Monday, April 13, 2015

Crossway ESV Reader's Bible and ESV Heritage Bible

The ESV Reader's Bible (left) comes in a sturdy slipcase.  The Heritage Bible comes in Crossway's usual box.

For fans of single-column Bibles, the past couple of years have seen some interesting new editions, especially from Crossway.  The first was the ESV Legacy Bible, published in 2012, and recently updated in the form of the ESV Heirloom Legacy, printed in the Netherlands by Jongbloed and bound in an even more sumptuous goatskin cover.  (I hope to review the Legacy in a future post.)

The 2012 Legacy proved to be merely the first of several single-column offerings, followed in 2013 by the smaller ESV Heritage Bible, which retained the single-column 9 point text of the Legacy, while reducing the width of the margins and putting the headings that the Legacy's margins contained back into the text. 

The Reader's Bible comes with two brown ribbon markers; the Heritage has one.

The first page of the Gospel according to Luke shows the red book titles, headings, and page numbers of the ESV Reader's Bible.  The ESV Heritage (below) is in all black type with headers in the text as well as verse numbers.
2014 saw Crossway's most adventurous offering yet:  a Bible optimized for reading by eliminating headings and even verse numbers.  Crossway added a touch of color to the ESV Reader's Bible with red book titles, page numbers, and headers.  The chapter numbers are also in red but greatly reduced in size, compared with the chapter numbers in the Legacy or Heritage Bibles.  The page headers give a verse range, so finding your place isn’t all that hard.  But this edition is meant for reading, not looking up individual verses.

I bought a copy of the Reader's Bible before I bought a copy of the Heritage.  I liked Crossway's innovation of producing a Bible just for reading.  But, after I had used it for a while, I actually found myself missing the verse numbers.  I am not as bothered by superscript numbers as some readers; and, often, while reading, I like to remember the exact reference of a verse that particularly strikes me.

So I bought a clothbound copy of the Heritage, hoping that it might be just like the Reader's Bible, only with verse numbers.  In some ways it is; and in others it isn't.

The paper appears to be identical in the two Bibles with the same amount of ghosting.  The Heritage Bible (above) and the Reader's Bible (below) are both turned to the same Psalms.  You can see the large chapter numbers of the Heritage and the smaller chapter titles and red accents of the Reader's Bible.

The Reader's Bible is a clothbound hardcover that comes in a slipcase.  It is also available in black or brown imitation leather, but I wanted a clothbound copy--I wanted to see if it really duplicated the experience of reading a novel (and how many novels do you see in imitation leather covers?)  The single-column text looks elegant with its red accents.  Its proportions at 5.5″ x 8″ feel just right in your hand.  It really does feel like a novel you could curl up with and just read, read, read.

Both Bibles are the same thickness (1.5 inches); but the Heritage is slightly smaller (5.25" x 7.5").  While the difference in size is slight, it is just enough to make the Heritage feel compact.  In fact, for my taste, the Heritage feels almost too small.  I have the same problem with the Cambridge Clarion, which is virtually the same size as the Heritage.

Both the Reader's Bible and the Heritage feature line matching, which improves reading on thin paper where show through is likely.  The primary point on which you can choose between them is the presence of verse numbers. 

Both the Reader's Bible (left) and the Heritage Bible are a pleasure to read.  Your choice may come down to whether or not you want verse numbers.  

For pure reading pleasure, the Reader's Bible is a natural.  Crossway has succeeded marvelously with this edition.  For those who want an even (slightly) more compact edition with verse numbers, there is the Heritage.

The clothbound ESV Heritage Bible is available from has the Heritage Bible in a variety of covers, including a very nice calfskin, but not the clothbound version. 

If you want a copy of the Reader's Bible, you can order it from the or the Westminster Seminary Bookstore (where I bought mine). doesn't carry it.  The Westminster Bookstore does an exceptional job of protectively packing and shipping their orders.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

NIV 1984 Bibles: Going... Going... (Almost) Gone

For many years, when anyone asked me to recommend a study Bible, the choice was clear: the NIV Study Bible.  Following its publication in 1985, it quickly became the best selling study Bible in the English language.  Unlike study Bibles that were the product of one man's scholarship, the NIV Study Bible was the product of a broad representation of the leading evangelical scholars of the day.  It was built around the 1984 edition of the New International Version, which had become the #1 selling Bible translation.

At 9.75 x 6.75 x 1.75 inches, the NIV Study Bible is a hefty volume, though not as thick or as heavy as the ESV Study Bible.  I have carried and preached from the NIV Study Bible for years and have not found it to be too cumbersome.

Containing more than 20,000 in-text study notes and a 130-page topical index, the NIV Study Bible covered a range of study interests: character study, archaeology, and personal application.  For me it struck the right balance of scholarship and practical commentary.  It was a Bible I quickly chose as my favorite Bible for preparing sermons.

I had already adopted a preference for the New International Version since the translation first appeared in 1977.  One of my professors in seminary, Larry Walker, served on the Committee on Bible Translation, and made sure that we had exposure to the 1977 and 1984 editions.  Dr. Walker continues to be a member of the CBT, which is the executive committee for the NIV translation.  

The Cambridge version of the NIV Study Bible has the trademark NIV cross logo blind stamped on the cover. 

I am referring to the NIV Study Bible in the past tense because, in 2011, Harper Collins, owners of Zondervan, began publishing a new version of the New International Version--essentially a new translation.

I was not a fan of the abortive Today's New International Version, (TNIV--New Testament published 2002, complete Bible 2005), which met with profound resistance from the evangelical community.  Unfortunately, the 2011 NIV hews more closely (an estimated 75% of the time) to the TNIV rather than the 1984 NIV.  (I'll say more about the 1984 vs. the 2011 NIV translations in a future post.)

The font used for the text is 8.9 points.  The notes are a 7 point font, and the references are 5 point.  Although I am partial to large (not giant) fonts, I have read the NIV Study Bible regularly for decades; and, even as my eyes have aged, I still find it a pleasure to read.

Once the 2011 version was issued, the 1984 copies were either recalled by the publisher or quickly sold out.  Fans of the 1984 NIV saw the change coming; and 1984 NIV Bibles (especially the 1984 Study Bible) became collectors items.

With the Bible lying open, you can see the red-under-gold hue of the art gilt edges. 

By 2014, it looked like all the 1984 NIV Bibles were gone.  Then Cambridge University Press  found a supply in a warehouse and contacted about being the exclusive vendor for this remaining stock.  This offered readers one last chance to acquire a copy of the venerable and highly-respected 1984 NIV.  The inventory acquired by included four styles:  The NIV Study Bible, the NIV Single Column Text Edition, the NIV Wide-Margin Reference Edition, and the Pitt Minion Edition.  This review is only going to cover the two styles I own. 

First, the NIV Study Bible: has copies of the NIV Study Bible in black and burgundy goatskin.  If you have never handled a Cambridge goatskin Bible, you have missed a delightful experience--soft, supple, while, at the same time, the most durable Bible cover you can buy.  The Cambridge goatskin NIV Study Bible has other deluxe features: art gilt edges with red die infused under gold gilding.  This gives the Bible's edges a gold appearance when it is closed and a reddish hue showing through the gold when opened.  This not only gives the Bible an aesthetic appeal that is a notch above typical gold gilding, it adds a layer of protection to the  page edges.  The Smyth-sewn binding means the Bible pages are sewn into the binding in a way that provides greater durability while allowing the Bible to lie flat when opened.

NIV Single Column Text Bible.  Just as the NIV Study Bible remains my favorite study Bible, this single column  text edition remains my favorite Bible for reading.  The text runs across the page just like a novel.  The typeface, 10 point Palatino, is easy to read.  This edition is in calfskin, not as supple as the goatskin on the Study Bible, but a delight to hold, nevertheless.

The NIV Single Column Text Bible uses line matching, which reduces ghosting--show-through from the text on the opposite side of the page.  You can see that in poetic sections, like the example above, there is quite a bit of room for ghosting.  Even in prose sections (as in the photo below) there is still ghosting everywhere there is not text on both sides of the page.  Some readers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the amount of ghosting in the NIV Single Column Text Bible.  However, it seems more noticeable in these photos than it does in real life (at least in my experience).  I am ordinarily one of those who is bothered by ghosting, but have not found it to be a problem in this edition. has one other binding of the NIV Single Column Text Edition worth mentioning, a tan imitation leather version.  I had purchased two of these a couple of years ago, when it looked like I would never see a black goatskin or calfskin edition for sale, intending to have one of them rebound in leather or goatskin.   I still haven't gotten around to rebinding it but will report in a future post how it turns out when I do.

The imitation leather version comes with regular gold gilded edges rather than the art gilt edges of its more expensive calfskin and goatskin siblings.  The binding is still Smyth-sewn and the paper printing quality are the same.


I can report that the imitation leather is very supple--in fact, as supple as the genuine article.  Now, thanks to Cambridge University Press and, I have a genuine calfskin in my collection.

Pitt Minion and Wide Margin versions.  The Cambridge Press treasure trove being sold by also contains Wide Margin and Pitt Minion versions.  I am not reviewing those versions here.  However, people who prefer either wide margin or compact Pitt Minion editions will want to check out those offerings from  If you like compact Bibles and you haven't tried a Cambridge Pitt Minion, you owe it to yourself to do so. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Schuyler NKJV Single Column (Natural Grain Goatskin – Brown)

For fans of single column Bibles and the New King James Version, the Schuyler NKJV is a great discovery.  I have to be honest and say I drooled and coveted (and all that unseemly stuff) when I saw Schuyler’s first printing of this Bible in 2013.  But I was a little put off by the very large “Holy Bible” on the cover of the first printing and the high price.
The second printing of Schuyler’s single column NKJV Bible leaves off the large gold stamping of “Holy Bible.” The blind-stamped Jerusalem Cross strikes the right touch–understated and elegant.  The subtle variation in color on the brown marble finish make this brown version especially attractive.  The Schuyler NKJV is also available in Black, Firebrick Red, and Imperial Blue.
Then I made another discovery: The same text block had originally been offered by Thomas Nelson Publishers in 2009 in a mass market, glued binding, bonded leather edition, with less than desirable paper–available from for less than $20.  What to do?–a layout I love in a binding that is everything I hate.  But… when dropped the price on sale to $14.99 (and I had a code for free shipping), it was too good to pass up.

The Thomas Nelson NKJV (top) and the Schuyler edition (bottom). Two sizes and two very different editions of a fine and attractive layout.

So my little bargain arrived; and I have to say, I was more than pleased.  Certainly if I had paid the retail price of $39.99 for it, I would have been sorely disappointed.  But it was well worth the $14.99 I had paid.  And I subsequently bought one at Christianbook’s $19.99 price to give to a friend who wanted a rugged but readable NKJV.

The Thomas Nelson version has a glued binding that only lies flat when opened to near the center of the Bible. The attractive layout is marred by inferior paper.

Rugged but readable is the key.  While I take very good care of all my Bibles, an edition that is too fancy sometimes intimidates me to the point that I am almost afraid to read it–with the result that I find myself reluctant to put a high-quality Bible through the rigors of everyday use.  However, I fell in love with my bargain of a single-column NKJV.

And, when Schuyler came out with the second printing of their single-Column NKJV (with no “Holy Bible” in huge letters on the cover), I broke my piggy bank and placed an order.  I was ready to enjoy the layout I loved in an edition that did it justice.

If you are not familiar with Schuyler, it is an imprint created by (from a family name).  I’ll say more about in a future post.  But, the short story is that they had sold high-end Bibles for so many years, and became so aware of what their customers were looking for in quality editions of the Bible, they decided to create their own brand.  The result is some of the best editions of a growing selection of translations in print today.

The Smyth-sewn binding allows the Schuyler NKJV to lie flat when opened–a feat that the less expensive Thomas Nelson version cannot come close to matching. When lying open, you can see the red under gold effect of the art-gilt edges.

What does the difference between $19.99 and $190.00 get you?  A Cantara Goatskin cover that is as beautiful as it is durable.  A Smyth-sewn binding, where the pages are sewn into the binding in signatures, instead of the edge-glued pages of the less expensive version.  This means that the Bible will lie completely flat when opened; the Bible is limber, not stiff, and pages turn easily.  The Schuyler also has art-gilt edges, where the edges are treated with red dye as well as gold gilding, which protects the edges of the paper against “foxing” (the age-related spots and browning seen on paper as it ages) and other blemishes.

Like most Schuyler editions, the single-column NKJV is printed and bound in the Netherlands by Jongbloed, one of the most highly-regarded printers in the world, responsible for printing many of the editions sold by Cambridge University Press.  Unlike the Schuyler Quentel editions that I hope to review in the future, the book block for the single column NKJV is not typeset by Jongbloed.  It is printed by Jongbloed on high quality paper, but it is the same book block produced by Thomas Nelson for their mass market 2009 edition, only printed in a way that increases the type size from around 9 point to about 10.5 point, thus improving the legibility.

Side by side, you can see that the two versions share the same text block.  The Schuyler uses larger pages and a larger typeface, and you can see that ghosting is less pronounced.

Frankly, I like the layout and readability of this Bible so much that I am willing to overlook the book block’s chief issue–ghosting.  Quality editions use a method of typesetting known as “line matching,” in which lines on one side of a page are aligned so that they are directly behind the lines on the other side of the page.  The result is that the “show-through” of the print is minimized–a definite advantage when one is reading the thin paper used to accommodate a 2000 page book in a volume we can all hold and carry.

The Thomas Nelson book block used in my mass market bargain gets line matching right some of the time, but not always.  And the same book block, even printed by a great printer like Jongbloed on better-quality paper, still shows ghosting in all the same places.  This, however, is the only drawback; and it is not a serious one.  In fact, I find the ghosting to be far less noticeable than in many older Bibles that did not use line matching.

The Thomas Nelson single column NKJV (top) and the larger Schuyler edition. Side-by-side, the difference in the quality of the binding is readily apparent.

So, in the end, what do I have?  I have a rugged little bargain of a Bible in a layout that is as easy to read as the average novel–and that I don’t mind throwing in the car when I need to carry it somewhere.  I treat it with the same reverence that I always do the Word of God, but I won’t have a heart attack if suddenly slamming on my brakes makes the Bible fly off the seat and land in a heap in the floor.  Meanwhile, I have a truly beautiful edition of the Bible that I can read at leisure when I want to enjoy one of the finest examples of the bookbinder’s art.

The Schuyler single-column NKJV is a delight to the eyes as well as to the touch.