R. L. Allan ESVs: Two Comparisons

Some things are so good they deserve an encore. Such is the case with the current R. L. Allan ESV offerings: The New Classic Reader’s Edition (NC1) and Classic Reference Edition (ESV1). Both existed in prior iterations, and both have reappeared this year, new and improved.

In this post, I will offer a brief comparison of the 2014 and 2016 ESV NC1 (I no longer have an old ESV1 to compare to the new one). Then I will give a side-by-side appraisal on the two current offerings (the new NC1 and ESV1) to help potential buyers decide. And might I add: Buy now from bibles-direct.co.uk, while the British Pound is low.

ESV New Classic Reader’s Edition: Does Newer Mean Better?

Above: “New” atop “Old”

The 2014 Allan ESV NC1 (reviewed here) wasn’t broken, and thus did not need fixing. It features an incredibly wieldy typesetting on a nice 32gsm paper. At the time, it was common to hear ESV lovers hail it as the best ESV ever. I agree with this sentiment (for reasons outlined here).

So how is the 2016 ESV NC1 different? Rather than the original 32gsm paper, the encore features 36gsm coated paper. This has three notable effects on the Bible: First, it makes for more opacity, which is a win. Second, it makes for slightly whiter paper, which is a matter of preference. Third, it makes for a slightly thicker Bible, which is a loss. (As an add-on, the new NC1 also features Crossway diagrams and illustrations in the back, which the new ESV1 also has, but the old NC1 lacks.)

The question you’ve all been waiting for: Does newer mean better? The answer depends on how you weight the priorities. If you are glad to have an additional 1/8″ of girth for a slight improvement in paper opacity, then the answer is “yes.” If you want a form factor approaching “thinline”, and you’re not allergic to ghosting, then the answer is “no.” For me, the answer is “no” because: (a) While noticeable, the opacity improvement is not monumental, and (b) While 1/8″ thickness may not sound like much, the difference is immediately apparent when comparing them on the table or in your hand. The old one definitely feels smaller.



New (left) and Old (right):

My advice? I would still recommend the ESV NC1, even though the new one is slightly thicker. In fact, if I hadn’t invested a year of marking up my old one, I might switch to the new for the better opacity.

Current Allan ESV Offerings Side by Side

I reviewed the new Ludlow-Allan ESV1 here. It is a great hand-size Bible, and a more-than-promising start to Allan’s partnership with a new bindery. I compared it to the NC1 in that post, but the comparison was to the older NC1, so here I offer photos with the new NC1. Here is the ESV1 atop the NC1s:

The differences? The NC1 has .88″ margins as opposed to roughly .25″ on the ESV1. The NC1 has slightly crisper printing. The NC1 has 10 point font as opposed to the 9.5 point font on the ESV1.



ESV NC1 above ESV1: 

My conclusion is the same: I like the ESV NC1 much better. The NC1’s wider margins allow the text more room to breathe, and also space for notes. The NC1’s larger, crisper print is easier to read. Also, the ESV1, while having a smaller footprint, is a slightly thicker book too, so size is a wash for my preferences. But many people prefer the ESV1 and see it as easier to carry and handle. More power to ’em!


I hope this post has been helpful. If you have the old NC1, I hope I’ve convinced you that you haven’t been “left behind.” If you don’t, I hope you consider getting the new one! If you have the new one, I hope you’re happy that you own an improved version for less money than I spent on the old one! (I’m not bitter at all). And if you have or are considering the ESV1, I hope you look at my previous review (here) and realize its also a gem worthy of the label “Allan.”

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.


2 thoughts on “R. L. Allan ESVs: Two Comparisons

  1. I love my ESV1 — I fretted over the decision since it was bound in Ludlow instead of London and had a Crossway textblock, but your previous review helped squash those concerns, and I really couldn’t be happier. It’s the footprint that makes a difference for me. I’d rather have a slightly smaller Bible which is thicker than a thinner, “floppier” Bible. It just feels more comfortable. Also, my main carry Bible for the past 3 years has been a Genuine Leather Crossway New Classic Reference. On my way to the ESV1 I tried the Cambridge Clarion, Crossway Omega, and the Quentel — everything else was either quickly returned (or if bought used, sold). Also, I like the simple imprinting of just “Holy Bible” and “Concordance” on the spine, along with “Holy Bible” on the cover (which I wasn’t crazy about the idea of at first). However, the result is a timeless, classic (and classy) looking Bible. This one is a keeper for me.

  2. I came back to eat my words a little. The ESV1 didn’t last. The main issue was the red letters, I also didn’t care for the “Holy Bible” on the cover, and the ribbons seemed overly long for the size of the book. I ended up with a NC1 and I love it. I’m not sure if it’s the “new” or the “old” (I recently purchased it from the imperfects section of evangelicalbible.com). I love it — also, the tiny bit of extra on the margins make all of the difference for allowing the text to breathe, as well as having room to make some notes (the first mark was painful, but I made it…and I guess that means it’s mine for good). Perfection!

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