R. L. Allan ESV New Classic Reader and Schuyler ESV duke it out! (A Comparative Review)


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

The Allan/Schuyler text (10pt) compared to a Cambridge Pitt Minion (6.75pt)
The Allan/Schuyler text (10pt) compared to a Cambridge Pitt Minion (6.75pt)

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 photo 1format 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!

Allan Color 1I 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 Allan Spine 2goatskin.”  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 Yapp 1makes 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).

To yapp, or not to yapp?
To yapp, or not to yapp?

The Schuyler ESV has more of a “Cambridge style” cover and binding.  The leather also Schuyler 1features 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 2perimeter 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).

Leather lining (left) versus Synthetic (right)
Leather lining (left) versus Synthetic (right)



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).

Other Features

Schuyler 2Ribbons.  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.

Compare 6Gilding.  “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.

photo 2Confessions 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!).

Bottom line

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!

Note:  Grain on the black, brown, or tan Allan will look more like the Schuyler than the Marine Blue Allan.
Note: The grain on the black, brown, and tan Allan will look coarser than the Marine Blue in the photo, though not quite as coarse as the Schuyler.

*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.

Compare 4

Note:  Footprint is larger on the Allan due the the yapp, while the Schuyler is thicker due to the inclusion of the creeds and confessions.
Note: Footprint is larger on the Allan due the the yapp, while the Schuyler is thicker due to the inclusion of the creeds and confessions.
Both beautiful!
Both beautiful!

22 thoughts on “R. L. Allan ESV New Classic Reader and Schuyler ESV duke it out! (A Comparative Review)

  1. Only thing stopping me from getting the Schyler is the synthetic lining. And then on the other side of things, the only thing that’s stopping me from getting the R L Allan is that it’s not stitch lined. Two very simple things, but major players in my decision 🙂

    1. For me, the synthetic lining is noticeable on the Schuyler more so than the lack of perimeter stitching on the Allan (the yapp and imprint line around the Allan’s perimeter almost make up for this absence!)

  2. Great review. The one format that I abhor in many of the ESV text blocks is the lack of a bordered center column references, the line that demarcates the two columns of text. The Pitt and Cambridge WM both have these bordered references and they make the page presentation look much cleaner. I’m anxious to pick up the ESVNC1 but I’m awfully fond of the Cambridge WM.

  3. I prefer Allan’s bindings, but at some point I believe they will have to develop their own textblock as Schuyler is doing with the Quentel.

  4. To the best of my knowledge no, I believe the Allan and Schuyler ESV is just an enlargement of the Crossway New Classic Reference. So, now everyone has their choice of three different bindings of the same textblock.

  5. Well, the layout looks identical, but the paper in the Crossway is different and the font size is listed at 9 point. By the way, great job on the comparative review, it needed to be done.

  6. Ordered my Allan the day you wrote this actually (it was my birthday present from my wife). Should be here sometime next week. I gotta say, one of the things I really like about the Schuyler is the inclusion of the confessions in the back. I love reading through them, but I have to open an app or something to get to them. I wonder if they would ever consider binding them on their own, kind of like the way Allan did their journal by binding it like a Bible. The one thing that I don’t like about the Schuyler, or other Bibles that do this, is the multi-colored ribbons. For some reason it looks tacky to me. Great comparison and review. I can’t wait for mine to come in.

    1. Thanks for posting Daniel. I like the confessions too, and thats a great idea about binding them on their own. You should suggest that either to Schuyler or bibles-direct. I know they take suggestions seriously. Let me know what you think of your ESVNC1 when it arrives!

  7. I chose both!!
    I’ve had the Schulyer (brown) since November of 2013 and love it. It is nice and broken in. Yet, my Allan(brown),which arrived yesterday and is nowhere near broken in lies flat from the very first and last pages!! R.L. Allan takes the cake in my book. Schulyer is top notch,a perfect 10…however the Allan breaks the scale.

    1. P.S. to the op,
      Since you have both,does the Allan’s pages seem slightly larger to you? Or is that just optical? Reminds me so much of my old Large print Scofield KJV(from my pre-Reformation days haha)

    2. Thanks for posting Kristoff. They are both certainly beautiful Bibles. I know some people who prefer the Schuyler, but I happen to agree with you in preferring Allans. The only thing I don’t like is the “give and take” in the binding of my Allan (perhaps a side effect of being able to lay so flat). It feels less sound, though I know thats not the case. This is not the case with the Schuyler, though it doesn’t open quite as flat. Thoughts?

      1. It depends on what you mean. The Schulyer seems tighter,more uniform and even sturdier in the binding. But like you say,I know this is not the case. I find myself simply “trusting” in the craftsmanship of the Allan over the Schulyer,maybe.even against my instincts(haha)…this is my second Allan and I find myself uneasy with the overcasting. I simply just trust what I’ve read on the practice. It looks like a flaw. Bit experts guarantee it is a plus in quality binding…hope I’ve hit on what you were asking. Bottom line is though my Schulyer seems more durable,I believe my Allan is.

  8. Jeff, I got your youtube message and thought I’d reply here.

    I’m kinda picky when it comes to ghosting. It takes away from the beauty of the page and makes reading more difficult. I bought the Schuyler ESV (brown with confessions) but returned it. The ghosting was not horrendous, but it wasn’t up to my personal standards. I’ve seen worse (Cambridge Clarion and Allan NIV), but I’ve also seen better (such as the Legacy, which is my primary reading Bible). My guess is that most people will not be bothered by the degree of ghosting in the editions you’ve just reviewed.

    I will say that other than the ghosting, I really did like the Schuyler. Whether someone should buy the Schuyler or the Allan is a matter of preference.

  9. Jeffrey, I love the blog, and this review in particular. in fact, your comparison of these two fine bibles here are what encouraged me to purchase my first Allan bible last month and I couldn’t be happier with it. I opted for the chocolate brown ESVNC1 . At first I wasn’t so sure. Let me explain. Over the last few years I’ve had,and still have actually, ten Cambridge bibles and one Schuyler and they just have a completly different than the Allan. The Schuyler seems more like an extra dressy Cambridge, as the Schuyler and most of my Cambridge editions are printed and bound by Jongleod. The Allan just didnt have the solid feel of those editions. It is more of a fluid feel to it that I’ve come to actually prefer over the tighter bindings of the others, The Allan didnt require the normal break in that I’d grown to expect from others. It laid flat as a pancake out of box and I didnt have any cockling that I’ve heard others mention. I do have a question for you that I was unable to find an answer to during my pre-purchase research and that is about the durability and longevity of these bibles. I know Allan has been making bibles for many many years but all of the imformation on internet that i found has bibles in pristine condition and i would like to know if this bible will last and take the abuse that some of my Cambridge bibles have. i was wondering if you had any info on the longevity of the Allans. thanks for any input and again i love the blog!!!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Wes. Good choice on the brown NC1! I have a navy blue one now and love it! I agree that Cambridge and Schuyler bindings are similar, as are other Jongbloed productions (such as Crossway’s Heirloom line and Allan’s NASBR1). The leather on all these differs, as do some particulars. For instance, while I know of no leather lined Cambridge Bible, Schuyler’s Quentel series and the aforementioned Crossway Heirlooms are leather lined (as is Allan’s NASBR1, of course). But even with all that, these are all bound at Jongbloed, while Allan’s are mostly all bound in London…so your observation holds true that Allan’s are much more liquid and limp than any alternatives I know of. I think that the process is more automated at Jongbloed than in Allan’s London bindery, as far as I can guess….if my theory holds water, then I suppose that’s why Cambridge bindings are more uniform and tight while Allan’s bear more signs of human involvement (with quirks such as some cockling), which I find to be an acceptable and sometimes charming trade off for the fluidity. As for longevity, I’ve asked myself the same question, “Does the super limpness result in a shorter lifespan?” Short answer, I don’t think so. But truth is, I haven’t owned one long enough to find out. From all I’ve heard and read, Allan’s will last multiple lifetimes. And if you have a problem that arises from something other than carelessness on your part, you can bet that Allan (or evangelicalbible.com if you purchased there) will take care of you!

      Others feel free to chime in here!

      1. Thanks Jeff, for the quick response. I’m in full agreement with you on the slight nuances of Allans hand binding process. For instance my ESV has some red dye that has bled through on some of the pages and i just see that as a mild trade off for that super rich red art-gilt. I realy like the idea that a person done the work and not a machine. That is truly rare in our day of high speed everything. With all that being said I would still like to see some photos of a 50 year old Longprimer, or any classic Allan, just to admire that old world craftsmanship and to see how these works of art age.

      2. Jeff are you still planning on doing a write up on the Navy Blue NC1?
        Loving mine,already started recording Edwards’ 70 resolutions in the back.

      3. Hi Kris. Yes, I still plan to write up the Navy NC1. I am awaiting the Quentel ESV, and just received the Heirloom Wide Margin ESV, so I plan to review those two in full first. I will probably do something assessing the many goatskin ESV options afterward, including a revisit of the NC1. I likely also won’t be able to resist posting plenty of photos of the NC1NB, perhaps in an stand-alone post, as its so beautiful! I’d be interested to see the results after you write the 70 resolutions. I am also interested in other ideas for how to use that lined paper in the back!

    1. I am unaware, John. But I would recommend trying Facebook– the Bible Design Blog page and the Bible Exchange page. Tell them you’re in search of the Schuyler Credo ESV and maybe you’ll have luck!

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