In the field of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament studies, 'BHS' carries a well-deserved resonance, much like 'Mercedes' or 'Beamer' does among enthusiasts of quality cars that are within the mainstream.
The Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft's BIBLIA HEBRAICA STUTTGARTENSIA has no rivals except its own periodic updates. Like Mercedes and BMW, each edition represents improvements made to a venerable tradition, in this case one that associates its name with the renowned German scholars Alt, Eissfeldt, Kittel and their successors.
Following introductions in the major European languages and indices to the sigla that one uses to follow the textual information presented in the two 'apparati' (running footnote references) on each page of the text, one launches without comment into the biblical text itself. The gruntwork of editing and annotating each biblical book has been placed into the hands of particular scholars. As a result, the reluctance or daring with which the editors present evidence gleaned from Hebrew manuscripts and the early versions varies, but always within the general parameters established by the Biblica Hebraica tradition.
BHS is a 'diplomatic' edition. This means that a given text is presented as received. The apparati then provide the scholar with data from which he or she chooses to opt for a different 'reading' at any point along the way. The text in this case is variously known, but commonly called 'Leningradensis', a superb 11th-century manuscript in the Massoretic tradition. It is the earliest complete exemplar of the Massoretic biblical/textual tradition, thanks to the wear and scarring suffered by its slightly older cousin, the Aleppo Codex.
BHS is not a visual 'copy' of Leningradensis - one of this is available - but rather a machine-type presentation of that manuscript's contents. The quality of workmanship is awe-inspiring. Though I have worn out my share of BHS's, this is due to intensive use and occasional mistreatment in a backpack or overstuffed briefcase. I can scarcely imagined a more durable book.
The Gesellschaft will eventually produce the successor to BHS, to be titled BIBLIA HEBRAICA QUINTA. It will provide its reader with even more textual data, much of it gleaned from the Dead Sea manuscripts.
Quinta will earn its welcome. However, it is only with deep nostalgia that I will cede pride of place to the Quinta after having journeyed so long and contentedly with the incomparable BHS.