Top Five Premium ESV Bibles for Christmas 2015 (plus two)

P1050207I’m doing something new here, in anticipation of Christmas 2015. Perhaps some of you are wondering, “What is the best ESV Bible out there, in case I want to give it to someone for Christmas this year?” …or perhaps more honestly… “in case I want to use Christmas as a pretext to get one for myself?

To be clear, this is a list of the top five available ESV Bibles, not including the many wonderful editions that are now out of print (most notably, Crossway’s calfskin, USA-printed editions from the early 2000s). The one exception is the Allan ESV New Classic, but I felt okay including it because it will be available again in the near future.

Any such list will be subjective, but whether or not you agree on my ranking, I think most will agree with the selection. So drumroll please, for the top 5 goatskin ESV’s…

5. ESV Heirloom Omega Thinline Reference Bible (Crossway) click for my review

4. ESV Heirloom Single Column Legacy Bible (Crossway) …click for my review

3. ESV Wide Margin Reference Bible (Cambridge) …click for my review

2. ESV Quentel Reference Bible (Schuyler) …click for my review

1. ESV New Classic Reader’s Edition (R. L. Allan & Son) …click for my review

Honorable Mention:


If a Bible is going to be my go-to edition for reading, teaching, and reference, these are my top priorities: liquid binding, large print, writeable paper, space for notes, clean typesetting, portable form factor, at least three ribbon markers, and visual appeal. Here is how each on my top five list fare (two “X”s signify exceptional marks in a given category). Click on the festive chart to enlarge it:

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 1.56.59 PMPerhaps it is cruel to list the #1 as something that is still in the reprinting phase (and hence unavailable for Christmas gifts). So why is the Allan ESV New Classic my #1? It fulfills the most functions that I value in a Bible of any on the list. And this next print run will be on thicker paper (36gsm as opposed to the 32gsm of mine).

The slots for #1 and #2 were pretty difficult to arrange…the Schuyler Quentel could easily be switched with the Allan NCR with little argument on my part. The only reasons I selected the Allan over the Quentel for the #1 slot are its wider margins and lined paper. Though I prefer the Allan in cover and binding, the Quentel clearly has the better typesetting and better paper (and also a beautiful cover and binding). And if the Quentel’s margins were .5″ larger on the outside and inside, and if it had lined pages for notes, it would likely be my top choice.

Which Should You Choose?

Now I’ll expand on my reasoning behind each choice, and hopefully help you determine which one is for you.

5. If you want a double column reference Bible that combines readability and portability better than any I’ve seen, all wrapped in a buttery and beautiful binding, get the Heirloom Omega. The font on this one is semi-bold and more crisp than any on my top five list. Get it here.

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4. If you want the most beautiful page spread, set in a single column layout, along with a portable form factor (without too much concern for paper thickness), and a binding much like the Omega, get the Heirloom Legacy. Get it here. I should mention, the Clarion is very similar, perhaps slightly more readable, and more portable…a fine alternative (see below).

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3. If you’re like me, wanting ample space for notes, but unlike me, large print is not a high priority, then get the Cambridge Wide Margin. A friend of mine said this should be in the #1 slot, and I only mildly disagree. A classic for good reason. Get it here.

Goatskin grain (left) and Calf-Split grain (right)...both nice!
Goatskin grain (left) and Calf-Split grain (right)…both nice!
Top down: Schuyler ESV Quentel, Crossway Wide Margin, Allan ESVNC1, Cambridge Wide Margin
Top down: Schuyler ESV Quentel, Crossway Wide Margin, Allan ESVNC1, Cambridge Wide Margin

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2. For those who don’t care about wider margins and lined pages, which is probably most of you, and if you don’t mind a heavier book, I advise you to get the Schuyler Quentel this Christmas. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more attractive typesetting, and its font is the largest on my list. Get it here.

P1020238

P1040846P10204391. Finally, if you want the signature old-world style binding of R. L. Allan wrapped around a text block that best meets the priorities I’ve listed, then hold off and buy the Allan New Classic Reader when its re-released in 2016. Watch for it here or here.

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Ample space for marginalia
Ample space for marginalia
End-note system in the blank lined pages
End-note system in the blank lined pages

Honorable Mention: Clarion. Get it here. Perhaps the Clarion deserves the #4 slot over the Heirloom Legacy…I’m torn. The Clarion is more readable in that it has a more optimal character per line count than the Legacy. The Legacy, however, has more white space and a crisper font. It really is a toss-up. What do you think?

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

Honorable Mention: Reader’s Gospels. This is not a “Bible” in the fullest sense, but only the four gospels. But for $40 at wtsbooks.com ($9 for the cloth-over-board!), you’ll get a classy book with a stellar typesetting, fostering an encounter with the Gospels that is truly special.

thumb_P1040061_1024 thumb_P1040078_1024 thumb_P1040278_1024


Now I’d like to hear from you. What would you add, or how would you rearrange what I’ve produced? Comments are welcomed!


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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