The ESV Omega Thinline Reference Bible is one that has, in the words of EvangelicalBible.com, “come to us a bit under the radar.” With the recent release of manifold premium editions of the English Standard Version, whether from Schuyler, Allan, Cambridge, or Crossway, the Omega seems to have become somewhat lost in the shuffle, which is unfortunate for such a well-executed Bible. EvangelicalBible.com teamed up with Crossway to create this Bible, and it is a great success on many levels. It should be on the radar for anyone looking for a quality edition of the ESV.
The following is Crossway’s own introduction to the Omega: “In honor of its 75th anniversary, Crossway is introducing the Omega Thinline Reference Bible. Adapted from the Large Print Thinline Reference Bible, this limited edition is made from the finest materials. It features a goatskin cover lined to the edge with generous overhang to protect page edges, high-quality Bible paper, art gilding, and four ribbons. In addition, the Bible comes handsomely packaged in a two-piece box. Elegant and useful for a variety of purposes, the Omega Thinline Reference Bible is a beautiful edition that will last a lifetime.” [side note: there are actually only two ribbons on these.]
Cover and Binding
The Omega’s cover is made of a thick, supple goatskin with full leather linings, making this the only leather-lined goatskin reference ESV besides the R. L. Allan editions. I have handled three different Omegas, and the finish and grain differed on all three. I cannot perfectly recall the other two, but as for the one I currently have, the goatskin is just as soft and supple as my Allan ESV New Classic Reader’s edition (ESVNC1), if not more so. The grain on this one is beautifully coarse and pronounced, running horizontally across the cover—gorgeous, and difficult to not just look at! I love holding this Bible—the quality of the leather is second to none (perhaps equal to Allan’s highland goatskin). I will say, however, that due to the thickness, the leather is slightly stiffer than Allan’s highland goatskin, though hardly so. The semi-yapp and the perimeter stitching provide an elegant and practical touch.
The only regret I really have about the binding is the reinforced hinges / tabs in the front and back. Even though evangelicalbible.com says it lays flat right out of the box, I must confess that mine did not, and it is because of these tabs. They support and strengthen the binding, but at a cost. By way of contrast, the Allan bindings lay as flat as a pancake. But even after just a few weeks of use, the Omega lays much flatter, and I suspect this will only improve in time. The Omega was printed
and bound by the best: Jongbloed in the Netherlands. As such, it is no surprise that the binding is perfectly sound and uniform, with no cockling or quirks. Allan Bibles, on the other hand, are hand-bound in London and thus have some variation, idiosyncrasies, and quirks from the hand-binding process (these variations are not bad, but can annoy the perfectionist like me…but let it be said in Allan’s defense that the result is a limpness without precedent or equal).
Layout and Size
The layout is a two-column style with 10 point font. This edition features line-matching, which essentially means the text is perfectly lined up on either side of the page to mitigate show-through (“ghosting”). This is a full cross-reference Bible, but in contrast to others, the references on this one are moved to the bottom right on each page, allowing for wider text columns on the page. J. Mark Bertrand, on his blog, claims that this allows the text “room to breathe” because it isn’t crowded by what is essentially a third column on each page. Others say that the text does not have room to breathe because the columns are right up against each other with no center-column references breaking things up. On this note, I agree with Bertrand. The removal of the cross-references to the bottom right means wider columns, which, in my opinion, makes for a more readable text and a less-busy page. Also, wider columns means that the layout doesn’t dice up poetry as much as other two column Bibles.
Compared with the Allan ESVNC1, there is one aspect of the Allan’s layout I like better, and that is margin space. If the Omega opened flatter, it wouldn’t make as much of a difference, but you have .88” margins on the inside and the outside of the ESVNC1, and this combined with the “pancake-flat” Allan binding keeps any text from curving into the gutter. The Omega suffers from this effect, but only slightly.
This brings me to size. Smaller margins on the Omega mean a smaller footprint. And the thinner paper on the Omega means a thinner Bible (28 gsm paper and less than 1” in thickness, as opposed to the Allan’s 32gsm paper and 1.25” thickness). One might fear that the smaller size on the Omega means more ghosting and more strained reading. The opposite is true. I find the paper and text of the Omega more reader-friendly than the Allan ESVNC1 because of the line matching (which the Allan lacks) and because of what appears to be a slightly larger font (maybe .25 or .5 points larger).
The Omega features art-gilding (red dye on the pages’ edges underneath the typical gold foil). For me, this is a must on any high-end Bible. No art-gilding is as rich as Allan’s, but the Omega is passable in this regard. The ribbons are another typical complaint on the Omega since they are thin and prone to fraying (like most Bibles!).
In the end, I think the ESV Omega is the finest thinline ESV available, and I almost like it better than my Allan. Few Bibles do as many things well as this one does. Not only is it nearly perfect for preaching and teaching, but also for carrying and reading– a great “all-arounder.” It is a very convenient size, and to be honest, the details on this Bible are more polished than the Allan. The binding is perfectly uniform and has absolutely no cockling, the cover is top-notch and features perimeter stitching, and the interior layout is smarter than any goatskin ESV reference Bible on the market. Add to these considerations the price and what you end up with is a Bible that is hard to resist! They could have easily sold these for $200 and had sufficient clientele (The Allan equivalent runs for $230 and the Schuyler for $190…and the “retail” price for the Omega is listed at $250!). But instead, you can get your Omega for $157 at EvangelicalBible.com while supplies last, which won’t be forever on this special limited edition Bible!
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.