Schuyler Canterbury KJV in Dark Purple Goatskin, Dark Red Calfskin, and Forest Green Calfskin

 

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The Schuyler Canterbury KJV
Goatskin ($210): Black, Dark Brown, Dark Purple, Imperial Blue, Firebrick Red
Calfskin ($110): Black, Dark Brown, Forest Green, Dark Red
See links at the end of the article for more information and ordering.

Aimed at traditionalists in search of a heritage edition of the King James Bible, the Canterbury is set in 11 pt. Milo and printed on 36 gsm paper, line-matched to reduce show-through. The text setting features a classic two-column layout with justified text and verse-by-verse line breaks, except for poetry, which is set in single column verse. The book’s dimensions are 6.125″ x 9.125″ with a thickness of roughly 1.75″. It includes the Epistle Dedicatory, a defense of the translation against its original critics which also happens to present a useful corrective to some of its modern advocates. The Canterbury is available in both goatskin and calfskin bindings, with a leather-over-boards edition planned for the future.

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THE CANTERBURY CONSIDERED

The Schuyler Canterbury refreshes the King James Bible’s classic design without straying too far from the template. Hallmarks of the traditional format such as two columns of text and verse-by-verse line divisions have been preserved. When it departs from the old pattern, the Canterbury adds some welcome modern touches — setting poetry in single-column verse, for example — as well as nostalgic ones like the ornate red capitals. The spirit of the Canterbury resides in those drop-caps, if you ask me. They give the page a whiff of Kelmscott. And the Canterbury is to the classic KJV what Kelmscott Press was to medieval books.

I will spare you the history lesson, but suffice to say, William Morris (of Arts & Crafts fame) founded the Kelmscott Press in the late nineteenth century. Nostalgic for the medieval period of his imagination, Morris made the kind of books King Arthur might have produced if there had been a printing press at Camelot. Like a Victorian castle or a Pre-Raphaelite painting, to the untutored eye they might appear authentically medieval. In fact, they are tributes to the past, and perhaps also a testament to how alienated their creator felt from the modern world.

In the same way, the Canterbury is not a reproduction of the classic King James Bible so much as an fresh interpretation of what it might have been. What if the classic typeset had been cleaner, more readable, and the poetry had been set as such? What if the page design had captured some of the ancient grandeur of the translation itself? The result is an edition that looks very traditional at first glance — at points it wants to out-classic the classic — and yet reveals itself with use to be a subtle, respectful improvement.

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THE CHALLENGE OF PUBLISHING THE KJV

The King James Bible has a huge and loyal following, and the translation itself is in the public domain. For people looking to get into the business of Bible publishing, these two factors make the KJV particularly attractive. My inbox is full of proposals from aspiring designers looking to get into the game, and the KJV reigns supreme in those plans. What most do not appreciate is that, along with the advantages of a built-in market and a free translation come certain challenges.

That huge and loyal following, for example, is also very traditional. They don’t want you to tamper with the translation, certainly, but many would consider an update to the design just as great an offense. They want the ol’ KJV to look like the ol’ KJV. They do not want a more readable, more accessible KJV, and might even be suspicious of anyone who suggests that such a thing is possible. In other words: Innovate at your own risk.

Related to this challenge is the fact that such traditionalists already have an incredible array of options to choose from, including vintage editions no modern effort can hold a candle to in terms of paper quality and traditional design. If I thought the ideal Bible was a two-column, verse-by-verse reference edition of the KJV printed on gorgeously opaque paper and bound in beautiful tan calf by an ancient university press in the United Kingdom, well … I already have one. And if I can’t find what I’m looking for second-hand, then R. L. Allan has made a reputation for filling that particular gap.

Thus, the challenge the Canterbury faced was, how do you create something fresh and new for the KJV audience that appeals to traditionalists.

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Schuyler has answered in two ways. First, they have created a text setting that looks more like the ol’ KJV than the ol’ KJV itself. Not just the double-column layout and the verse-by-verse line breaks but even the phonetic spelling of supposedly difficult words is maintained. This “self-pronouncing” feature has always struck me as one of the most ridiculous features of the old format, and growing up with it I never noticed that it made the task of pronunciation any easier for those who struggled, but it is certainly a distinct identifier proclaiming that the Canterbury has its eyes fixed firmly on its history.

But the ol’ KJV was never as dressed up, never as decorative as this. It never looked as fancy as it sounded. The Canterbury changes that, primarily through its ornamental capitals and abundant the use of red ink for contrast, something Schuyler has made into an art. To my austere puritan aesthetic eye, the result seems flamboyant to the point of excess. Yet to the traditionalists I’ve tested it on, the page looks exactly right. Maybe the KJV was never like this in reality, but the Canterbury fills them with a nostalgic sense of what the KJV once was.

The second way Schuyler has answered the challenge is by introducing updates even a traditionalist can appreciate. The traditional KJV presents the Bible’s poetry as if it were prose. You cannot tell by looking that the psalms are a different kind of writing than, say, the epistles. I can still remember the first time I saw biblical poetry set as such. Frankly, it was a revelation, the drawing back of a veil. Not that the meaning of the poetry suddenly changed. It’s just that this typographical treatment struck me as a way of caring for, or paying attention to the text. Now it looked more like what it was, if only analogically, since Hebrew poetry marks itself as poetry via different means.

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The Schuyler practice of eliminating center column references in favor of references at the foot of the page is also a welcome change. Center column references necessitate narrower text columns, which allow for fewer characters per line. Combined with justified margins, these narrow columns dictate the traditional KJV’s variable word-spacing and hyphenation. The Canterbury does not escape these problems—you really can’t escape them in a two-column, justified layout—but the slightly wider columns do help.

In a nod to the translation’s antiquity, the Canterbury includes a glossary of English words that have fallen out of use or changed in meaning over the past five centuries. Entries like ‘dross’ and ‘eunuch’ may be superfluous—at least, I hope they are—but knowing that ‘curious’ could mean ‘artfully woven’ rather than ‘inquisitive’ is helpful. And while there’s a part of me that believes concordances are obsolete in the digital age, Schuyler makes some of the most beautiful concordances. There are a handful of lined note pages in back, along with some excellent maps of biblical locales by Dr. Barry J. Beitzel. All the back matter is traditional in subject, yet executed with modern precision.

BINDING

The Canterbury continues the fruitful partnership of Schuyler as publisher, 2K/Denmark as designer, and Royal Jongbloed as printer. Together, they have made a number of beautifully designed and beautifully printed editions, some of the best production Bibles available.

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been raving about Jongbloed’s limp goatskin edge-lined bindings. So liquid in the hands, such a nice pairing with the weight of a heavy book block. And they are so reliably good. Whether you’re considering the modern, clean-edge versions Jongbloed does for Schuyler and Cambridge, or the more traditional yapp edges they have worked on with R. L. Allan, a goatskin binding from Jongbloed is really wonderful, particularly when leather-lined, as the Canterbury is. In the photos, you see the purple goatskin option, which is already in short supply since the Canterbury’s release last month. Purple may be a little out there if you’re accustomed to basic black, but this is a tasteful liturgical shade, not too saturated, that shows off the embossed cross on the cover.

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The calfskin bindings for the Canterbury are the more traditional paste-off style, not as limp as the goatskin, but very fine. The covers are soft and thick, with a pleasant tactile grain. While the goatskin bindings list for $210, the calfskin ones are available for $110, which brings the Canterbury into range for a wider number of readers. The calfskin editions do not feel like lower spec Bibles, though. The quality is impeccable, and for those who prefer a firmer cover, they might actually be preferable to the limp goatskin. The Forest Green edition pictured here is already sold out, but the Dark Red and other color options remain available. A leather-over-boards edition of the Canterbury is also in development.

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Frankly, the variety of binding options is one of the most exciting things about the Canterbury. I would love to see publishers experiment with short runs bound in interesting, non-standard leathers, and even different styles. I follow several Bible rebinding shops on Instagram, and the sheer variety of hides and styles is staggering. There’s a lot of creativity on display, and yet we have only scratched the surface of what is possible. Publishers should start tapping into this energy more. Crossway has done a bit, and Schuyler is, too. I hope we will start seeing much more variety, even if it is on a limited basis.

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A GIFT AND A LEGACY

A few years ago I started getting a certain kind of e-mail I’ve come to think of as the “legacy request.” Usually they come from new fathers, and they ask me to recommend a Bible worthy of being passed down to future generations. They tend to want something traditional, something old fashioned, the kind of thing they might have inherited themselves. Don’t ply me with your usual reader-friendly recommendations: suggest something new that looks like it comes with some heritage, something my children will inevitably revere.

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The Canterbury seems tailor made to fill this niche. It doesn’t set out to make the Bible as readable as possible. It doesn’t even try to make the King James Version more accessible, as a single column setting would. Instead, the Canterbury starts with the traditional KJV format and gives it the self-conscious heritage treatment. It pays homage to the past.

As a result, it seems like the perfect answer to the legacy request. It also makes a marvelous gift. If you know someone who loves the King James Version and you’d like to honor that person with a fine gift, the Canterbury would be a lovely choice.

LINKS

Specs and overview at EvangelicalBible.com

Ordering information at EvangelicalBible.com

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Mere Fidelity Podcast: All About Readers’ Bibles


The Mere Orthodoxy blog has a podcast called Mere Fidelity, and I was invited on by Dr Alastair Roberts and Derek Rishmawy about the future of Reading Bibles. We had a wide-ranging conversation. Alastair’s insight into the development of the early book alone is worth the click. You can check it out here:

Mere Fidelity

Christianity Today Talks to Bible Design Blog about Reader’s Bibles

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2016-11-01 15:38:17Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com

Kickstarter’s Million-Dollar Bible Is Finally Finished

Christianity Today covered the success of the Bibliotheca fundraiser during the summer of 2014, and now that delivery is expected in December, CT’s Kate Shellnut revisited the project. I spoke with her for the article, as did Bibliotheca’s Adam Lewis Greene, Crossway’s Dane Ortlund, and Glenn Paauw. She also quotes James K. A. Smith and Wesley Hill. Read the article and catch up on what’s happening in the world of reader-friendly Bibles. Share it, too, so your friends get the word.

I have more posts on the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set in the pipeline, and of course, I’ll be writing about Bibliotheca once I get my hands on it.

An Answer to Fear: My latest piece for [relay]

Speaking of reading and sharing, I’d like to point you to my latest piece for Worldview Academy’s online journal [relay]: “An Answer to Fear.” Maybe you haven’t noticed, but there’s a lot of fearful rhetoric in the church these days, and a lot of people are desperately asking, “What are we going to do?” It won’t surprise you to know that my answer to those who worry about the future of Christianity is to start reading the Bible, and to raise kids who do, too. If you’re of the same mind, read my piece and pass it along.

ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set — Part 3: Paper Performance

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This is Part 3 of Bible Design Blog’s look at the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set. This time we take an in-depth look at the paper the books are printed on, testing its resilience with a variety of writing instruments.  For an index of the complete series, scroll to the bottom of the post.

If publishing the Bible in six separate volumes is the solution, then what is the problem? In a word: paper. To fit the complete text of Scripture into a single, manageable book, you’ve got to print on very thin paper. Thin enough that the only common application apart from Bible publishing is rolling cigarettes. Paper this thin suffers from a lack of opacity. Vintage India paper may have been surprisingly opaque for its thickness, but the modern variety seems to have gotten worse and worse. While publishers of quality Bibles struggle to recapture the lost glory, with a multi-volume edition, you can get off the wheel.

Paper Spec

Like The Gospels before it, the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set is printed on a specialty paper imported from Sweden, Arctic Paper’s 80 gsm Munken Premium Cream. These is a difference, though. Instead of the Premium Cream 17.5 used in The Gospels, this edition uses thinner Premium Cream 13 sheets. This brings the thickness of the page down from 140 to 104 microns, while increasing opacity slightly from 88% to 89%. While the numbers suggest a minor change, it seems rather substantial to me.

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For a glimpse at the way this paper is produced, be sure to watch Crossway’s promotional video. There’s something about the journey from tree to roll to sheet to page that I find mesmerizing. A lot of care has gone into paper and printing, both in choosing the materials and minding the details of production. Attention to paper grain and the use of cold-setting glue in the binding help the books open flat, which shows off the qualities of the paper.

The pages of the Reader’s Bible are smooth without feeling slick. The off-white color is easy on the eyes. The show-through — printing from the back of the page visible through the front — is comparable to a regular book. You’ll see it, but it’s never distracting. On this count the Reader’s Bible is comparable to books published by Library of America. In fact, I’d rate it higher.

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Tearing and creasing

Thin paper can make turning individual pages a challenge. If you’ve ever tried to find the third epistle of John in a hurry, you know what I mean. Another downside is that, if you don’t handle the pages gingerly, they can tear. With practice you develop the ability to flip through a Bible without damaging the tissue-thin paper. Don’t let your five-year-old anywhere near it, though.

One of the little experiments I conducted with the Reader’s Bible was seeing how easily I could tear the pages. There was nothing scientific here. I rested one hand on the page, then used the other to try and turn it. To tear the 80 gsm sheets did not require a lot of pressure. I did have to be intentional about it, though. While I wouldn’t handle the Reader’s Bible carelessly, the paper is much more forgiving than the 20-40 gsm paper we’re accustomed to in Bibles.

The pages will crease when folded, of course, but I also noticed that if I rolled a single page back on itself, the pressure left a mark down the center.

Writing in the Reader’s Bible

Never say never, but I’ll probably never write in my 6-Volume Reader’s Bible. No underlining, no highlighting, no handwritten notes scribbled in the margin. Call me unadventurous. I wouldn’t walk into a cathedral with spray paint and stencils to touch up the artwork on the walls, either. Somebody’s going to do it, though, and that somebody might be you. Fortunately, Crossway sent me some unbound signatures, so I put them to the test with a variety of writing instruments. Let’s find out what you can get away with, and what to avoid.

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Pencil

I started off conservatively with a couple of pencils. For underlining and writing, I used a freshly sharpened Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood HB, and for highlighting I turned to a Koh-I-Noor dry marker in yellow. The results? Lovely. You can write all day with pencil on this paper, and when you turn the page you won’t have any unsightly lines showing through. The markings might fade over time — they’re not that bold to begin with — but it’s a small price to pay.

My fond memories of the day in elementary school when I traded in my last pencil for a proper grown-up pen have resulted in a blind spot where lead is concerned. I forget what a practical tool pencils are, only to rediscover them yet again. Pencil is usually a safe bet on thin Bible paper, too, as long as you don’t write with too heavy a hand. It has the advantage of being erasable, too. If I were going to mark up my Reader’s Bible, this is route I would take.

Ballpoint

An uncoated paper like this doesn’t always play well with my beloved fountain pens. For writing in Bibles, “dry” pens like ballpoints are usually a better bet. As with pencils, you’ve got to be careful not to press too hard. Master the technique, though, and results aren’t bad.

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I put a humble Bic pen to the test. This one is marked ’round stic fine,’ though to be honest I did not realize there were options. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of Bic pens. I only have one, which I keep hidden inside this whimsical leather sheath. The Bic performed well on Munken Premium Cream. I didn’t have to press too hard for an even line, and the writing was only faintly perceptible on the reverse of the page.

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Uni-Ball Signo (0.38) and Tombow Highlighter

One of the perks of spending the summer on the West Coast is that they have a lot more Japanese stationery stores out there than we have on the plains of the Upper Midwest (which isn’t saying much). I like the Pilot H-Tec C, but a lot of people rave about the Uni-Ball Signo, and now I know why. The Signo is now my stylo of choice when I can’t use a fountain pen, so I decided to test one out on the Reader’s Bible, along with a Tombow highlighter.

I figured the pen would be fine — especially with its precise 0.38 point — but the highlighter worried me a bit. As it happens, there was no reason to fret. The Tombow did not bleed through at all. The radioactive green line is hardly perceptible on the reverse of the page. I’m not kidding. Unless you hunt for the marking, you will not even notice it’s there. Frankly, I am surprised. But not surprised enough to start highlighting the Reader’s Bible. Suffice to say, you could if you want.

Fountain pens

Now I was feeling confident, so I lined up a selection of fountain pens. There are so many variables when it comes to these — the size of the nib, the type of ink — that such a test is anything but objective. Still, this gives you an idea of how the pens I use most frequently these days perform on the Reader’s Bible.

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The nib sizes are arranged in ascending order, smallest to largest. Generally speaking, Japanese nibs tend to write a finer line for their rating than Western ones, which means that a Western Fine compares more to a Japanese Medium. So I went from a Japanese Extra-Fine to a Japanese Fine, followed by a Western Extra-Fine and two examples of Western Fines. The pens in question are a Pilot Custom 74 filled with Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo, a Pilot Custom 823 filled with Sailor Epinard, an Edison Herald filled with J. Herbin Gris Nuage, a Kaweco Lilliput filled with J. Herbin Vert Olive, and a Karas Kustoms Fountain K machined from copper filled with Private Reserve Ebony Blue.

As you can see from the photo above, none of the ink bled through the paper. The writing is faintly observable until you get to the Fountain K, and then it becomes just observable. Under a magnifier the lines appear a little feathery, which isn’t surprising on uncoated paper. With the Japanese nibs the handwriting in the margin appears sharp. All of the Western nibs made my writing look a bit blobby. If you’re not picky, any of these pens produced decent results. I’m picky, though, so if I were going to write with a fountain pen in the Reader’s Bible, I would limit myself to the Japanese EF and F nibs. (Which is what I typically do when writing in other books.)

Now let’s get a little crazy.

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Sharpie

You’d have to be an idiot to write with Sharpie in a  book. I did it so you don’t have to. First I tried the Sharpie pen — fine point! — and then I put the King Size Sharpie to the test. To be fair, the pen’s performance was comparable to all the others. The reverse of the page is clean, not a hint of bleed through. Still, this Sharpie pen has been on my desk for going on five years, and writes a little dry by now. I can’t guarantee that a fresh one would be safe to use.

What I can guarantee is that using a Sharpie on the Reader’s Bible is a dumb idea. The ink bled through significantly, as you might expect. The Sharpie is a great way to check the line-matching in a Bible, which is dead-on in this case. It’s a silly way to do anything else. I had to give it a try, though. Hope you understand.

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When it comes to choosing paper for the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set, Crossway made a fine choice. The opacity and feel of the pages is comparable to other fine press books. There’s enough texture for a pleasant touch, and enough weight to the sheet so that turning individual leaves is never a challenge. Both the leather-over-boards set pictured above and the standard cloth-over-boards edition feature the same insides, so whichever you choose, the reading experience is the same.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching friends — i.e., test subjects — react to the Reader’s Bible for the first time. They notice the novel-like layout, the absence of apparatus right away. But the fact that the paper is nice, that the print doesn’t show through to a distracting extent, that the books fall open naturally in the hand — none of that registers, because it’s all as you’d expect. We only notice when our unconscious expectations are not met. Like good design, quality paper makes itself known by not making itself known.


The ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set Complete Series

Part 1: Simply Beautiful

Part 2: Layout & Typography

Part 3: Paper Performance

“Reverent Joy”: Crossway Launches ReadersBible.org, Releases Video

More to come!

Are Reader’s Bibles (Finally) Here To Stay?

Now that the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set is here and Bibliotheca is promised by the end of the year, the question I’ve been asked is, “Are reader-friendly Bibles are here to stay?” The concept isn’t new, of course. Even multi-volume, slipcased editions of Scripture have been released before. They came, they saw, they faded away. What makes this moment in time any different?

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The 1930s called and it wants its multi-volume slipcased single column Reader’s Bible back! As this set shows, the concept isn’t new … the question is, will it stick around this time?

Two Reading Recommendations

Over the summer, Comment published an issue dedicated to technology, and they invited me to chip in with some thoughts on how emerging e-book tech might be reshaping our expectations for printed Bibles. The result — “Are Bible Apps Destined to Purify the Printed Word?” — makes the case for why beautifully-designed  printed Bibles like the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set might owe a debt to the proliferation of Scripture apps on our phones:

“The fulfillment of the hypertext dream by digital Bibles has cleared the way for printed Bibles to pursue other ends. The most exciting reinvention of the printed Scriptures is the so-called reader’s Bible, a print edition designed from the ground up not as a reference work but as a book for deep, immersive reading.”

Some of the same thoughts came up in an interview I did for 2K/Stories not long ago. Johs Krejberg Haahr asked all sorts of interesting questions, but given 2K/Denmark’s passion for good design, it’s not surprising we spent a lot of time on Bibles and readability:

“Reading from a study or reference edition can sometimes feel like watching a movie for the first time with the cast-and-crew commentary turned on. The information is helpful, yes, but it can sure get in the way of the film. I can understand the desire to pack a Bible full of extras. The challenge of designing such a text can be exhilarating. But the easiest way to prevent all the features from getting in the way of Scripture is not to design around them. It is to cut the features. An unmediated — or at least, minimally mediated — design might have just one feature: readability. But that’s a pretty good feature to have.”

Obviously, readability has always been one of the things people want out of a Bible. My unscientific hunch, though, is that the more we’ve come to rely on software (and especially apps) for all the other features, the more open we become to letting printed Bibles focus on the thing they still do best.

Two Listening Recommendations

I don’t know about you, but I love podcasts. One of these days, I’d like to create a Bible design podcast. In the meantime, it’s always a blast to be featured on other people’s shows. I have been talking about Scripture, good design, and all sorts of other stuff. Here’s a chance to check those conversations out:

The Reformation Roundtable, Episode 9:
Interview with BibleDesignBlog.com

Mike and Scott picked my brain about all sorts of things, from quality Bibles to theology. They’re avid readers, and love talking about my favorite topic: books.

The Red Letters Dialogues:
A Primer on Well-Crafted Bibles –
Interview with J. Mark Bertrand of Bible Design Blog
Jio seems to hate badly-made books as much as I do — maybe more. He asked a lot of great questions, and hopefully I held up my end of the conversation.

The photo above, by the way, depicts a King James Version published in the 1930s by the Limited Edition Club. I found the Old Testament set in a used bookstore a few years ago. The layout is beautiful, the margins plentiful, and the volumes themselves are nicely made. My wish is that, with the 6-Volume Reader’s Bible and Bibliotheca and (hopefully) other sets cut from the same cloth, this kind of edition will leave the realm of antiquarian curiosities and come to represent a sustainable segment in the Bible market.

The Perfect Format

Mere Fidelity Podcast: All About Readers’ Bibles

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Mere Orthodoxy blog has a podcast called Mere Fidelity, and I was invited on by Dr Alastair Roberts and Derek Rishmawy about the future of Reading Bibles….

ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set — Part 3: Paper Performance

Thursday, October 13, 2016

This is Part 3 of Bible Design Blog’s look at the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set. This time we take an in-depth look at the paper the books are printed…

ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set — Part 2: Layout & Typography

Thursday, October 6, 2016

This is Part 2 of Bible Design Blog’s look at the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set. This part focuses on typography and page layout for an index of the…

The ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set — Part 1: Simply Beautiful

Monday, October 3, 2016

This is Part 1 of Bible Design Blog’s extended look at the new 6-Volume Reader’s Bible published by Crossway. This post gives an overview of the project and…