Perhaps no translation enjoys as many permutations and combinations as the King James Version. So far on this blog, I’ve showcased a few of the best, including the Cambridge Concord, Wide Margin, Cameo, Clarion, and the Allan Longprimer (both the 53 and 63 models). So it is fitting that I now introduce you to a text block published by the Trinitarian Bible Society and, by their permission, Schuyler Bibles as well. But let me give you a spoiler: This is my favorite KJV to date. Let me tell you why…
What’s inside is the primary reason that I love this Bible. As with many of the best Bibles these days, the Westminster is printed in the Netherlands by Royal Jongbloed. It was commissioned and first published by the Trinitarian Bible Society. In due time, Schuyler acquired rights to publish the exact same book block in their own bindings. So in case its not clear yet, both the TBS edition and the Schuyler edition are identical when it comes to the sheets (i.e. the paper, printing, size, etc), and where they differ is mainly on the outside (see below). And I’ll refer to them in this post variously as Westminster, TBS, and Schuyler (sometimes interchangeably and sometimes specifically).
I will mention one difference in the opened book that you’ll notice in the photos directly above and below: The TBS (below) features basic gold gilt on the page edges, while the Schuyler (above) features red-under-gold art gilt–a more luxurious style. So that said, let me describe this book.
The Westminster KJV is printed on a nice, creamy-colored 32gsm paper. The typeface is a crisp 9.6 point modern font printed with line-matching to minimize show-through (aka ghosting). This typesetting features two columns of text in the middle, with two columns of reference material on the outside and inside margin (next to the text column in question). Bible Design Blog’s J. Mark Bertrand has noted how this “old school” layout blends with the “new school” features and typeface to create an old-new blend. There are advantages and disadvantages to the layout. The upside is that it makes it quite easy to find the marginal reference material you’re after. The verse-by-verse layout also makes finding your place quite easy. The downside is that the columns are quite narrow, given 4 columns of content per page, and the verse layout doesn’t facilitate extended reading as well as paragraphed formats (at least not for this reviewer).
I had originally thought that 4 columns would make for a very cluttered page, but upon using the Westminster, I’ve not found this to be the case. My kids are two and four, so the analogy of a messy room is the best way I can explain it. When the floor is coated in a layer of toys, sometimes all you have to do to get room to breathe (or all you can do) is move the toys to either side of the room. Then you can stretch out in the space between without feeling like you’re in the midst of a completely cluttered, claustrophobia-inducing mess. Thats what the Westminster KJV has done. Even though 4 columns sounds like a cluttered concept, it works because the typesetting shoves the references to the sides and sets the text front and center, in the uncluttered middle space. Maybe I’m reaching–what do you think?
The “Stand Out” Features
This is all great, but what really makes the Westminster KJV stand out are the features that lead Bertrand to conclude:
Its an unapologetic self-study tool designed for digging deep into the text without the aid of additional books or software, or anyone else’s interpretative notes.
Randy brown agrees (here, here and here). An obvious feature that props up this conclusion is the vast sum of 200,000 cross-references. To put that number in perspective, the average reference Bible has closer to 80,000-100,000 cross-references, meager in comparison to the Westminster KJV! As stated so well in this Bible’s namesake, the Westminster Confession of Faith:
The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
Cross-references in such quantity are an indispensable aid for interpreting Scripture in this manner, that is, searching Scripture to find places that speak to a question “more clearly.” The Westminster KJV’s cross-references are drawn from a combination of the 1778 Self-Interpreting Bible of John Brown as well as the Concord Bible.
Another feature that makes this such a stand-out KJV are the aids for modern readers. One such aid is the running marginal lexicon of words that are archaic and/or have changed meaning since the 1611 release of the KJV. For instance, consider the occurrence of “conversation” in KJV 1 Peter 1:15:
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.
“Conversation” actually meant “conduct” or “behavior” to a 17th century English-speaker. But to us, it means speech between two or more parties. If we use our modern understanding to approach this KJV rendering, we would make a pretty substantial interpretive blunder in assuming Peter is telling us to be holy in speech, when in actuality he’s referring to holy conduct in general. So to help us, the Westminster editors put an asterisk by the word “conversation” in the text and a corresponding asterisk in the margin with a modern gloss (or substitution).
A final tool in the Westminster that I find helpful is the presence of chapter summaries, (apparently taken from 1773 AV, though given in updated language). This feature is particularly handy when you’re beginning your daily reading in the middle of a narrative and want to review–simply go to the summary at the beginning of the previous chapter(s).
While there are other helps and tools, I’ll leave it at those three and let you search BibleBuyingGuide.com or BibleDesignBlog.com to see more detail. I will, however, add two footnotes: (1) I also love that the Westminster includes the Translators to the Reader, a document well-worth having, but which is missing in what many hail as the best KJV–the Allan Longprimer; and (2) The front-matter includes a nice guide for using the Westminster helps and aids.
The outside is where the two Bibles in question differ. Dimensions, however, are the same: 8.5″ x 6″ x 1.3″. The TBS edition is available in hardcover or black calfskin, and this is the calfskin. It is a paste-down binding with a leatherette liner. It is a somewhat stiff cover on an otherwise flexible Bible. Note how it opens flat no problem in Genesis 1, thanks to its sewn binding.
The calfskin is attractive and aromatic. The TBS version features gold gilding on the page edges and four thin, long ribbons (two red and two black).
The Schuyler Classic Reference KJV sports a limp, edge-lined binding with a leather liner. The goatskin is deeply grained and quite beautiful. It is a much more limp and flexible Bible (also sewn), but it doesn’t perform any better than the TBS in the opening flat category. Another feature that gives the Schuyler the edge over the TBS is the perimeter stitching around the outside edge of the cover–classy looking and pragmatic. Mine features 4 ribbons (purple, green, gold and brown) which are thicker but shorter than the TBS’s ribbons.
The Schuyler featured here has been phased out to make way for a slightly improved version. While mine says “Holy Bible” on the cover above the Schuyler logo, the current versions lack “Holy Bible.” I believe the new ones have better liners as well.
Here’s a gallery comparing the paper, typesetting, and size to other Bibles.
If you’re a modern reader who wasn’t weaned and reared on the KJV, I think this is the edition to have. This size is quite suitable to carrying or preaching as well as sitting and reading. Its helps are quite helpful, and its binding varieties are quite pleasing. Budget may determine which you choose: The TBS Westminster is available in hardcover here for $24 or in calfskin here for $65, and the Schuyler Classic Reference KJV is available in four colors (black, brown, red and blue) here for $190.
[Side note: The antique mahogany featured in this review is different than the current, brown marble for sale. I prefer the current brown marble.]
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.