I love a good goatskin Bible. I love the English Standard Version. Ergo, I love Schuyler and R. L. Allan! Both offer stunning editions of the ESV in the skins of goats! But lets not stop there; after all, you can’t judge a book by its cover (at least not completely). Size, paper quality and opacity, several aesthetic considerations such as ribbons and gilding, layout, and font size are also of varying importance depending on varying personal preference. It is for these reasons that I am pleased to announce that the text block under review, whether bound by Schuyler or by Allan, fails in none of the above categories!
Paper and Text Block
The Bibles in question are the Schuyler ESV and the R. L. Allan ESV New Classic Reader’s Edition (ESVNC1). The insides of these two offerings are identical (except what you find after the concordance and maps, which I’ll discuss below). Same paper printed in the same country (the Netherlands) by the same company (Jongbloed). So lets begin there before we discuss the differences of these two Bibles. The paper is 32gsm (“grams per
square meter”), which is better than average though not the best by any stretch of the imagination. The issue people have with thinner paper relates to “ghosting” or the show-through of text from the previous or following pages. This text block does a pretty good job on this account—ghosting is noticeably less than other, cheaper Bibles. The print features a very readable 10 point font with nice spacing. I haven’t personally seen a more readable font in a Bible.
The layout is two-columns with over 80,000 center column references—a very traditional format that some people love to death. I am not one of those people, as you may know from previous reviews I’ve written. Though I prefer a single-column layout where the Bible reads more like a book than a dictionary, I still love this layout. It features a paragraph format rather than the verse-by-verse format of the Crossway ESV Single Column Reference (or the ever-popular R. L. Allan KJV Longprimer). Where I subtract points for two columns, I add points for the paragraph layout. Finally, this text block allows the text room to breathe with .88” margins. Good maps and good concordance. Very nice on the inside!
So far both Bibles are identical. Now lets observe the divergence as I compare and contrast the two, feature by feature.
The Allan ESVNC1 features Allan’s trademark “highland goatskin.” This is a very nice, soft, deeply grained, and supple goatskin taken from goats in the Nigerian highlands (God bless ‘em!). If you’re from Portland or otherwise particularly “green”, you may or may not be happy to know of the origins of this leather, and you may or may not choose to inquire about the upbringing of these secret goats!
I must now make one qualification: As for the Marine Blue edition of the ESVNC1 (which is the one I chose), it is not certain that the leather is from Nigerian goats, as the grain and finish are slightly different than the trademark “highland goatskin.” So they simply label it “goatskin.” But having handled Allan’s highland goatskin, I can confirm that this leather feels the same, and is possibly even nicer. The Allan goatskin Bibles are leather-lined, which makes them uncannily flexible and limp. Finally, as with most Allan Bibles, the ESVNC1 feature a “semi-yapp” style cover (yapp refers to the overhang of the cover that extends further than normal beyond the pages of the Bible for aesthetic and protective purposes).
The Schuyler ESV has more of a “Cambridge style” cover and binding. The leather also features a very deeply grained, soft, and gorgeous leather. As opposed to Allan’s leather linings, the Schuyler is lined with a synthetic, leather-like material that quite honestly feels like leather. It is smoother than the Allan’s leather liner, but also causes the cover to be somewhat less flexible (though hardly so). I have heard some hearsay to the effect that this type of liner is more durable, though I’m not sure if this is true. The Schuyler does not feature any yapp, but has perimeter stitching around the outside of the cover that is also very nice. The dark brown Schuyler featured in this review also has the “Jerusalem Cross” (Schuyler’s logo) stamped on the cover—a nice addition).
The Schuyler is printed and bound at Jongbloed in the Netherlands. The Allan is printed at Jongbloed, but hand-bound in London at Allan’s bindery. I must say, from my experience of Allan-bound Bibles versus Jongbloed-bound Bibles, that there is a difference. Bibles bound at Jongbloed tend to have a more uniform, consistent feel to them. The binding job is excellent and feels very sturdy. From what I understand, Allan bindings, on the other hand, are completely hand-bound and thus display more variation and idiosyncrasy from Bible to Bible. I do not think that the quality is different between the two. The Allan lays flatter than the Schuyler (good), but it also has a less uniform feeling binding as a result (not necessarily bad or good—just something to be aware of in advance). For instance, my Allan makes a crinkle noise when I run my finger firmly down the gutter. I know people who say Allans are bound better, and others who say Schuylers are bound better. In the end, neither are completely correct! The spacing of the imprints on the spines of the two Bibles is different too (see picture).
Ribbons. Ribbon colors vary depending on which color Bible you choose, but Schuyler ESV features four ribbons while the Allan features three. They are all very thick and nice, though Allan’s extend a bit further below the cover.
Gilding. “Art-gilding” refers to the red dye on the page edges that is applied prior to the gold foil, causing the edges to appear gold when the Bible is closed, but red when it is opened. It is a very classy feature in higher end Bibles. The Schuyler’s art-gilt is lighter—almost a “salmon” color. If you have a Cambridge Bible, it is the same shade. The Allan features a richer red color, almost dark pink.
Confessions versus Lined Pages. The Allan includes 32 pages of lined paper in the back for taking notes. Instead of this, the Schuyler includes eight confessions of the church (Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, Athanasian Creed, Augsburg Confession, Articles of Religion, Westminster Standards, and London Baptist Confession).This is a unique inclusion, to be sure, but I for one like it. We sing the praises of study Bibles frequently, so why not try a Bible with the historic confessions upon which the evangelical church largely agrees rather than contemporary commentary of study Bibles that is much more generation-bound? The presence of these confessions does increase the thickness of the Bible slightly, though not much.
Overcasting versus hinges. The Allan features overcasting, a special stitching applied to the first signature in a sewn Bible that essentially makes it sturdier. The Schuyler features reinforced hinges, which help support the text block but also prevent it from laying as flat as the Allan (though both lay very flat!).
Your choice must be based largely on aesthetic preferences. If you prefer some yapp, a leather lining, bolder art gilt and the presence of a gold gilt line, then the Allan is your choice. If you prefer no yapp, a synthetic lining, subtler art gilt, perimeter stitching, and four ribbons instead of three, then the Schuyler is your choice. Or perhaps you don’t care that much and the differences don’t seem paramount to you, in which case the Schuyler also might be your choice since it is nearly $40 cheaper. And I assure you that, in the end, quality will not be compromised in choosing the Schuyler over the Allan. One final summary consideration is size. The yapp on the Allan slightly increases its footprint, while the confessions in the Schuyler slightly increase its thickness. The Allan feels a bit more like a “thinline” Bible to me, though not as small. The size difference is slight, but noticeable.
My personal bottom line? I choose the ESVNC1 because I am a sucker for Allan’s bold art gilt, leather lining, and yapp!
To purchase, visit evangelicalbible.com or bibles-direct.co.uk (or ebay!).
*Special thanks to Ian at bibles-direct and Paul at evangelicalbible.com for being very helpful through the process and engaging my pestering questions!
*The Allan ESVNC1 is available in highland goatskin in the following colors: black (blue ribbons), brown (purple, green, and brown ribbons), tan (matching ribbons). As mentioned, the Marine blue featured in this review is a different goatskin. The Schuyler ESV is available in black (red ribbons and “Holy Bible” stamped on cover), firebrick red (black and gold ribbons and Jerusalem Cross stamped on the cover), imperial blue (blue and silver ribbons with “Holy Bible” stamped on cover and the Jerusalem Cross), and the dark brown featured in my review. You can also get the Schuyler in black or brown without the confessions, which has “Holy Bible” stamped on the cover. Note: The blue Schuyler features blue under silver art-gilt, which is very unique and appealing.
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.