The Perfect Bible?

Nope, this isn’t a post about inerrancy. Sorry to dash your hopes against the rocks. But book lovers and design geeks, chins up! This is a post about book design and typography: heavy nerd alert.

Crossway recently released a new edition of the English Standard Version Bible (my favorite translation): the ESV Single Column Legacy Bible. Does the world really need another edition of the Bible, you might be asking? Great question. In Crossway’s case, they didn’t create an unneeded new edition just to pad sales. That is, this Bible doesn’t fall into the category of the ridiculousness that is the study Bible market, for example: Teen Study Bible, Boys Study Bible, Veggie Tales Bible, Girls Life Application Glittery Grape Butterfly Study Bible (not kidding). And we wonder why narcissism is a problem. I think it is safe to assume that Luther did not have the current Bible market in mind when he translated the scriptures into the common tongue.

But I digress. This Bible edition is beautiful. Stunning. Eminently readable. An aesthetic appeal to match the beauty of God’s Word. The layout was based on the Renaissance-era “canons of page construction,” or as Crossway describes it, the “Renaissance ideal of a perfect page.” These ideals are based on a 2:3 ratio of the text area to page size. Here’s an example page provided by Crossway:

Renaissance thinkers viewed these proportions as the perfect layout and impossible to improve upon. If the above example seems underwhelming, I assure you that it does not compare to reading this Bible in person. You can check out more pictures and details here.

Also contributing to the readability and beautiful design of this Bible is the text itself. The typeface is clean, crisp, readable, and not distracting, especially in the single column format. Section headings have been moved to the margins, and there are no distracting and microscopic cross references. Crossway has also employed line matching in this edition, in which each line of text matches the lines on the other side of the page exactly. This drastically decreases bleed-through and improves readability even more. The layout of the Psalms and other poetry in particular is fantastic.

The quality of this edition is also of a very high caliber, and the attention to detail is evident. The paper is thicker, more opaque, and whiter than the typical Bible paper, and the printing and binding are superb. For you typeface and design nerds, here are the specs:

     Font: Lexicon, 9 pt / 10.75 pt leading
     Paper: 36 gsm Thincoat Plus
     Printed in Italy

All these features help this edition read and feel more like a book than a Bible, which makes this the most readable Bible I’ve ever laid eyes on. It is also not much heavier or larger than a thinline Bible, so it’s fairly portable, too. A concordance and color maps are included in the back of the book. I look forward to giving it heavy use, while using my Reformation Study Bible for more in-depth study.

Some drawbacks include the hefty price tag ($170 retail for the top grain leather edition, $49.99 for tru-tone), lack of cross references, and no explanation of the edition’s design within the book itself.

No, Crossway did not pay me or ask me to write this review. I’m that excited about this edition. Thanks to my in-laws for the great birthday gift!


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