Cambridge is the oldest and one of the most prestigious Bible publishers on the planet. On top of this, their text blocks are custom designed and hence different from what all other publishers are doing, even with the same translations. These facts have led me to the conclusion that Cambridge is one of my favorite Bible publishers So it’s my pleasure to now review another great typesetting from Cambridge: the KJV Cameo Reference Bible. When I first opened the box, I was smitten with this little Bible almost more than with any Cambridge Bible to date. (Almost.) Cambridge got it right when they said,
The beauty of the Cambridge Cameo Bible is its solution to the age-old problem of providing readable type in a book of manageable size.
The leather is a smooth, flexible black calfskin. As a general rule, calfskin is smoother, softer, and features a far less prominent grain (if any) than goatskin. I prefer the look of goatskin, but my wife far and beyond prefers calfskin. I do not believe one leather is inherently better than the other, though it seems that most of the publishers wrap their nicest Bibles in edge-lined goatskin (and the Cameo is available in such a binding). There are two, cardinal red ribbon markers, which has come to be pretty standard for black Cambridge Bibles.
The dimensions are about 7.5″ x 5.25″ x 1.25″, making this the same trim size as the Pitt Minion. The added girth, though, is due to its larger font (see section on “internals”), which makes this a similarly sized though much more readable alternative to the Pitt Minion.
The Cameo features a paste-down binding (as opposed to edge-lined), and thus has a stiffer cover. I don’t really mind though, as sometimes more support is warranted. Plus, the binding is smythe-sewn and has the expected flexibility that goes with the territory. In fact, I don’t find the binding itself to be less flexible than edge-lined goatskin Bibles (the cover is stiffer, but not the binding itself). It opens completely flat, beginning or end.
This is a beautiful typesetting, featuring a bold, vintage looking 8 point Petit Mediæval Clarendon font with pronunciation marks. While the India paper is average, show through is not distracting at all. In fact, I think this little Bible performs better than many of my other Bibles in the realm of ghosting. It must be the perfect paper/font combo, because I barely notice the show through when reading a line of text. The Cameo is a remarkable combination of small form and readable typesetting. I will say that, given its nature as a facsimile printing, the font is not as crisp as others (such as the Clarion and the Concord). I suppose this goes with the territory, and is a tradeoff of the “vintage” feel. In any case, it is still remarkably readable. When it sits open before me, I feel like a scribe in front of a elegant, medieval codex.
The Cameo features a standard double-column layout with center-column cross-references. Each verse begins a new line, which is lamentable to me, but praiseworthy for others. Like so many things, its all in the eye of the beholder, and I can see how such a layout is appealing to the preachers and the aging alike! This Bible also features art-gilding, which is the application of red-dye under the traditional gold foil on the page edges. This is a feature that we’ve seen in many high-end Bibles, and it holds both aesthetic and pragmatic value; it makes the page edges look classy and wear better. It also features a nice concordance and maps in the back.
Something that you can opt for or opt out of when you choose your Cameo is the inclusion of the Apocrypha, though you cannot get it in this nice black calfskin without the Apocrypha. Because of my view of canon, which I won’t get into it here, I personally would rather stick to my stand alone Apocrypha. But it makes this Bible somewhat unique and special among Cambridge Bibles. Here’s a quirk: The Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament all begin with page #1! So Genesis 1 is on page one, 1 Esdras 1 is on page three (page one is technically the blank white pages before 1 Esdras), and Matthew 1 is on page three (ibid). The Concord does this as well (except it leaves out the Apocrypha), while the Concord Wide Margin does not restart with page one when it hits the New Testament. I don’t know what accounts for the differences, but it really isn’t a big deal one way or another. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever paid attention to pagination in my Bible– only to the chapter and verse.
The Cameo is my second favorite Cambridge KJV, next to the Clarion. It also has an antique, old “facsimile” appearance to it that the Clarion lacks, which makes it a bit more charming. If you’re looking for a relatively small and portable, yet readable KJV, this is a good place to look. However, if you’re looking for a pulpit Bible, I would recommend the larger Concord, TBS Westminster, or Allan Longprimer. But why choose just one if you can have several for different occasions!
You can get it in black calfskin with the Apocrypha, black edge-lined goatskin, brown Vachetta calfskin, or black imitation leather (why oh why?!) by clicking here or here, though you may also want to compare with amazon, CBD, and ebay.
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.