When I found out that I would be receiving my first R. L. Allan Bible from the U. K., I was ecstatic. I eagerly awaited its arrival, which, for an international shipment, was very prompt. R. L. Allan is a Glasgow-based Scottish bindery renowned in the Bible-nerd community. They don’t print Bibles. They don’t publish Bibles. They cover them in fine leather. But boy, do they ever cover them! From my limited experience, but also from the more extensive experience of others, nobody else on earth makes Bibles so beautifully as R. L. Allan and Son (which is why you pay more for them). The Rolls Royces of Bibles, if you will. They offer various bindings of various translations.
The ESVSCR1 arrived on a sunny November day to the loud greeting of our dog (but it did not wake the children from their afternoon nap, thankfully). When I opened the package, I have to admit, I was surprised by the sheer size of this Bible. At 6.5″ x 9.25″ x 1 1/2″, this is quite a large one—perhaps not the easiest for carrying around, but perfect for reading in a comfortable armchair. This is still much smaller than a typical study Bible, though. But if I (who love compact sizes) was disappointed with the bulk, this disappointment was quickly eclipsed by the beauty. The black highland goatskin on this one is smooth and limp. The semi-yapp edges of the cover curve nicely around the pages, creating visual appeal and page protection simultaneously (semi-yapp refers to the “overhang” of a leather cover—see picture). The art-gilt (red under gold) page edges, along with the dark blue trio of ribbon markers, scream elegance. I will attempt to be systematic in what follows so that you can easily compare this review to other Bibles I’ll review.
Cover and Binding
The single best thing that this Bible has going for it is the binding. As mentioned, the highland goatskin is beautiful. Each such cover is as unique as the portion of the animal that was sacrificed for its fabrication! So mine doesn’t feature the typical fissures and creases that some goatskin may show (and which I happen to like). But I really can’t complain here! The Smyth-Sewn binding is made to open flat, which it does very nicely right out of the box. The semi-yapp is wonderful (as mentioned), and this binding is certainly made to last the test of time. Though the text block is printed in China, the Bible is bound in the UK. No Bible bindings can quite compare to those of R. L. Allan & Sons. The ESVSCR1 is currently available in black or navy highland goatskin.
I found the “ghosting” (show through) on this 24lb paper to be more than I would like, and combined with the lack of line matching, this is a definite strike against the SCR. However, unless you are very conscientious of this sort of thing, it isn’t really that bad.
This Allan-bound edition is identical to Crossway’s SCR text block. As the title suggests, this is a single-column text setting, to which I say “hear hear!” However, the verse-by-verse setting leaves something to be desired, in my humble opinion. The Bible is not a collection of disconnected sayings, like Pascal’s Pensees or the pseudepigraphal (and highly dubious) Gospel of Thomas. Other than certain portions of Scripture (such as parts of Proverbs, for instance), each line is understood only in context of the paragraph, chapter, section, and so forth, of which it is a part. For me, a paragraph format highlights this reality, while a verse-by-verse format diminishes it. I understand the value some see in separating verses into separate lines, but I think you lose more than you gain in doing so. I applaud the single-column setting because it generally makes the Bible feel more like a book that you read, not just one you use to look up random sayings. But putting the single column in the verse-by-verse format sort of defeats the purpose. Here is where the Cambridge Clarion’s format is much better, in my opinion, than the SCR.
As opposed to the Cambridge Clarion reference Bible, the SCR places its 80,000+ cross-references on the inner margins (i.e. “in the gutters”) as opposed to the outer margins. Aesthetically, this doesn’t look as pretty as the Clarion version, but it is more practical as it moves the biblical text away from the gutter, thus making it more readable. And as long as we’re on the topic of readability, the SCR features a 10 point font and a 7/8” margin, leaving plenty of white space and room for notes.
-Words of Christ in black
-14,500 entry concordance
I see this Bible being very useful in several different contexts. One who frequently teaches or preaches from the Bible may find the verse-by-verse format and large font especially helpful. In a paragraph Bible and/or smaller font size Bible, it is not as easy to find your place or pick up where you left off when you look down. But this format solves such a dilemma remarkably. Someone with poor eyesight may like it for the same general reason. Finally, people just have different preferences. Though I don’t prefer the verse-by-verse format, others who are neither preachers or visually-challenged might feel the opposite.
Bottom line: Allan Bibles are incredible. Though I wouldn’t choose the ESVSCR for myself, they have plenty of other options that I would choose in a heartbeat as my “all-around use” Bible (such as the ESV1 or the ESVNC1). Choose your translation and specific edition at either EvangelicalBible.com or Bibles-Direct.com (or frequently on eBay). If you can justify the cost, I can guarantee you will not find a much finer copy of God’s Word. And this is coming from someone who has handled both Crossway’s and Cambridge’s finest goatskin Bibles from Allan, Cambridge, Crossway, and Schuyler.
And lest we get lost in leather-bound English-Bible luxury, please remember to pray for translations in the remaining 1,859 Bible-less languages in our world. Click here to see my heart on the matter and to even support the work of Bible translation.