The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible in Antique Mahogany Goatskin


The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible is an ideal choice for the traditionalist who acknowledges that the language has changed over the past four hundred years.

I forget sometimes how difficult the language of the KJV can be. The Mardersteig New Testament was open on my library stand, and I pointed it out to a visitor, who promptly skimmed the page and declared, “That’s tough to read.” My foray into Bible design began many years ago with the hope that good typography and layout could make the archaic Authorized Version more accessible, and there are few editions in my collection that better exemplify the principles of classic design than the Mardersteig. Still, there’s a limit to what design can do. Some things are always going to be challenging. In the case of the KJV, which remains the Bible to most English speakers, certainly the translation that has shaped our idea of what Scripture is meant to sound like, the challenge is worth it.

The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible takes a different approach to the problem of comprehension, sticking with pre-20th century design but incorporating features like archaic word lists and guides to thees and thous to make the job a little easier for modern day traditionalists. This is an edition of the Trinitarian Bible Society’s Westminster Bible, printed and bound to exceptional standards by Jongbloed in the Netherlands. Make no mistake: it’s for the old school KJV enthusiasts out there. While it concedes the evolution of language and the need for legibility make it necessary to define now-misleading words and employ modern typography, the spirit of this edition is pure eighteenth century.


The styling of the KJV Schuyler Reference Bible hearkens back to the pre-Quentel range, with its embossed cross and gilt HOLY BIBLE. The antique mahogany goatskin, while technically dark brown, teeters on the brink of mid-brown. My review copy’s cover is delightfully grainy and tactile.


This spread illustrates the main features: two narrow text columns with references in the inner and outer margins, verse-by-verse formatting with pilchrows to denote the beginning of a new paragraph, chapter summaries, and running headers. An old style reference Bible from the eighteenth century with modern typography.

The rich feature set of the TBS Westminster Bible combines the greatest hits of the design tradition behind the classic KJV: two narrow columns of text with references to the side, chapter summaries (from 1773, with archaic words updated) that help you navigate the verse-by-verse text, running headers that orient you as you flip through the pages, and the words supplied by the translators for sense are set off in italics. The cross references are largely drawn from John Brown’s 1778 Self-Interpreting Bible, supplemented by references from the Concord Bible. As the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself.” Cross references facilitate the task of comparing related passages.

Some pitfalls of the old school reference Bible are present here: for example, the narrow justified columns require addition space between the words, sometimes stretching them noticeably. Verse-by-verse layout, while it makes individual lines quicker to find, subtly re-contextualizes them as well, changing the way we read. Verse and prose get the same visual treatment, so there’s no way to tell at a glance if you’re flipping through the epistles or the psalms. One lovely instance of the TBS Westminster Bible improving on the old ways without abandoning them is the decision to include a pronunciation guide in the back matter, rather than breaking up hard words syllable-by-accented-syllable in the text.


Confused about the meaning of ‘morrow’? Check the side column notes and you’ll find it’s an archaic way of saying ‘morning.’ The TBS Westminster Bible defines many archaic words, denoting them in the text with an asterisk, though it still recommends that readers equip themselves with a good English dictionary.


You’re not just committing to the KJV, you’re committing to seventeenth century English usage, which is why this guide to the grammar of thees and thous is so appreciated. Don’t skip the front matter describing the TBS Westminster Bible’s apparatus. It’s a concise and helpful guide.

Another feature I always appreciate in a modern edition of the King James Bible is the inclusion of the preface “The Translators to the Reader,” which explains the motives behind the then-new translation and the manner in which it was accomplished, answering traditionalist objections of the day to what was, after all, a government-sanctioned effort to replace the beloved but monarch-unfriendly Geneva Bible. The erudition of the translators shines. You cannot read this preface without realizing how differently they viewed their work than some of the translation’s modern ‘defenders’ do. This is important, I think, because we have a tendency to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The KJV is hard to read — in some places, very hard, especially if you’re not accustomed to early literary styles — which is bad enough, but then some of its loudest adherents give the impression you wouldn’t want to read it even if you could. Hearing from the translators themselves makes a big difference. It might help you appreciate why people like me, who gladly recommend modern translations for their advantages, remain appalled by the thought that the KJV will be forgotten by the church, though never the world.


Every edition of the KJV should include the preface “The Translators to the Reader,” which explains the philosophy behind the translation and, as a secondary benefit, cuts off a lot of modern misconceptions about the KJV at the knees.


The trade-off of theses old school verse-by-verse formats: actual verse (i.e., poetry) is indistinguishable from the prose. The psalms look the same as the epistles.

If you’re publishing the King James Version today, you face a few challenges other translations don’t have to contend with. No, I’m not talking about the seventeenth century language. I mean the fact that this translation has been in print for centuries, which means you’re competing quality-wise with vintage editions that remain readily available and often use better paper and feature better bindings than what is typical now. One way to distinguish yourself is to offer something vintage editions lack. The Cambridge Clarion KJV, for example, is a classic reference edition with a major twist: readable single-column, paragraphed text. If I were introducing a new reader to the Authorized Version, the Clarion would be a far more accessible choice than a vintage KJV, which is most likely going to be an old school reference edition designed for looking things up rather than immersive reading.

The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible offers a different appeal. Yes, it’s aimed at the traditionalist who wants his verse-by-verse text and his chapter summaries and his cross references. But he also wants the help with archaism, and appreciates a larger, clearer typeset on quality paper with a modern limp binding. The font size is 9.6 pt. and the paper is Schuyler’s stand-by 32gsm. The Jongbloed binding is limp and quite beautiful — really, the best of old and new. It’s 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.


The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible stays open, but thanks to the stiff hinges at the spine, it doesn’t open flat.

The Jongbloed hinge I wrote about in my piece on the Crossway Heirloom Single Column Legacy is an issue here, too, preventing the Bible from laying perfectly flat. As with the Heirloom, though, the book block is weighty enough that, with some use, the problem becomes less pronounced. Another aesthetic miscue is the black lining, which doesn’t really go with the brown cover. My beloved Pitt Minion had the same problem, which used to be ubiquitous when color came back to the world of Bible covers. Now it’s standard for the lining to match or compliment the outer cover; I’m not sure what happened here.

Otherwise everything’s as you would expect: glorious. The lovely art-gilt page edges, four thick ribbons to mark your place: in pale gold, brown, forest green, and purple. The 32gsm paper is a good compromise between opacity and thickness, especially when the line-matching is on (though it isn’t always in my review copy). Schuyler has done a great job, as always, in rendering the TBS Westminster Bible in as high quality an edition as possible. The results speak for themselves.


The stiff hinge keeping this Bible from opening flat is a common feature of Jongbloed bindings, and really stands out in contrast to the limpness of the cover.


The cover is leather-lined, which is good, but the black lining doesn’t look right with a brown cover.

The Antique Mahogany cover pictured here is being replaced by the Brown Marble cover familiar from the Schuyler NKJV, which shows a bit more color variation depending on the light. The photo below illustrates the difference if you compare the Antique Mahogany (top) to the Brown Marble (second from top). Personally, I prefer the Brown Marble because I’m a sucker for that subtle ripple effect. The casual observer might not be able to tell much difference between the two. Both shades are on the lighter end of the dark brown spectrum, not quite in the realm of mid-browns like the calfskin Clarions, but certainly brighter than the chocolate goatskins from R. L. Allan, and the deep brown of the new Crossway Heirloom Single Column Legacy.


Dark brown, but just barely. The antique mahogany (top) is similar to the Schuyler NKJV’s brown (second), lighter than the chocolate brown of the Allan 53R Longprimer (middle), the original Schuyler ESV (second from bottom), and the Jongbloed-bound Crossway Heirloom Legacy (bottom).

This edition has been a strong seller for Schuyler — no wonder the Antique Mahogany editions are all gone! — which goes to show that there’s a huge market out there for traditionalist KJVs with updated typography. That description doesn’t really go far enough to capture the Westminster Bible, though. When you read through the front matter and use this edition for awhile, it begins to feel like an attempt to preserve an older way of seeing and using Scripture. For many fans of the translation, the late 18th century is really the apotheosis. The final form of the text is arrived at, and the apparatus is more or less perfected. Despite its thoughtful refinements, this is essentially the Bible as you might have experienced it at the height of the Enlightenment. Whereas an edition like the Clarion makes the translation more accessible by making it more readable, more like the books we’re accustomed to spending time with, the Westminster could be seen as an effort to make the reference KJV of yesteryear as accessible as possible without changing its essential form. If you’re worried about losing not just the KJV but the older way of making use of it, a Bible like this speaks to you on a very deep level.

Schuyler offers the Bible in a variety of colors ranging in price from $185-$195. You can discover all the options and order a KJV Schuyler Reference Bible of your own by visiting our friends at

Crossway Heirloom Legacy ESV in Black and Deep Brown Goatskin


The Heirloom Legacy gives Crossway’s most elegant text setting an equally beautiful binding.

The 2012 publication of the Legacy ESV marked a new era, a sea change, an insert-your-favorite-turning-point cliche-here for our friends at Crossway, who, although they had put out single column editions before, had never given us an edition whose fundamental features flowed — from the ground up — from aesthetic considerations. The selling points in Bible marketing tend to be the extras: the maps, the references, the added notes. Suddenly here was a Bible layout with very few selling points to speak of, apart from its beauty.

I posted an interview with Crossway’s Randy Jahns about the Legacy in January 2012 and followed up with another post about the Legacy’s classically proportioned margins, both of which are worth reading if you want to get up to speed. It wasn’t long before the Legacy became my go-to ESV, especially once Leonard’s Book Restoration rebound a copy for me in tan goatskin, which I wrote about last October. The original run of the Legacy, despite some teething pains with the top grain leather covers, became quite popular thanks to the quality printing by LEGO in Italy, and the use of a paper — 36 gsm Thincoat Plus — which came to represent an ideal mid-point in the battle between opacity and thickness.

In hindsight, though, 2012 wasn’t the dawning of a new age so much as it was a harbinger of things to come. This year Crossway has released an amazing range of Bibles that carry on the aesthetic, um, legacy of the Legacy: the single column The Psalms is excellent, the ESV Reader’s Bible downright magnificent, and the Heirloom series has continued the partnership with Dutch publishing powerhouse Jongbloed which began with the thinline Omega.

The latest edition to get the Heirloom treatment is none other than my beloved Legacy. You can see Crossway’s announcement of the Heirloom Legacy ESV here. And take a moment to watch this lovely video:

I have already written quite a bit about the Legacy’s design, so I won’t repeat everything here. Let me say this much: this elegantly proportioned single column, paragraphed ESV with generous margins is the Bible open on the desk stand in my office. When size isn’t a concern, it’s the Bible I’m most likely to carry (the Clarion hopping forward when size does matter). It’s the Bible I’m most likely to teach and preach from, too. Crossway did an amazing job designing this text setting. It does great honor to the content on the page.


The Heirloom Legacy in Deep Brown Goatskin (left) on a portable reading stand given to me this summer by Scott Kay.


The Bible open in my office for ready reference is usually the Crossway Legacy.


Since I love the Legacy typeset and love Jongbloed printing and binding, news of the Heirloom Legacy pleased me to no end. Right off the bat, though, there was a red flag: my beloved Legacy was being reprinted on something other than my beloved 36 gsm Thincoat Plus. The Heirloom Legacy, printed and bound by Jongbloed, uses 28 gsm Indopaque with an opacity rating of 79% compared to the original’s 85%. Would the savings in thickness be enough to offset the loss of opacity? That was the question.

By its very nature, thin paper allows the printing on the reverse of the page to show through, not to mention the printing on subsequent pages. As you read, it’s as if you’re picking the words out from a hazy five o’clock shadow. To minimize the effect, designers and printers have recently focused on line-matching, the idea being that if the words on the back of the page are printed precisely beneath the ones you’re trying to read, you don’t have as much gray to contend with. It makes a difference.


The original Legacy (top) is slightly more opaque than the new Heirloom Legacy (bottom). Note the darker show through underneath the section header in the margin.


The warm tone of the Heirloom Legacy’s paper (left) and Jongbloed’s excellent printing give the original Legacy’s 36 gsm sheets a run for their money.


The art-gilt edges look great on the Heirloom Legacy, don’t they? You can see the show through is darker compared to the original (right), though people I’ve asked to compare them don’t notice much difference.

Another factor that makes a difference is the darkness of the print impression. A bolder impression on the page you’re scanning — i.e., blacker words — creates higher contrast that makes reading easier. The lower contrast of a fainter print impression contributes to eye fatigue during extended reading.

The question at the back of my mind since I began using the Heirloom Legacy a couple of weeks ago is whether the slimmer edition with its thinner, less opaque paper could ever replace my original Legacy. The answer is yes. And no. I prefer the feel of the thicker Thincoat Plus and prefer it’s whiteness, too. Yet the difference in opacity hasn’t made itself felt too strongly, and I really like the Heirloom Legacy’s svelte form. During my testing I had the opportunity to use the Heirloom Legacy in the pulpit, where having a slimmer Bible to juggle along with my notebook and other papers made a difference. While I was expecting to prefer the original by a wide margin — no pun intended — now I’m leaning in the other direction. Given how beautifully my rebound Legacy turned out, it’s a tough choice; if you’re comparing the original Crossway bindings to the new Heirloom edition, there’s really no comparison. It’s the Heirloom by a mile.

Here’s the secret, as far as I can tell: while the paper is thinner, the Heirloom’s print impression looks slightly darker, and its line-matching is consistently good. Like the Cambridge Clarion at its best, the Heirloom uses a combination of strategies to mitigate the potential downside of moving to thinner paper.


Why use thinner paper when the original’s was so popular? To create a thinner Bible. The Heirloom Legacy (top) is about a third less thick, and feels even trimmer when you’re switching from the original.


Is the difference in thickness worth the trade-off in opacity? If you carry the Legacy around, take it to church, and so on, probably so.


Well, it’s not all about the paper. The Heirloom features one of Jongbloed’s beautiful edge-lined goatskin bindings, with a bonded leather liner and a gilt line around the inner perimeter of the cover. Unlike the Heirloom Thinline released earlier this year, the Heirloom Legacy’s cover features raised bands on the spine, an elegant touch that contributes mightily to the beauty of the binding. Has Jongbloed done this on a goatskin binding before? If they have, I don’t remember. And I think I would remember. It’s very nice.


The raised bands on the spine add a touch of class to both the black goatskin (top) and deep brown goatskin (bottom) bindings.


Because the deep brown (above right) is quite dark, in some light it can be mistaken for black. It’s a subtle shade, and I love it.


The black cover (left) has a black bonded leather lining while the deep brown has a brown lining. Both feature a gilt line around the interior edge of the cover.


Black is always dependable, but the deep brown Heirloom Legacy is something special, particularly with those ribbons. It channels the understated class of R. L. Allan’s chocolate brown covers, though the Heirloom Legacy is more espresso than chocolate.

There are four ribbons, which may seem like a lot. I can tell you, though, my Sunday sermon needed all the markers it could get. Four is not too many. Those of us accustomed to the luxurious thick ribbons used for R. L. Allan and Schuyler will find them on the thin and short side. They work, though, and that’s the point. Here’s an interesting fact about the color choice for the ribbons, which are black, brown, a sort of copper-brown, and tan-ivory. Thinking this was an odd pairing with the black goatskin cover, I asked about the significance. The decision goes back to the Omega, the original Crossway + Jongbloed collab. Turns out there were two editions of the Omega: the one available commercially, which featured two black ribbons, and an in-house version for gifts and giveaways that had four ribbons using these colors. The Heirloom Legacy ribbons are an homage to that limited edition. (I shouldn’t put the thought in your head, but you collector types will probably want to be on the lookout for these rare Omegas.)


I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I am charmed by the deep brown cover. This is bomber jacket brown, dark enough to read as black in certain light. I hate using the word ‘espresso’ to describe, say, dark brown wood finishes, but this is the term that kept coming up when I showed this Bible off to my wife. It doesn’t help that I’ve experienced an epiphany over the past year where dark browns are concerned, after realizing that I have maybe 20 pairs of shoes in various shades of tan but I’m always hunting for something darker. Dark deep brown leather is versatile, and doesn’t call attention to itself. If black shoes are sober and tan are showy, dark brown manages to convey a stylish sobriety. Obviously leather shoes and leather books aren’t exactly the same, but I think the same principles apply.

Jeffrey Mellema included a nice photo of different shades of brown Bibles in his write-up on the Heirloom Legacy, which is well worth your time. There have been some beautiful brown editions of the Bible published in recent years. I’m quite smitten with the deep brown Heirloom Legacy, I have to confess.


The calfskin Cambridge Clarion (above middle) is a true brown, in the same neighborhood as the ESV Reader’s Bible (top). In contrast, the deep brown Heirloom Legacy is dark to the point of near-black.


Compared to the short and stout Clarion (whose proportion I love), the Heirloom Legacy looks tall and slender. The Clarion uses 27 gsm paper and the Heirloom Legacy 28 gsm. The difference in thickness here has to do with the Clarion’s shorter page (hence fewer words per page).


The Cambridge Clarion (top) and the Heirloom Thinline (second from top) are both much lighter than the Heirloom Legacy in deep brown, and the Heirloom Legacy in black (second from bottom) is darker than the black Omega underneath it.


Here I’m having fun! From top to bottom: the Heirloom Legacy in deep brown, the Heirloom Legacy in black, the Heirloom Thinline in brown calfskin, the Omega, the Allan NASB single column in black, the Allan New Classic Reader in marine blue, the Allan NLT in green, and the Schuyler NASB Quentel in firebrick red.


The only fault I find with the binding is the stiff hinge that anchors the book block to the endpapers, something I’ve written about at length when describing the Heirloom Thinline and the bindings Jongbloed has done for Schuyler. The first time I noticed this, I thought,”Hey, they’ve changed the material they’re using on the spine!” Going back, though, I’ve found the same thing in bindings for Cambridge and R. L. Allan from several years ago. It goes to show there are things you don’t notice, even when you’re going out of your way to nitpick the details. Now that it’s on my radar screen, I’m bringing it up a lot. Why is the inflexibility of the hinge an issue? Because it prevents this Bible from opening flat. Let me illustrate the point with a screen capture from Crossway’s video:


Notice the gap between cover and book block? That’s the culprit. There’s a stiff material cupping the spine and extending maybe an inch on either side, to which the endpapers are attached. Unlike the limp cover, this material doesn’t fall flat when the Bible is opened. This creates two problems. First, because the spine isn’t free to open fully, the text columns on the page are closer together than they should be. In photos you will notice that text near the gutter appears slightly rounded compared to text farther from the center of the book. Second, the stiff hinge also pushes outward on the goatskin cover when the Bible is closed, rounding the leather away from the spine.


The original Legacy (left) has flexible hinges, so it opens flat and you see plenty of room in the gutter. The Heirloom Legacy’s stiff hinges prevent it from opening flat and keep the gutter overly tight.


Out of the box, the Heirloom Legacy wasn’t close to opening flat. Note the wide gap between the edge of the book block and the edge of the cover on either side. Fortunately, the hinge can be tamed, as I’ll discuss below.


Another downside to the stiff hinge: the cover tends to bow outward when closed. This is not due to any rigidity in the cover itself, but solely the result of being pushed outward by the hinge.

Now I’m the first to admit that this is a minor point. In a consumer review, I’m not sure how much time I’d give it. But Bible Design Blog focuses in depth on design and production issues, putting a microscope on the minutiae. These stiff hinges haven’t prevented me from enjoying Bibles in the past, and if nothing changes, so be it. But I would love for Jongbloed to explore its options and find a more flexible material that would allow the book block to open fully in sync with the limp cover.


In the meantime, what can be done? While I haven’t spent enough time with the Heirloom Legacy to give you a tried-and-true method for taming the hinge, some preliminary findings might help. My first attempt involved isolating the hinge and working it back and forth gently to try and loosen it up. I did this by pinching the endpaper on either side, then followed up by running my finger down the gutter to open the hinge up. The results weren’t very impressive: mostly this just made the hinge stick out more, bowing the cover. My second method seems to work better: I opened the Bible as flat as it would go, then applied gentle pressure to the highest point either side of the gutter, pressing them flatter. Repeating this process every 200-300 pages or so, I worked from the front of the Bible to the back. While this didn’t fix the problem, it did result in a marked improvement.


A tamed hinge on the left, and on the right an Heirloom Legacy straight from the box. As you can see, the ‘tamed’ copy opens flatter, the pages reaching much closer to the edge of the cover than the untamed copy’s do.


The deep brown Heirloom Legacy after I tamed the hinge. You can still see the v-shaped distortion of the book block, but the issue is much less pronounced than before.


If you’re a regular reader, there’s a good chance you own more than one Bible. Maybe you started your quest with the idea there was a single perfect edition to be discovered; by now, though, you see your bookshelf as a kind of toolbox, having reconciled yourself to the idea that the job — coming to grips with the fullness of the Bible — might be bigger than a single tool can manage. You have editions that are more conducive to reading, others for looking up passages, and still others for study. And you probably interact with Scripture via smartphone and computer apps more than you’d like to admit, despite being committed to the Good Book in physical form.

Still, there’s something about the One Bible dream that speaks to me, the idea that in some desert island hypothetical, there might be a single edition of the Bible that could meet all my needs. That’s the kind of role I see the Heirloom Legacy fulfilling right now in the Crossway line-up. An Heirloom Reader’s Bible might change the equation, but for now, this edition takes one of my favorite typesets, beautifully printed, and gives it a great binding that feels good, looks good, and is going to last. If you don’t want a shelf full of Bibles, if you just want to get a single copy and leave it at that, I’m not sure you could do any better than the Heirloom Legacy. It’s really that good.

Crossway provided the black review copy seen here, and the deep brown came from, where the Heirloom Legacy lists for $149. Tell ‘em you heard about it here.



NIV Books of the Bible Rebound by Leonard’s

With the recent interest in reader-friendly Bibles, I was pleased to receive these photos from Emmanuel Deligiannis, who sent his copy of Zondervan’s NIV Books of the Bible to Leonard’s Book Restoration for rebinding. I wrote about the original edition of this format from International Bible Society back in 2007. Here’s Emmanuel:

I just wanted to share with you some photos of a Bible I had rebound by Leonard’s. I learned about them from your blog and I couldn’t be happier with how this turned out. My photos are nowhere near as good as the ones you take, but I hope you enjoy them. The Bible I had rebound was a hardcover edition of Zondervan’s NIV Books of the Bible. It’s similar to the ESV Readers Edition, only they separate the text differently and have alternate sequence to the books within. Here’s how it came out.


Above: Compared to R. L. Allan NRSV Classic Reference.


Above: Compared to Cambridge ESV Pitt Minion

image-1 image-2 image-3 image-4 image-5 image-7 image-8 image-9 image-10 image-11

Childproofing an ESV Reader’s Bible

Todd Paoletti, a big fan of Bible Design Blog, has two young kids in the house and figured, in the battle between them and his new ESV Readers Bible, the kids were bound to win. So he armored up the hardcover edition,with interesting results. Here’s Todd’s story:

“Big fan of the blog. I just wanted to share with you a little mod I did to my ESV Readers Bible that I purchased based on your review(s). I love the hardcover version but could immediately see the cloth over board binding to be a problem in my house. With two young kids there is always a puddle of liquid hiding somewhere on a surface and I didn’t want to worry about setting the Book down and having the cover soak through anytime. I also didn’t want to worry about food or condensation from a plate or cup that was set on top of the book. So, after carefully taping off the front and the back I sprayed several coats of Plastidip that I picked up from Home Depot. The covers are now waterproof and super durable. It has a nice textured grip on it now too. Anyhow, was an easy modification to add durability to this wonderful ESV Layout. Useful for anyone with kids.”
And here’s the result:
ChildproofESV3 ChildproofESV2 ChildproofESV1
Until now I had no idea such a thing as Plastidip existed in the world. What I’ll do with this knowledge, I’m not sure. When I discovered the existence of silver spray paint, I spent a day begging my wife to let me paint everything (Monkey bookends? Yes. Lamp? Hmm, okay. Fabric lampshade? I’m taking that paint away!) Todd might get me into a lot of domestic trouble.
This cover hack reminds me of my first grade school field trip to the library, where for craft time we were taught to make brown paper dust jackets to protect our books. It’s not a practice I’ve continued into adulthood, and frankly there’s a part of me that would be thrilled to think there are people out there using, say, $200 goatskin Bibles as coasters on the coffee table (talk about patina). Ordinarily I would advise you not to baby your Bible, to let it take some damage. That’s what the cover is for. But if spray-on plastic is an option, well, that’s pretty neat.
What do you do, if anything, to protect your books from mishaps? I’d love to know more of your methods, especially if they involve out-of-the-box ideas like this!

Schuyler NKJV Single Column in Natural Grain Goatskin (Red and Brown)

SchuylerNKJV14A new single column setting of Scripture is always worth getting excited about. Back in 2009 when Thomas Nelson first teased us with this layout of the NKJV, there was even more reason: single column editions were pretty rare compared to today. When, a few years later, the newly launched Schuyler imprint announced they would be using the Nelson setting in one of their own editions, fans of the NKJV had even more reason to rejoice.

Somehow I missed out on the first printing of Schuyler NKJV Single Columns — but Beth Rhodes didn’t, and she posted a thorough write-up back in October. To make a long story short, she liked it, though she did note that the uneven line-matching could be frustrating.

With a few aesthetic tweaks and a fresh selection of colors, the Schuyler NKJV Single Column is back. The question is whether it’s better the second time around. Let’s find out.


The Schuyler NKJV Single Column is a beautifully printed and bound edition of a 2009 Nelson text setting, with 10.5 point type and a nice, dark imprint.


No references, but chapter and verse are indicated in the text, with centered section headings in bold.

When I stepped inside the headquarters of in Virginia, one of the first things I noticed was the stack of boxes lining the main hallway, each one packed with newly-arrived copies of the Schuyler NKJV Single Column. They were hard to miss. Even harder was not tearing into them when nobody was looking. I suppressed the impulse and was eventually rewarded with a firsthand look. When I left later that day, I took a couple of review copies with me, the red and the brown.

The second printing of Schuyler’s NKJV Single Column is available in four colors: Black, Brown Marble, Imperial Blue, and Firebrick Red. The Bibles are printed on 32 gsm paper, and have Smyth-sewn book blocks. They’re bound in edge-lined Cantara goatskin covers with full leather linings, hand-stitched around the perimeter for reinforcement. In a subtle refinement, the front cover features a blind emboss of the Schuyler cross –without the big HOLY BIBLE and NKJV in gold gilt from the first printing. Less bling results in more class. Each book includes four thick ribbon markers, too, and has art-gilt edges (red-under-gold with the exception of the Imperial Blue edition, which has blue-under-silver gilding). Some quick work with the ruler yields a trim size of roughly 6.5″ x 9.5″ x  1.25″, which is a fairly handy proportion for a full-size Bible. The type size is 10.5 point, and the print is nice and dark. As is the case with all Schuyler Bibles, the NKJV Single Column is printed and bound in the Netherlands by Jongbloed, and the quality is first rate. They retail for just under $200, and are available exclusively at (Follow the link for full specs.)


Brown Marble (top) is the most interesting color thanks to its subtle variations in shade, while Firebrick Red offers a more traditional alternative to basic black.


Compared to the first printing, the second has a toned down aesthetic (no oversized gilded titles on the cover) that strikes a classic note.


Dark red leather lining on the Firebrick Red cover and dark brown on the Brown Marble (not pictured). This kind of color coordination is a must with fine editions.


These edge-lined covers by Jongbloed are limp and flexible, which means you can fold over one side of the Bible for handier reading.


It’s times like this that make me wish I were a proper photographer. The color variation is so subtle I had a hard time capturing it. Look hard and you will make it out.

Unfortunately, the uneven line-matching Beth noticed in the first printing is still a problem in the second. Some pages are fine and others are almost perfectly mismatched, giving the page a five o’clock shadow that takes readability down a notch. While line-matching is well outside my area of expertise, I noticed something interesting while comparing good matches to bad. Even on pages with very poor matching, the page numbers are matched precisely. For example, pages 1615/1616 (1 Corinthians 14.16-15.32) in both of my review copies are mismatched identically, but both have perfectly aligned page numbers. The fact that the line matching is consistent between copies, and the numbers themselves are matched suggests that the problem is with the text setting. In other words, it wasn’t designed so that the front and back of each page would line up. There’s no way to make them. This is a shame, because in every other respect the NKJV Single Column is an admirable edition.

I have to admit, the first time I encountered the typeface used in this text setting, I wasn’t a fan. When it comes to fonts, I prefer old style, or humanist, typefaces for books. (If in doubt, Wikipedia is your friend.) To my eyes, they just look right. This text setting uses a font that makes me think of a beefier version of New Age, the face the TNIV used to be set in. Remember how cross-eyed and apoplectic I used to get over that font? Well, I’ve mellowed with age. I’m not sure whether there’s a connection to New Age or not, but I’ve made peace with this type, telling myself there’s a something Eric Gill-like about it. There’s a hint of the reed pen of some Alexandrian scribe in there, and that’s just fine.

One thing I don’t have to make peace with is the paragraphing, which is done just right. The preface notes that “prose is divided into paragraphs to indicate the structure of thought,” but let’s face it, not all paragraphing is equal. One of my gripes with certain popular translations (I’m looking at you, ESV!) is that while they’re paragraphed, they aren’t paragraphed the way we actually write in English, particularly where dialogue is concerned. Open a novel at random and you’ll discover that generally we begin a new paragraph whenever a new speaker chimes in. Burying a back-and-forth conversation in one long paragraph? That’s not how it’s done.


The conversation between Jesus and Peter at the end of John 13 is paragraphed correctly, with a new paragraph for each change of speaker.

So I was delighted to find that this NKJV gets it right. Look at the conversation between Jesus and Peter at the end of John 13, verses 36-38. In the ESV you get this:

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

In the paragraphed NKJV, you get this:

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?”
     Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.”
     Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.”
Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.

It’s hard to believe I never noticed this before. “It must be unique to this text setting,” I told myself, but I was wrong. My NKJV Pitt Minion is like this, and so are some others I checked. Funny the stuff you miss. Since the paragraphing was done after the translation, the dialogue tags are still clunky. Ideally the work should be done hand-in-hand, or the paragraphers should be given liberty to make the necessary adjustments, like so:

“Lord, where are You going?” Simon Peter asked.
     Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.”
    “Lord, why can I not follow You now?” Peter asked. “I will lay down my life for Your sake.”
     “Will you lay down your life for My sake?” Jesus answered. “Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.

And yes, while the NKJV’s formatted beats the ESV here, it loses points in my book for all those capitalized divine pronouns — but that’s an argument for another day.

The original Schuyler editions used 32 gsm paper, and then they began to experiment with thicker stock, going all the way up to 45 gsm for the NASB Quentel. On pages where the line matching is off, the NKJV Single Column will have you yearning for thicker paper — but when it’s on, you see that 32 gsm isn’t bad, all things considered. Unless you go to multiple volumes like Bibliotheca, you’ll never get rid of ghosting or show through. Some papers seem better than others, and the black paper trick can be surprisingly effective, but at the end of the day Bible paper has to be ridiculously thin to accommodate so much text and so many pages. There will always be tradeoffs.


The 32 gsm paper is nice. It’s a shame the text setting cannot be line-matched to minimize the five o’clock shadow, though.

As far as color options go, you’ll remember the Firebrick Red from my review of the NASB Quentel. The shade is spot-on, a bold, beautiful scarlet that doesn’t veer into orange or purple. I wish I could say it’s my favorite, but the fact is, I’m really smitten with the Brown Marble. The dark-to-light color variation is incredibly subtle. From a few feet away in most light, it’ll be mistaken for solid. But up close in the right light, the depth comes through, making this an interesting but not flashy cover. The elegance is understated, as it should be.


Edge-lined covers like this one make “Bible yoga” easy.


The inflexible hinge connecting the book block to the cover prevents the Bible from opening truly flat near the spine, which is why you see the arc in the cover. Left to its own devices, that leather-lined cover would lay flat on the table.

Jongbloed works wonders with these edge-lined Bibles, producing limp bindings with a consistent quality that is almost boring (in the best possible sense). The only thing I would change is the stiff hinge running down either side of the spine, which keeps the Bible from opening perfectly flat. I’ve noted these hinges before in my reviews of the Quentel and Crossway’s Heirloom Thinline (where the thinner book block makes the problem more pronounced). While I’m sure the hinge material’s stiffness contributes to the strength of the binding, I wish they would find a similarly tough but more flexible alternative. These covers beg to open flat on the table, but the hinges produce tell-tale humps on either side of the spine.

One of the things my visit to and Schuyler really brought home to me is how tightly connected the customer service experience of the former is connected to the publishing program of the latter. A lot of frustrated NKJV readers let their feelings be known, prompting Schuyler to negotiate rights to the Nelson text setting and produce a high quality limited run. The first outing was so successful that it led to this reprint. It goes to show that this short run, high quality publishing model is an effective way to serve the readers of translations that don’t enjoy as much support as their fans could wish.

If you love the NKJV and you missed out on the first printing, then I suppose it’s a no-brainer. You’ll want one of these. The single column setting and relatively large print makes for a readable combination, especially when the line matching doesn’t get in the way. If you already have one of the first editions, is it worth an upgrade? The only grounds would be aesthetic. If you prefer the color (likely) or the more subtle imprinting (very likely), it might be worth taking the plunge.

Other reviews of Schuyler Bibles

Other reviews of NKJV editions

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