Tyndale’s NLT Select Reference Bible and Schuyler’s Caxton NLT: A Comparative Review

P1040911Ever since I had my first Cambridge Clarion, I loved the idea of a single-column Bible optimized for extended reading, but I couldn’t help feeling that the Clarion wasn’t available in any reader-optimized translations. Don’t get me wrong, I love the less-interpretive translations too (the ESV is my favorite), and I’m not dissing Cambridge by any means. But for big-picture, single-sitting, extended Bible reading, I don’t think any translation is as suitable as the New Living Translation. So when I heard that Schuyler was publishing a single-column NLT, I was elated. Then I learned that the same text block would first be published by Tyndale as a resurrection of their Tyndale Select line, and I was very pleased. Tyndale has not concerned itself with pushing high-end Bibles, which I’m sure is fine by most NLT readers, but I and plenty of others cannot help but feel thrilled that they’re re-entering the ring of premium Bibles. And what better partner could they have enlisted than the inimitable Royal Jongbloed? The result is not disappointing in any way, which for this reviewer, is saying something remarkable.

One business item before we launch in: When referring to the Schuyler Caxton NLT, I will say “Caxton”; when referring to the Tyndale Select NLT, I will say “Select”; when referring to both, I will mimic J. Mark Bertrand and say “Caxton/Select”.

Internals

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The insides are identical for the Caxton and the Select, and what we discover here is nothing entirely new. The layout is reminiscent of the Cambridge Clarion and the Heirloom Legacy ESV, even employing the same paper; but that doesn’t mean its “old hat.” In fact, I would argue that the Caxton/Select takes the chief deficiencies of each aforementioned typesetting and removes them, leaving very little to criticize. So what are the deficiencies in question?

Clarion (top left), Legacy (top right) and Caxton/Select (bottom)
Clarion (top left), Legacy (top right) and Caxton/Select (bottom)

For the Clarion, my main “beef” is the narrow inside (or “gutter”) margin. Its not as bad as some Bibles (such as this one), but it does cause a slight bother when your eyes attempt to access the text nearest to the gutter.  Enter the Caxton/Select, with its .5″ inside margin, to save the day! While many people perhaps would not notice this extra margin, I’m a detail person and its one of the first things I noticed. Perhaps I knew to look for it from dealing with gutter-deficient Bibles in the past (including the first edition Legacy). Bottom line, the Caxton/Select gives more white space to frame the text than the Clarion, particularly on the inside margin, and the reading experience is marginally better as a result (pun intended). For my review of the Clarion, click here.

Caxton/Select (top) and Clarion (bottom)
Caxton/Select (top) and Clarion (bottom)

For the Legacy, my main “beef” is the character per line count, which is slightly higher than optimal for reading. My eyes get sick of moving across the column at perhaps 60 characters (perhaps because thats where Bringurst told me to get tired), and the Legacy takes it an extra 10-15 characters beyond that. A deal breaker? Not for most, but personally I like the column a bit narrower. Both the Clarion and the Caxton/Select sit nicely in the “optimal” sweet-spot CPL range, making reading noticeably smoother. For my review of the Heirloom Legacy, click here.

Legacy (top) and Caxton/Select (bottom)
Legacy (top) and Caxton/Select (bottom)

Now that I’m finished with the polemics, let me just say that this typesetting looks so nice! If you’ve handled the Clarion or Heirloom Legacy, this will be very familiar territory. And there is a reason these roads are well-worn: They work well! The Caxton/Select is almost a blend of the two, taking whats good about each and omitting whats bad. Bertrand said it well:

This text setting looks like the fruit of a conversation that went something like this: “What if we took the text setting of the Clarion and gave it the proportions of the Legacy, minus the huge margins?”

Here’s a gallery for those who want to further compare these three editions:

The font is 8.75 point Lexicon, which reads larger than it sounds (quite similar to the Clarion and Legacy in this respect). It is a crisp typeface with an appropriate boldness that makes the text beg to be read, a favorite among Bible typesetters. The leading (space between lines) looks perfect, more generous to my eyes than the Legacy or Clarion, which is a good thing! And as already mentioned, the Caxton/Select sports an optimal character per line count. The Indopaque paper (28 gsm) provides a perfect, creamy-colored canvas for the typesetting to shine. Add to these factors line-matching and the results are incredible. Ghosting (i.e. show through) is successfully mitigated, which is a relief because today is Halloween!

Caxton/Select

The cross-references are placed in the outside margin, and text notes on the bottom. It is a nice layout that looks a lot like the Clarion (with small differences, of course). For more detail on the similarities and differences with the Legacy and Clarion, see Bertrand’s review.

The only problem I could cite with this text block is the thin paper. But, as I think I gleaned from one of Matthew Bassford’s many reviews, Bible publishing is about compromises. If you’re willing to compromise with the paper, you’ll get a thinner book, which most people appreciate. But conversely, if you compromise with the book’s girth, you can allow for thicker paper…but not everyone appreciates such a thing enough to warrant a 2″+ book, which is what the Caxton/Select would be if they had employed thicker paper. I realized I used the “p” word (problem), but now let me ease off:  I think the Caxton/Select is a happy compromise that will please most people greatly, and the paper quality and line-matching make it a delight to read, even if it doesn’t handle ink or highlighters as well as heavier paper.

P1050080 Externals: The Schuyler Caxton

The Caxton is bound in high-quality, natural grained goatskin and it is available in six colors: Black (with a black liner and blue ribbons), Antique Marble (brown liner and gold ribbons), Dark Green (brown liner and varying gold ribbons), Dark Purple (black liner and purple ribbons), Imperial Blue (blue liner and blue ribbons), and British Tan (brown liner and brown ribbons). There’s not much, if anything, that could improve these colorways.

Shades of Blue: Allan (left) and Caxton (right)
Shades of Blue: Allan (left) and Caxton (right)

P1040900As a lover of blue Bibles, however, I did feel, as paradoxical as it sounds, that there is almost too much blue on the Imperial Blue. If you think such a statement is an impossibility and abomination, then the blue is what you should get!

Update: Since writing the review, I traded the blue out for a green, and I think the green makes an excellent choice because of the symbolic value of the color for “life”, and the presence of the world “Living” in the name of the translation. And since then, I sold the green and settled on tan, my tentative favorite (here are photos of the tan Quentel). But I can also enthusiastically vouch for the antique marble (from my Quentel review), and the purple is also immensely popular! So basically you cannot lose.

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The goatskin is very smooth, flexible, and what I might describe as “semi-gloss” in its finish. My copy displays some fine, pebble-grain patterning that is quite appealing, though I usually prefer a more pronounced, wild grain. The cover has more yapp than your run-of-the-mill Bible, though nowhere near that of an Allan. While the overhang doesn’t curve around the book block like an Allan, it could be trained to do so (to a degree). The cover features a gold gilt line surrounding the perimeter–a fine, luxurious feature that looks great while framing the text.

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As with many other Jongbloed productions, the Caxton features a strong hinge that keeps it from laying as flat or feeling as liquid as an Allan binding. It does, however, lay flat in Genesis 1 with very little coaxing. It will break in marvelously. Mark Bertrand said his doesn’t have the (in)famous hinge squeak. Mine does squeak a bit, but I don’t really care. First world problems!

P1050077All colors feature red-under-gold art gilt except for the Imperial Blue, which features blue-under-gold. For those who are “new to the game”, art gilt is the application of dye (typically red, though sometimes blue) underneath the metallic foil (typically gold, though sometimes silver) on the Bible’s page edges. It is an old-world style that most people like, though not all people. I for one always mourn the absence of art gilt!

Allow me a brief comparative aside on the topic of art gilt. Allan’s art gilt is typically bolder than that employed by Jongbloed (excepting, of course, the NASBR1 Allan, which is made at Jongbloed!). Allan’s red is more of a dark, brilliant pinkish red. Jongbloed’s (including Schuyler, Cambridge, and Crossway Bibles) is more of a light salmon or copper red. While most Bible connoisseurs seem to prefer Allan’s, most non-connoisseurs I encounter prefer Jongbloed’s. Personally, I don’t have a preference when it comes to the red; I love both. Allan’s blue is also a bolder blue than Jongbloed/Schuyler’s, which is more of a teal shade. In the case of blue, I prefer Allan’s, though others will disagree (including my wife!). I would be interested to see Schuyler’s blue-under-silver to see if I like that better, as the teal quality comes from the mix of blue and gold (at least thats my theory).

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Shades of Gilt: Allans (top) and Schuylers (bottom)

Externals: The Tyndale Select

The Select is available in eight combinations of the following factors: goatskin or calfskin, black or brown, indexed or non-indexed. The goatskin features art-gilt while the calfskin features simple gold gilt. Also, I believe the calfskin is paste-down while the goatskin is edge-lined (the latter being generally favored as longer-lasting and more flexible).

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The black goatskin on mine is quite beautiful–more deeply grained than the Schuyler but not quite as smooth as a result. Like the Caxton, it is a limp, quality edge-lined binding. Like the Caxton, it has a mildly strong hinge that takes some breaking in. But like the Caxton, laying flat is something that will occur in no time. As for other features, such as a slight yapp and glorious art gilt, the Select is the mirror image of the Caxton. Also, your experience may vary, but my Select has a more rounded spine than the Caxton, which is a bit more squared. In this respect, I prefer the Select.

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External Differences Between the Caxton and Select

There is very little to say about the Select that differs from the Caxton, as they’re both produced, start to finish, at Jongbloed. The only material differences are the lining and the ribbons. (1) While the Caxton features a nice, soft, matte calfskin liner, the Select features a nice, soft, shiny synthetic/polyurethane liner. Both are very high quality, though most will prefer the look and feel of the calfskin. I must say, though, the polyurethane of the Select is very pliable, and the difference in stiffness is almost negligible between the two. If you have one of Cambridge’s edge-lined goatskin Bibles, such as the Clarion, Wide-Margin, or Concord, you’ll know what its like. The difference is that this one has a gold gilt line, while Cambridge’s poly-lined bindings do not.

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Synthetic liner on the Select (left) and Calfskin on the Caxton (right)

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(2) As for ribbons, the Select features two, wimpy thread ribbons as opposed to the Caxton’s luxurious, thick, long silk ribbons. This is actually the only objective “problem” with the Select, in my view; the ribbons are short and fray quickly. But you can remove and replace the ribbons by picking up some 10mm Berisford ribbons on eBay and following these instructions!

Bad ribbons on the Select! (top)
Bad ribbons on the Select! (top)

The final two differences are stylistic. (3) While the Caxton features traditional imprinting and tooled bands on the spine, the Select is more sleek and minimalistic, featuring only gold imprinting, all stacked at the top. I love bands, whether raised or simply tooled, so I prefer the Caxton’s spine. But it is a minor quibble, as the Select looks fantastic too.

P1040914(4) Finally, the Caxton features the Jerusalem Cross blind-stamped on the cover (Schuyler’s logo), while the Select has no imprinting.

Jerusalem Cross on the Caxton (right) is smaller and higher than on the Quentel (left)
Jerusalem Cross on the Caxton (right) is smaller and higher than on the Quentel (left)

Premium Editions of the NLT

When it comes to premium leather-bound editions, there are only four available options for the NLT: R. L. Allan & Son’s NLT1, Cambridge’s Pitt Minion, Tyndale’s Select, and Schuyler’s Caxton. Each is a worthy edition, but for quite different reasons. If you need to choose one, hopefully this will help.

Top down: Pitt Minion, Caxton, Select, Allan
Top down: Pitt Minion, Caxton, Select, Allan

P1050015The Allan NLT1 is tall and skinny, features a readable 10 point font, and is formatted into two columns with very few cross references. It is printed in China, and no offense to my Eastern friends, but it is not as fine a text block as the others mentioned. But if you can get past the mediocre paper and printing, it is an incredibly readable and beautiful Bible. Its my wife’s favorite, and if “we” didn’t have this one, I’d buy me a black or brown (here and here).

The Cambridge Pitt Minion is short and skinny, features a small 6.75 font, and is formatted into two columns with center references. It is printed and bound in the Netherlands by Jongbloed, and is available in black or brown goatskin. The Pitt is an incredible edition that defies categorization, a sort of hybrid compact-ish Bible that is famous for good reason. If your eyes can handle the font, it is pure quality combined with pure portability. My review is forthcoming.

Clockwise from Top Left: Select, Caxton, Allan, Pitt Minion
Clockwise from Top Left: Select, Caxton, Allan, Pitt Minion

But in my measured opinion, the Tyndale block (whether the Select or Caxton) is a better book. Its paper, typesetting, and quality binding selection make it the favored choice, unless you really gotta have that limp, old-world Allan binding. Or if, like my wife, you really prefer two columns over the Tyndale’s single column. But I can say with confidence that no other premium NLT out there combines quality binding, readable typesetting, and quality paper as well as the Caxton/Select. And the size also makes it quite versatile. With a trim size of 8.3″ x 5.4″ x 1.5″, it is a nicely proportioned book–not a small Bible, but not overly large. Easy to carry, yet easy to read.

Conclusion

I have no complaints about this typesetting. It is probably the perfect NLT. And anyone who knows me knows that I’ve rarely said such a thing. If you use the NLT frequently, you really should consider one of these. As for which to choose, you may decide based on aesthetics (i.e. cross on the front or no cross?…bands on the spine or no bands?) or materials (i.e. calfskin or synthetic liner?…good or bad ribbons?). Personally, I give the slight nod to the Schuyler because of the tooling and printing on the spine, the calf liner, and the better ribbons. But either way, you can’t go wrong. The only complaint I have is the thinness of the paper, but the only alternative would be a thicker book, which in my mind would be unfortunate. If you want a Caxton, go here. If you want a Tyndale Select, check out this page (but you’ll have to purchase on amazon.com or elsewhere).

Perhaps no translation is as deserving of a reader’s edition as the NLT, since no other accurate translation is as given to extended reading and comprehension. Thanks to Tyndale and Schuyler, we now have one. Along with all the other NLT sympathizers out there, I will cherish these editions. So to Tyndale and Schuyler, thank you!

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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.

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One thought on “Tyndale’s NLT Select Reference Bible and Schuyler’s Caxton NLT: A Comparative Review

  1. Nice review. Thanks for the work you put into it. I will be buying a Caxton in imperial blue today as a Christmas present for my son. It’s his favorite translation.

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