I’ve never loved the concept of having separate corpuses of Scripture bound without the rest of it. I realize that by saying this I’m distancing myself from many people who like the idea. And I get the advantage of pocket New Testaments (such as portability, etc.). But I love biblical theology and “canonical” biblical interpretation, and you need the whole Bible to do that well. I realize that I don’t need to have all the other parts present every time I read the Bible, but there is something deep in my psyche that resists this fact!
Crossway has softened my resistance with the release of The Psalms, ESV (available in Top-Grain Leather, TruTone over Board, and TruTone). Why has this edition impressed me? That’s simple: Readability, Uniqueness, and Quality/Beauty.
Readability: The Text Block
This is at once the most beautiful and the most readable rendering of the Psalms I have seen. The 11 point font paired with line matching and printed on extremely opaque paper (I don’t have specs, but there is little ghosting) make this collection a delight to peruse. And one advantage of having the Psalms bound alone is that this effect is achievable, even in a book with a meager 4.5″x 6.5″ x 1″ trim size! And the use of red letters and numbers for titles and verse numbers is both elegant and understated…not flashy, but certainly attractive. Each new Psalm begins a new page, allowing each poem to stand on its own. As far as I’ve seen, there is nothing about the text block that bears improvement (and that coming from an extremely picky, OCD person).
Uniqueness: The Poetic Genre and its Niche
The Psalms are Hebrew poetry. They are not the only place in the Hebrew Bible where poetry occurs, but they are the largest collection of poems in Scripture. Among other things, their uniqueness is that they comprise ancient Israel’s songbook. I said I love canonical interpretation and biblical theology, so by extension, this collection is also the Church’s songbook. As such, it is worthy of being bound alone. I do not mean that it should or can be read in isolation, nor that it is on a different level than the rest of the Bible. I simply mean that songbooks and poetry collections often receive their own separate binding, even if the author has also written short stories and other prose, for instance.
So I think, more than any other genre or corpus in Scripture, the Psalms can get away with being bound by themselves because such a practice has a precedent and a resultant “niche” in poetry, whether ancient and modern.
“So maybe there’s a justification for binding them alone, but whats the usefulness of such a book?” I’m glad you asked! There are probably more reasons, but I’ll say the one that seems most obvious to me: The Psalms have featured prominently in the prayers and praises of the saints for millennia, and I can see The Psalms, ESV being effectively used as a prayerbook by many. This edition, with its readability and simplicity, begs to be employed in personal devotion and corporate worship. If you have other ideas per its usefulness, please comment!
Quality and Beauty: The Binding and Materials
The binding is sewn, which is an essential feature on any well-built Bible. The paper is thick, so its not as limp as most Bibles. However, it is very flexible, and I would certainly not describe the book as stiff or rigid. The edges of the paper are plain white, with no gilding. I like it better than normal gilding, but I would prefer art-gilding (red-under gold). My copy is TruTone over Board, which basically means that a synthetic, leather-like material (“TruTone”) has been wrapped over a hard cover. I love it. It feels strong and sturdy while looking unique and classy. I would personally choose this over the simple TruTone edition. But if you’re willing to spend just a little bit more, go for the black Top-Grain Leather edition. The cover is much more flexible, and with its high quality leather cover with leather lining, it ranks as a “premium Bible” (not to mention it features raised bands on the spine, which is another plus!).
(Side-note: The Psalms also comes in a beautiful slip case for storage, which is just so nice that I had to mention it! I hope Crossway issues more editions with slip cases in the future…I also love the blind stamped text and logos on the spine)
Crossway hit a home-run with The Psalms, ESV. Sure, I would like art-gilding and more binding and color options. But for what it is, it is exceptional. I recommend you take and use, particularly for personal meditation and corporate worship.
(J. Mark Bertrand has also written a favorable review, and I highly recommend his blog if you’re interested in this sort of thing)