper) This image was taken from an 1894 edition of Biblia Sacra, Vulgatae Editionis.  "CHEZ LES MEMES EDITEURS" [Translated from French- "FROM THE SAME EDITORS"]

After 5 years of searching, I was finally able to find a complete catalog of SSJE's offerings. I had searched used book vendors all over Europe, digitized book depositories, and several libraries in European countries. My biggest obstacles were two things: #1- I was not absolutely sure any copies existed, although I was fairly certain the SSJE offered one, as I saw reference to it in their advertisements and #2- I was unsure of the title since I assumed it might not be in English. I found a copy in a library in Brussels, Belgium called The Royal Library of Belgium (now known as "KBR") after sending them a brief description of what I was looking for.  I was then able to do a more thorough search of libraries in the US. In 2013 I struck gold. I found a copy in the Newberry Library in Chicago, IL. I was hoping they would be able to send it via inter-library loan but they said it did not qualify (probably due to it's age/fragility). So for a small fee, they scanned it for me. The scans are not of great quality but it is readable. I was a bit floored when I received it. I hadn't imagined that their list of offerings would be so large. It is dated with the year 1890 and in the French language. I have not been able to find one in English since I do not know whether the SSJE offered one, and if so I have no way of knowing if any copies are still in existence. The catalog also lists the publications by Desclee de Brouwer and Associates under the "Society of St. Augustine". Their focus seemed to lean more heavily on Church documents, theology manuals, lives of the saints, etc... The scans of the catalog are available below as a PDF download.  I will comment more specifically about the listings for the Vulgate editions below.



Title page Desclee Catalog.jpg
Table of Contents from Desclee Catalog.j

Title page and 'Order of Catalog' Title page translation: "Catalog- Books: Liturgical and Books of Saints, Missals and Breviaries, Parishioners [This is referring to hand missals, I believe] and Books of Piety, Religious Imagery in "Chromo Litho" and Typography, Bookbinders

Read what "The Dublin Review" (Third Series, Volume X, July-October, 1883) had to say bout the SSJE.

The publications of the “Imprimerie Liturgique” of Tournay, a few of which head this notice, are splendid additions to that mediaeval movement which is still working vigorously in many departments of Christian art. The missals and breviaries of the Tournay Society are becoming highly esteemed for their carefully accurate editing, not less than for the luxurious elegance of type, paper, illustration, and binding; indeed, many who sympathize little with the quaint mediaeval character of the ornamentation are attracted by the clear beautifully cut Elzevirian types, the easy legibility of which is noteworthy in the smallest editions, while the toned paper adds still further to the ease and comfort of reading them. But for those who do feel attracted by the beauty of mediaeval art, these editions are truly de luxe; while it is useful to add that the prices of the various publications are remarkably moderate. The aim of the Society has been to reproduce worthily, so far as types and wood blocks could do it, those works which in olden times were written, one may say, in gold, and at the expense of life’s labour; and, further to reproduce them with an accuracy of text which was then scarcely attainable. The illustrations are, therefore, not merely pious pictures bound up in the volumes, but, like the miniatures of illuminated MSS., they are part of the text and have reference to it. It is enough to add, that Baron Bethune d’Idewalle, the great promoter of the renaissance of Christian art in Belgium, has the guidance of this artistic portion of the undertaking. The volumes which we have selected deserve a few words of special mention. 

Editions offered-

 The Vulgate editions were offered in two formats. The larger or "Deluxe" size presents more exquisite cover options and beautiful red and black interior text with a red outline around the text.  The smaller size- named the "Classic" editions were presented with simple, single color black text. Every deluxe edition I have seen has been limited to year 1881, the first edition. The title pages of the different editions I have owned indicated 4 individual printings- 1881, 1885, 1894, and 1901.

Covers and binding- The publishers offered a wide variety of cover configurations. Starting with a simple 'paperback' edition all the way up to deluxe Moroccan leather covered boards with tooling and gold inlays.

Below is an excerpt from the complete catalog, listing all of the options available in the year 1890.

Desclee Catalog page 22.jpg
Desclee Catalog page 23.jpg

Below is an English translation, to the best of my ability using Google translate.

[No. 76] The Holy Bible, Large in-8°(@10” x 6”) DELUXE EDITION

Text in red and black with a frame – Ornamented with frontispiece, two maps, two large tables, twenty-two headers, page breaks, intitials, etc...

               Paper covered...............................................................................frs.20-00

               Bound in cloth edges white or mottled.......................................... 22-00

               In strong tanned leather, red, printed imprints................................................25-00

               The same, with gilt edges........................................................26-50

               In strong tanned leather, red, gilt printing and edges..............................32-00

               In black textured leather, gilt edges, imprinting cold........................28-00

               In black textured leather, Grade A, red edges ornamentation cold-printed,

               (corner-?)guards chromolithograpy................................................................................ 30-00

               The same, gilt edges................................................................. 31-50

               The same, edges in red underneath gold........................................................... 34-00

               In red textured leather, edges and ornamentation gold........................... 40-00

               The same, edges in red underneath gold.......................................................... 42-50

                In leather, ornamentation cold(-printed?)............................................................... 40-00

                In leather, Russian Leather, on polished raised moroccan, color of

                choice, ornamentation gold on the boards and spine, guards very

                rich chromolithograpy, beautiful cretagé(?) around guards................................ 50-00

                Half binding, spine in textured leather, boards in cloth, gilt edges.26-00

                Rich mosaic on boards and spine...............additional................... 15-00

                Guards sole(?)...................................................>>........................... 10-00

                Cases, custodians, clasps, price varies.

[No. 76] The Holy Bible, in-8° (@8¾” x 5”) CLASSIC EDITION

One beautiful volume, text in black only. This edition is ornamented, like the preceding one, with a large number of engravings and two maps.

                Cardboard......................................................................................frs. 7-50

                Bound in full English cloth, edges white or mottled...........................9-00

                Spine in textured leather, paper boards leatherized, gilt edges..................10-00

                Textured leather spine and corners with gold, boards in cloth, gilt edges........ 11-00

                Spine and corners in raised Moroccan leather, with gilding
                and threads, gilt edge, front cover trimmed with the top edge only gilded;
                binding strong and elegan

Below I have arranged a gallery of images-representing several of the editions listed from the above catalog excerpt. 

Some  of these images came from books I've actually owned, some have come from various places on the internet, hence the diverse formats and backgrounds in which they are presented.   

'Deluxe' Editions

'Classic' Editions

The interior-

If you would like to inspect and read the pages I will be describing below, thankfully you do not have to wait weeks or even months and spend hundreds of dollars attempting to obtain a copy.  These editions are relatively rare and usually expensive ($100 or more) when found.

Update: 12/21 I have reprinted the "Classic" edition and it is available here on my website.

Visit my home page for details and how to purchase.

Editions of 1881, 1894, and 1901 have been digitized via Google Books. Below are 7 links to pdf's of these scans. The titles of the links indicate the particular library that provided the edition for scanning. These are definitely not 'print quality' scans. The 1881 editions are particularly difficult to read because the red text did not come through very well. If you are going to download one for reading, I would suggest the 1894 or one of the 1901 editions. Instructions: Go to any link I have provided below. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, there is a small gear symbol. Click on it and select "Download PDF"

1881 Editions

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library

 Bibliotheque de la Faculte de Theologie- Les Fontaines CHANTILLY

[Translated-Library of the Faculty of Theology-The Fountains CHANTILLY (France)]

Ecole Sainte Genevieve

[Translated-School of St. Genevieve]

Lyon Public Library

Princeton University Library

1894 Edition

Lyon Public Library

1901 Edition

Andover-Harvard Theological Library

Lyon Public Library

The full title of the first edition Vulgate is thus: 

Biblia Sacra

Vulgatae Editionis

Sixti V. Pont. Max Jussu

recognita et Clementis VIII

auctorita edita

Tornaci Nerviorum, typis Soc.

Sancti Joannis Evangelistae.

Desclee Lefebvre et Soc.  MDCCCLXXXI


The Holy Bible

Vulgate Edition

Examined and Issued by the 

authority of Clement 8th

Printed by The Society of St. John the Evangelist

at Tournai of the Nervii [see note below]

Desclee, Lefebvre, and Associates 1881

Tournaci Nerviorum: “Nerviorum” (masculine genitive plural) means “of the (tribe of the) Nervii.”  The Nervii were a Belgic tribe in the far north of ancient Gallia.  So “Tornaci Nerviorum” means “(printed) at Tournai of the Nervii.”  The word “Nerviorum” just makes “Tornaci” more specific, distinguishing it from any other cities named Tornacus/Tornacum there might have been. [This analysis was submitted to me on request from someone fluent in Latin]

1881: Deluxe and Classic editions. 'Jus proprietatis vindicabitur' at the bottom of the title page. 

[Translated- Vindicated the right of ownership] This appears to be somewhat of an equivalent to our modern-day copyright.

1885: Classic editions only. 'Jus proprietatis' [Translated- Right of ownership] at the bottom of the title page.

1894: Classic editions only. 'Editio quinta' [Translated- Fifth edition] at the bottom of the title page.

1901: Classic editions only. No text at the bottom of the title page.

'Jus proprietatis' on the imprimatur page (back of title page)

Note: As stated above, the third printing (1894) is labeled as the "Fifth edition". Either there were more editions between the year 1881 and 1894 that I have not yet found or there were a few intermediary editions of the biblical text that were not printed. I have seen reference to an 1883 edition, but I have never discovered a copy.


The title page is faced by a page on the left containing a full color map of "Palestine au temps de N.S. (Notre Seigneur) "

[Translated from the French- Palestine at the time of Our Savior]


On the back of the title page:

This first edition of 1881 was given the Imprimatur [translated- let it be printed] by Bishop of the Tournai Diocese at the time,

✠ Most Reverend Isidore-Joseph du Rousseaux

Dated the 6th Day of June 1881

(Same Imprimatur is granted for the 1885 and 1894 editions)

Another Imprimatur was granted to the 1901 edition by ✠ Most Reverend Carolus Gustavus Walravens

Dated the 13th Day of May 1901



Next comes the "Editores Lectori" [translated- "To the Reader"]

Here, the editors lay out their case involving the textual methodology. 

Any printed edition of the Vulgate (or any Bible in any language, for that matter) has a "lineage" so to speak.

I had the privilege of being acquainted with an individual who fluent in Latin that was able to translate the Editores Lectori for me. To him I am very grateful to him for this great gift.

Here it is- 

Receive, dear reader, from the St. John the Evangelist Press of Tournai (Belgium) the Holy Bible in Latin, most diligently corrected and in faithful accordance with the Vatican edition authorized by Clement VIII and published in 1598. Since many have expressed the wish that, following the excellent work of the eminent scholar Charles Vercellone, there might be a new edition in more elegant form which, while based on his outstanding scriptural studies, could be produced at a lesser price, we decided that it would not be uncalled-for to create this edition of ours. 

Moreover the method which the editors decided to follow in this effort are with pleasure derived from the important guidelines Pope Clement VIII laid down for his edition. That is, he ordered that no one should undertake to publish this edition of Holy Scripture without first consulting a copy of it printed at the Vatican press. The form of this copy should be inviolably followed without the least particle of the text being changed, added or subtracted, unless something is found which is clearly ascribable to typographical negligence. 

If one investigates the reasons for this precept, it becomes easily apparent how useful and wise it was. For the Pontiff was looking for nothing else than to put an end to that enormous discord among innumerable editions through which, by ignoring tradition and the authority of the Church, everyone had been wont to indulge his own inclinations.

Thus it is impermissible for anyone to change anything in the text of the Vulgate edition in any way. It is forbidden by the very notion and sacredness of an authorized text, one having been established as such by the authority of the Church. Since it is the business of this authority to see to the integrity and unity of the Scriptures, the text it has established as the noblest document of tradition must be preserved with utmost care and vigilance. So no matter how much it may seem to us that, in the light of critical scientific reasoning and rules, some things ought to be changed, there is a fear that they might involve those things which were left unchanged deliberately. 

Finally, since, in the judgement of the foremost theologians and best scholars, the current readings of the Vulgate edition merit being treated cautiously and with prudent reverence even in matters minute and of small importance, our decision was never to depart from the Vatican — that is, the authorized — edition, unless by chance there was clear evidence of a manifest error on the part of the typographers. Hence we thought it best to safeguard that edition with utmost reverence as the definitive norm of the sacred text; we have striven to follow the precepts of the Holy See. 

                                                              Vatican edition                                            Amended reading


II. Reg 2, 8, 12                                            castra                                                                 Castra

III. Reg. 11, 2                                               Hetthæus                                                          Hethæus

III. Reg. 11, 26                                             Nabath                                                                Nabat

III. Reg. 14, 7                                               petram                                                              Petram

I. Par. 6, 71                                                  Astharoth                                                          Astaroth

I. Par. 12, 3                                                  Anathotites                                                       Anathothites

I. Par. 25, 10                                               Zachur                                                                Zacchur

I. Par. 27, 28                                               Balanam                                                              Balanan

I. Par. 26,32                                                Gadditis                                                             Gaditis

I. Par. 26, 19                                               coram altare                                                       coram altari

I Esdr. 5, 6                                                 Arphasachæi                                                     Apharsachæi (cf. 4, 9)

II Esdr. 11, 17                                              Idithum                                                                 Idithun

Judith 8, 22                                               Abraam                                                              Abraham

Judith 15, 19                                             Joachim                                                              Joacim

Esth. 2, 21                                                  Bagatha                                                               Bagathan

Ps. 47, 7                                                     apprehendit eos.  Ibi                                        apprehendit eos ibi

IV. Reg. 25, 13                                           Maachati                                                            Maachathi  etc.

The authors of the Vatican edition had not taken it upon themselves to print anything new and recently discovered, nor, likewise, did we ourselves undertake to do anything other than render with utmost exactitude the edition of 1598 (of which a copy lay before us). That edition is the last one of the three published under the auspices of Clement VIII, and through it the authorized text, with three appended lists of corrections, has been perfectly preserved. 

In no way could we be unaware of the weight with which certain readings are typically supported, like the famous proficiens [“advancing, making progress”] for proficiscens [“departing”] of II Samuel 3, 1, or the affigentes [“affixing, nailing” (to the cross, i.e., crucifying)] for affligentes [“striking or smashing against, striking down”] of Acts 2, 23. But no matter how much they appeal to us — in our private judgement preferring a different reading than the one presented by the Vatican text — we have not ventured to accept them. But because there are praiseworthy scholars — as the Venerable Cardinal Bellarmine has proved — who, well equipped with scholarly knowledge and other aids, devote their efforts to examining and confirming original readings even in all the smallest particulars, we did not think we should reject the emendations contained both in the publications of the best authors and in other, modern editions. Among the latter, we have put much effort into comparing especially the edition which the famous Charles Vercellone oversaw under the auspices of the most holy Pius IX; and in addition to other editions, those of greatest authority in France, Italy and Germany. We have employed these and others in figuring out obscure passages; in determining punctuation — whenever, that is, we feared that the sense might be altered or where it seemed to us that greater clarity might be obtained; and, finally, in correcting the addition of so-called citations, and other things of this kind. Quite often, for example, in the Vatican edition you will find a period followed by a lower-case letter; in Vercellone’s edition you will find this unchanged, even though he did not hesitate to alter some elements in many things of easily greater importance. So it had to be determined — often from the sources or from other editions or publications — whether the sentence in the preceding phrase was completely finished. Besides this it is clear that, due to printer negligence, one of two periods has sometimes been lost. All these things are found to be of small or, rather, no importance, if you look at the matter itself; however in issues of greater importance we have never rejected the Vulgate edition on any pretext whatsoever, as we have stated. 

It remains for us to explain certain other things we did in preparing this edition. 

The prefaces of St. Jerome according to the Vallarsi edition, generally included as one might expect, have been emended. — As for proper names, whose spelling in the Vulgate edition is by no means consistent, we have deliberately refrained from changing and rewording them in accordance with a fixed standard. — We have corrected and expanded so called biblical concordances or cross references of parallel passages (placed in the margin according to ancient custom), since they are largely erroneous in the Vatican edition; for the hard work of those who have inserted these kinds of things and other items of the same type in other editions is not condemned by the Apostolic See. — For the same reason we thought the captions, too, which head individual chapters, should be retained as aids for ease of use by students. — We have not shrunk from the incredible labor of cleaning up biblical indices, which the famous Vercellone left out, as though it were intolerable drudgery and labor to correct them properly, given that many preachers, students of theology and others have earnestly desired them. 

May, finally, this edition of the Sacred Bible be published, and may it bear exceedingly rich fruits of knowledge and piety; we humbly pray that St. John the Evangelist, our great patron, who drew his stream of divine eloquence from the sacred font itself of the Lord’s breast and, inebriated with the grace of the Holy Ghost, more deeply revealed to others the hidden things of Divinity, might obtain these results for us through his kind intercession with the most sacred Heart of Jesus.

Tournai, Belgium, on the feast of our holy father Benedict, 1885


It is obvious from the text above that the 1598 edition of the Vatican text was the primary source for the editors. It also appears that they, at the very least, consulted the text of Carolus Vercellone.

...Continued from The Dublin Review article-

Biblia Sacra. Vulgatae Sixti V. Pont. Max. jussu recognita et Clementis VIII. Auctoritate edita.  1881.

  In the preparation of the beautiful edition of the Bible the editor tells us in his preface he has carefully followed the provisions of Clement VIII. The revision of the text was committed to the hands of some Benedictine fathers of the Abbey of Maredsous. The various editions of the Vulgate have been consulted, and the Vatican edition of 1598 has been followed as far as possible, while the labours of the learned Padre Vercellone have been largely availed of. For the better text of St. Jerome’s Preface, the edition of Valarsi has been adopted; the foot-notes of which and the index rerum have been carefully corrected of numerous mistakes, and a useful index of lessons, epistles, and gospels of Sundays has been added. The volume is printed in double columns, with red borders and marginal references, while the volume is adorned with a frontispiece, two large pictures, and twenty-two smaller ones as “tetes de page" [French for ‘page headers’].



Praefatio ad lectorem


Preface to the reader 


[An English translation of this preface is not available, link to Latin text below]

link to praefatio ad lectorem


 De canonicis Scripturis decretum ex Concilio Tridentino, sessione quarta.

Decree concerning the canonical scriptures, from the Council of Trent, fourth session.

The sacred and holy, ecumenical, and general Synod of Trent,–lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the Same three legates of the Apostolic Sec presiding therein,–keeping this always in view, that, errors being removed, the purity itself of the Gospel be preserved in the Church; which (Gospel), before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand; (the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament–seeing that one God is the author of both –as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one’s mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second. Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according [Page 19] to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle. But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church. [translation copied and pasted from]

 Link to Latin text of De canonicis Scripturis decretum






[An English translation of the remembrance is not available, link to Latin text below]

link to latin text of memoriam



The next 20 pages contain the prefaces to certain books of the bible in the original Latin, composed by the great St. Jerome, Father of the Latin Vulgate Bible. The 'Editores Lectori' states that the Latin text of the prefaces is taken from the work of Italian priest  Fr. Dominic Vallarsi 







A single page, listing the order and page numbers of each book of the bible contained therein.


Here is a look inside the biblical text of both the deluxe and classic editions, for you to compare.

Inside the Old Testament, 1881 Deluxe edition-

genesis 1 edited webview.jpg

The attention to detail in regards to the layout and typography is what  makes these editions so beautiful. The 'Elzevirian' style font fits the overall layout nicely, and is very readable at the same time. The cross references are also a nice feature, which these editions are replete with.

1881 GN 1 close up.jpg

The double red outlines, and red column divider partitions the text well. The red text for the chapter introductions parallels the use of the color red used for rubrics in liturgical books.

Genesis 1 from the 1881 edition, digitally enhanced

Click on it for a larger image

Inside the New Testament, 1901 Classic edition-

matthew 1

Matthew 1 from the 1901 edition, digitally enhanced

Click on it for a lager image

In contrast to the two-color text shown above in the 1881 edition, here is a look at the text as given in the 1885, 1894, and 1901 editions. An almost identical copy of the 1881 edition but with black only text, ornately decorated boxed in chapter introductions, and no outlines and column dividers.

1901 MT 1 close-up.jpg

Again, attention to detail and excellent readability is what draws the eye to these editions. It is hard to imagine the hours of tedious work that went into the printing process, considering the technology of the time period in which these were printed.

A short textual analaysis of vss. 1-10 of St. John's Gospel

1598 St. John pro..jpg
1861 St. John pro..jpg

I would like to make a few comments concerning the attempt of the editors of this bible to create a text which is both faithful to the Vatican edition of 1598 but also bears fruit from more recent scholarship. I hope to demonstrate this using the three examples above. (each image can be clicked on to open a full page PDF)

The goal of the editors as stated in the note to the reader "...there might be a new edition in more elegant form which, while based on his [Carolus Vercellone] outstanding scriptural studies, could be produced at a lesser price,"


Let us look at the first 10 verses of the Gospel of John.


Starting on the left is the Vatican edition of the Clementine text printed in 1598. This is the last corrected edition of the original 1592 text.  A few notable textual characteristics are the replacement of the word "et" with an ampersand and the truncation of some words- Reference the second occurence of the word "verbum" in verse one. It is printed as "verbū". My guess is this method of abbreviation was used to decrease the length of the line so that the desired words would still fit in the desired space. One more observation is the lack of capitalization of the word "in" in verse 4.


Moving to the middle is the text of Carolus Vercellone. His fidelity to the 1598 edition is apparent. 

Only changing very minor textual anomalies such as capitalization and punctuation when needed.

The addition of the chapter introductions are very helpful, which the 1901 edition retains. 


On the right is the 1901 edition of the Society of St. John the Evangelist. The text benefits from Vercellone's corrections, while maintaining fidelity to the Vatican edition, and at the same time providing a very aesthetically pleasing and readable text with the bonus of illustrations and various appendices to further aid the reader. Upon a closer look, the 1901 edition is -in essence- a re-typesetting of the work of Carolus Vercellone's edition of 1861.

In my opinion, the 1901 edition could be one of the best texts of the Clementine Vulgate ever put into print.

Yet again, here is another article I found in the January 1886 edition of the Dublin Review, praising Desclee's Vulgate editions in particular:

Biblia Sacra Vulgata Editionis Sixti V Pont. Max. jussu recognita et Clementis VIII auctoritate edita. Tornaci Nerviorum : typis Soc. Sancti Ioannis Evangelistae, Desclee, Lefebvre et Soc. 1885.
IN the DUBLIN REVIEW of October, 1883, I brought before the notice of its readers several liturgical publications of the Tournay Liturgical Printing Press of St. John. The same publishers have just brought out a new edition of The Vulgate. As appears from the preface, it is arranged exactly on the same critical principles as that of 1883, except that the size is different and the ornamental adjuncts are changed. The present is a most handy volume in small octavo, printed on stout paper, in double columns. It has two maps, one of Palestine in the time of Our Lord, the other of the journeys of St. Paul. A very useful index of lessons, epistles, and gospels of the Sundays has also been added. The cheapness (frs. 7-50) of the volume, which extends to nearly a thousand pages, will no doubt be an additional recommendation of it to students.





At the beginning the New Testament a color map is provided:




After the actual canonical books of the bible, the editors included the books of 













This section contains an index which links the testimonies of Christ and the Apostles in the New Testament to that of the Old.




Listed here is what appears to be a glossary of biblical names.







An excellent general index to the Holy Scriptures is provided here.






Here is given a key to all of the biblical texts cited in the Propers of the Mass,

listed in order of the liturgical calendar.


The last page (1881 edition only):

 The 1881 edition included a "Corrigenda" [translated-"Corrections"] at the end of the book.

Taking into account the state of printing technology during this time period, it was common for publishers to include a list of corrections to the text instead of make changes to the actual physical parts that place the ink on the pages. The subsequent 3 editions did not include the page of corrections, indicated that measures were taken to correct the errors in the text.