It is a noble tradition that, in ages past, liturgical editions represented the height of craftsmanship and often marked the apex of the art of book production for their times. In continuity with this tradition, this first edition of a Lectionarium, according to the "1962 rubrics", marks a similar achievement in our time.

Many of its features, unique in liturgical publication today, will cause this Lectionarium to stand out as a liturgical book that indeed epitomizes the very best that can be produced in large quantities in our day. Together with our most important partner for the outer appearance of the Lectionarium - the bookbinder - we take pride in having overcome some major production difficulties; and, in the case of one detail regarding the ribbon markers, in having introduced an innovation that may prove to be a pioneering breakthrough.

Measurments, Leather and Gold Embossing

The Lectionarium's dimensions, 25.2 x 36 cm (9.92 x 14.17 in), are similar to those of traditional altar editions of the Missale Romanum. Meticulous typographical planning was necessary to permit the print to exceed the contemporary limitations of paper size. The paper itself is truly worthy of use in a liturgical book, ivory-coloured and sturdy, 100 gsm (26 lb) book paper.

Naturally, only a full leather cover is appropriate for a Lectionarium, but achieving this ideal required special efforts. The principal difficulty was neither size nor cost, but producing a leather that would be appropriate in colour and texture. For a Lectionarium to be suitable for use even on days when the liturgical colour is other than red, a special dark red colour was needed. Otherwise, the contrast with green, and especially violet, would be jarring indeed.

The process by which leather book covers are produced remains essentially the same now as it has for decades. The cowhide is sliced into thin layers that must be dyed, then given a special texture. The first problem we encountered was that publishers today are offered only a very limited range of leather colours; and from this limited range, only bright red is available for "red" liturgical books. This limitation, caused to a great degree by the dramatic decline in the amount of leather used for books in general, has resulted in bright red becoming the standard colour for liturgical books worldwide.

A second major problem with the leather covers of today is that, except for the top layer, the subsequent thin layers of sliced hide have no distinctive texture. Because using only the textured top layer would be cost-prohibitive, modern leather covers usually lack texture and, thus, often appear artificial. Elaborate and laborious techniques are employed to impart a new texture to the surface of the leather. But knowledge of this craft has largely disappeared, along with the tools necessary for its practice. Nevertheless, we were fortunate to find a manufacturer who, taking as his model a classic Missale Romanum we gave him, was able to achieve precisely the colour and texture we had hoped for! Thus, not only in content, but even visually our new Lectionarium stands in full continuity with the venerable tradition of the classic liturgical books of the Latin Rite.

Manufacturing and Stability

A weakness found in many modern liturgical books is the so-called "inner hinge" (i.e., the hinge is the point where the bulk of the book, or "block," is attached to the cover). The Lectionarium, with its 350 pages, is far thinner than a Missale Romanum, and its block, therefore, far more lightweight. Nevertheless, as was the practice of the classic liturgical publishers when binding the Missale Romanum in the past, we have chosen to back the inner hinge with the same leather as the covers. This technique will ensure a very stable and long-lasting binding.

In the photo, the front- and endpapers appear bright, but, in reality, are ivory-coloured to match the paper used for the text. At the bottom of the photo, one can see something of the vinaceous-gold coloured head and tail bands and the gilt edging that adorns all three sides of the block.

Ribbon markers

An indispensable feature of classic altar missals and other luxury editions of liturgical books is the special construction of the "lead-in" to the ribbon markers. If a broad ribbon is inserted between pages, the width of the ribbon and the angle at which it enters the block of the book not only looks unsightly, but inevitably damages the block, deforming it so that it swells and causes the pages to look "wavy". Therefore, the finest liturgical books of the past always feature a thin band, sometimes called a "leader cord", that connects the book's binding to the top of the ribbon marker. This "leader" is either glued or sewn; but, either way, the broad ribbon has to be folded into a triangular cusp, which can itself damage the pages and even exert pressure on the stitching of the block's sewn binding.

Although this problem is not serious for a Lectionarium, because it has fewer pages than a Missale and requires only two ribbon markers, nevertheless our bookbinder's expertise and resourcefulness have avoided even this potential flaw by introducing a feature that will both better preserve the block and enhance the Lectionarium's elegant appearance. As can be seen in the picture, the broad ribbon has been reinforced with very thin leather tips, in the middle of which is a small hole enabling the connection to the leader cord. These leather tips have been applied not only at the top but also at the bottom of the broad ribbon to prevent fraying.