The Quentel NASB, the first reference Bible in a new line from Schuyler, features a new typesetting by the Danish firm 2k/Denmark and was printed and bound in the Netherlands by Jongbloed. To make the Quentel stand out, Schuyler specified 11-point type and a luxurious 45gsm paper, two choices that make this edition roughly the size and weight of an ESV Study Bible. This is not a thinline by any means and won’t charm the weight weinies out there, either. If you can manage the girth, however, the Quentel offers nice big type and vintage-style opacity. In essence Schuyler has done what a lot of Bible Design Blog readers dream of: they jettisoned the thinline chic to find out what happens when you increase type and paper thickness. If you ask me, the Quentel is a triumph.
The specs from EvangelicalBible.com look like this:
Goatskin Covers with Full Leather lining
11 point font
45 GSM Bible Paper (most opaque in the industry)
6 x 9 trim size
16 mm margins (approx 0.65″)
45mm bulk (thickness) – approx 1.5″
4 x 1cm ribbons (All Navy Blue)
Art-Gilt edging (red under gold) with gilt line (gold line inside the cover)
Black letter text (chapter numbers, headers and page number in red)
more than 95,000 entry cross references
Concordance, 4,025, 20,000 Scripture references.
7 presentation pages
32 pages of extensive oxford maps
To put this new edition in context, I stacked it up with two Bibles I use just about every day, the Cambridge Clarion and the Crossway Legacy (the one in the photos was rebound by Leonard’s Book Restoration). Both are single column settings. I chose the Clarion because it’s the reference edition I’m most likely to recommend, and the Legacy because its footprint is the same as the Quentel’s. As you can see in the photo, the Quentel is significantly thicker than both, and while it stacks up even with the Legacy in height and width, it dwarves the Clarion.
The closest match to the Quentel I could find was the ESV Study Bible (pictured above), which mirrors the Quentel in all three dimensions and weighs about the same to boot. This should give you some perspective when it comes to carrying the Quentel. If you found the ESV Study Bible to be a brick, you’re going to feel the same way about the Quentel. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: this Bible is big.
DESIGN BY 2K/DENMARK
In October I posted a link to Andreas Krautwald’s reflections on designing the Quentel. His piece offers a detailed walkthrough of the main features. While I haven’t met Andreas, I had the pleasure several years ago of sitting down with Klaus Krogh and Thomas Silkjaer at the International Christian Retail Show, giving me an opportunity to gush about the Design and Production Bible showcasing the work 2k/Denmark (then 2Krogh) and Jongbloed have done together. Ever since I got my hands on that book, I’ve been encouraging people in Bible publishing to go the whole way and have an edition designed by 2k/Denmark and printing and bound by Jongbloed. In fact, during that same weekend at ICRS, I had this conversation with Sky Cline of EvangelicalBible.com, who was already thinking along the same lines.
The Quentel at first glance appears to be a conventional two column text setting. It looks almost conservative. The design doesn’t scream for you to look at it, but when you do, you notice several refinements. The references are placed at the bottom of the page — textual notes at the end of the outside column, and cross-references in a single column at the foot of the page. This allows more space for the text itself, which the Quentel needs given its 11-point type.
Another refinement is the use of red ink to offset page headers and chapter numbers, and a red rule to separate the text from the references. In traditional printing, using red as an accent for aesthetic purposes was commonplace. Now we tend to associate the practice with red-letter Bibles, especially in North America where the trend got started. The Quentel’s use of red lends the layout a classical elegance I find very attractive to the eye. It helps that the printing was done so superbly.
Here’s another thing I’ve noticed about the Quentel. You know how two column text settings tend to slice-and-dice poetry sections? You end up with choppy breaks and often a word all alone on the line. Reading the poetry sections in the Quentel, I was impressed how carefully set they seemed. I’m not sure if this required special effort, or if the combination of the NASB text and the type size was serendipitous — but as a writing professor of mine once said, if you did the work, you get credit for the result. Hopefully other Quentel readers will chime in with their experiences. To me, the poetry here looks much better than I expect a two column setting to appear.
My first real job, circa 1986, was setting type, so I’ve always had a special appreciation for good typography. When you set type in all-caps, the elegant thing to do is reduce the size in relation to the rest of the type, so that it doesn’t shout. You can also letter-space the capitals. I can only imagine how frustrating it is for the designers who work on my novels: they receive my hand-annotated galleys with instructions like “make all-caps small-caps!” accompanied by citations from Robert Bringhurst. While I do not consider myself an expert, I can appreciate the work of those who are. The Quentel’s small headers and its nicely-scaled section headings fill me with joy.
As you look at the photo above, a page spread from Exodus, you can get a feeling for just how thick the Quentel is. The edge-lined binding from Jongbloed is limp and certainly has the mechanics to open flat. But when you’re near the front or back, the weight of the pages makes it a little bit tricky, and there’s a heavily-reinforced tab on either side of the book, too.
I’ve never rhapsodized about a concordance before, but the Quentel’s concordance is simply beautiful. It would look good in a frame on the wall. Here the use of red accents, rather than traditional, comes off as very modern (in the best sense).
THE QUENTEL’S PAPER
For Bible design fanatics, the Quentel’s main selling point has to be the 45gsm paper. For a couple of years, publishers have been pushing the threshold on paper in response to reader concerns about opacity and “ghosting” — that five o’clock shadow that comes from the print on the back of the page showing through to the front. My beloved Clarion’s paper is 27gsm. To minimize ghosting Cambridge uses line-matching, the theory being that if the lines of print on either side of the page match, the five o’clock shadow is reduced. When the lines do match, you can see the desired effect. My Clarion, from the first edition, has a few spots where the lines are off.
The Quentel also uses line-matching while going where no man has gone before — into the 40s, that is. Past Schuyler editions have used 32gsm paper, while the ESV Study Bible and Crossway’s current Thinline, Personal Reference, and Large Print Thinline use 30gsm. The Crossway Legacy, printed in Italy by LEGO, uses 36gsm Thincoat Plus, which has proven very popular. But as far as I know, no one has broken into the 40s before. Flipping through sample books, it’s always seemed to me that in the 40s is where you’d start seeing real improvements in terms of opacity. Don’t expect miracles, though. Tomoe River paper, which I’ve written about before, is considered very thin by fountain pen enthusiasts, and it’s 52gsm.
The Quentel is not free of ghosting. As you can see in the photos, show-through remains visible. However, thicker paper makes a noticeable difference. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:
For the photo above, I snapped pictures of the Quentel, the Legacy, and the Clarion under the same lighting and in roughly the same position. I’m not an expert on paper, but Cambridge’s Bob Groser is. He told me there’s about a 2.5% difference in opacity between the Clarion’s 27gsm paper and the 32gsm stock used on earlier Schuylers (which is one of Jongbloed’s favorite papers for Bible printing these days, I’m told). I don’t have opacity percentages for the Legacy’s Thincoat Plus or the Quentel’s 45gsm paper, but eyeballing the editions, I think a stair-step of several percentage points is probably right. Even 45gsm paper is still thin, so the gains are marginal — but they are definitely visible. In some light, the contrast is stark.
[Update: Thanks to Andreas Krautwald, I can share the precise specs of the Quentel's paper. It's printed on Bolloré Primapage 45 gsm, which has an ISO opactity rating of 84%, ISO brightness of 87.5% and a bulk of 1,17 cm^3/g. From Bob Groser's numbers I know that the Clarion's Indolux 27gsm paper has an opacity rating of 79.5% and the Primabible 32gsm I mentioned above is rated at 81.5%. This gives a more accurate sense of the incremental gains I speculated on in the previous paragraph. Of course, there are a variety of factors at work in how we perceive opacity, including brightness and print impression.]
There’s a trade-off, though: thickness. As you see below, the Quentel’s thicker paper makes the book much thicker than either the Clarion or the Legacy. Is the extra 2.5-5% opacity worth the extra bulk? Maybe not if portability is your highest priority. If that’s your goal, though, you probably aren’t in the market for a Bible with 11-point type.
The Quentel binding features the edge-lined cover with stitching around the perimeter than Jongbloed has made its staple ever since the release of the Cambridge wide margins a number of years ago. This one is leather-lined, though — in the case of my Firebrick Red review copy, the lining is a dark plum color. The Schuyler logo is blind embossed on the cover, with a gilded version is on the spine. The book’s edges are art-gilt, and there are four thick ribbons (red in this case).
In front of the Quentel, there are several pages with a thick decorative border designed for hand inscription. The pattern is pretty wild, channeling an Arts and Crafts vibe.
While I haven’t spent much time looking at Bible maps since childhood, when they got me through many a boring sermon, the ones in back of the Quentel are quite nice. If you get tired of looking at the concordance, you can brush up on Holy Land geography.
As I mentioned, the Quentel cover is strongly reinforced, which this book block probably requires. That means that while the cover is capable of limp Bible yoga moves, the hinges get in the way. When the Quentel is in your hands, you probably won’t get the urge to bend it back on itself. Just to prove you could, though, I offer a little photographic proof:
The Quentel is my favorite Schuyler offering to date. I don’t use the NASB much, and I prefer short-and-thick Bibles to big-and-thick ones. Having said that, I admire the Quentel for what it represents. Ever since EvangelicalBible.com began its publishing journey by launching the Schuyler imprint, they’ve been doing for Bible publishing what they did before for retailing: listening to the community and trying to give people what they want. The two biggest complaints I hear from average readers who get in touch via Bible Design Blog are that the print in their Bibles is too small, and the paper is not opaque enough. The reason for both problems is that publishers are betting readers prefer small and thin to big and thick, even if small and thin means too small to read and paper that’s practically see-through. This is the traditional wisdom in the industry, and it’s hard to swim against that tide. The Quentel does just that.
In the photograph above, you see the two best options for NASB reference editions known to me. The Clarion (right) isn’t thin except in comparison to the Quentel, but it is hand-sized, about the same footprint as a small trade paperback. When the line-matching is dead-on, the 27gsm paper is a livable compromise. Some people disagree, but I grab the Clarion more than any other reference edition … and I have a few to choose from. If you go with the Clarion NASB, you get a well-designed, relatively small, handy Bible printed and bound by Jongbloed. Assuming the level of show-through is acceptable to you, and the type isn’t too small for your eyes, you’re good to go.
The Quentel is also well-designed and printed and bound by Jongbloed, but it bumps the type size and the opacity up considerably. If you struggle with smaller type or find your sensitivity to five o’clock shadows growing, I think you’re going to love the Quentel.
One of the hardest decisions for me was choosing which color Quentel to review. The Firebrick Red is a great color, quite vibrant in certain light, and in others more subdued. An elegant scarlet color with a hint of a purple undertone. It’s also available in black, dark brown, and imperial blue. The blue tempted me, but just a leopard doesn’t change its spots, my hardwired preference for red (or, when available, tan) won out. There’s something beautiful about that shade. Perhaps I should have been a cardinal instead of a writer. Too late now.
For more information about the Quentel Series, including Schuyler’s plans for future releases of other translations, be sure to check out the Schuyler Bibles site. The ESV, NKJV, and KJV are all slated for Quentel treatment, meaning the Quentel will be Schuyler’s first “standard” edition. I’m happy to see them taking this approach, which is similar to what Cambridge has been doing with the Clarion, the Pitt Minion, and the Wide Margin. It’s always frustrating to see a format you like and discover it’s unavailable in the translation you need.
It’s no secret I didn’t invent Bible yoga, the trick of bending leather covers (never the spine!) to demonstrate flexibility. I’ve already documented Cambridge’s use of a similar practice back in the 1980s. Thanks to reader Tim Stewart we can move the date back considerably. He came across the advertisement above in a December 1917 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. A century ago you could have purchased “the best Bible ever made” from that august publication, for the princely sum of $1.78. Personally, I’m skeptical that the diacritical marks of this self-pronouncing edition made difficult words “so simple a child can pronounce them.” Those must have been some interesting children.
When I discovered that my friend Alan Cornett would be in London this month, an idea came to me: why not ask him to drop in on the new headquarters of R. L. Allan with camera in hand? Alan and I share a lot of interests, and his blog Pinstripe Pulpit is not to be missed. He embraced the notion and took time out of his schedule to sit down with Ian Metcalfe, the new director of R. L. Allan. Below is his report. Thank you, Alan! — JMB
Who would have imagined in the age of iPads and bonded leather a Bible publisher specializing in deluxe bindings would see growth that doubled its size over the past decade? But R.L. Allan Bibles cannot keep its ESV editions in stock because of intense demand. New owner Ian Metcalfe sees a bright future for the 150 year old company.
While the King James Longprimer is still Allan’s bread and butter, it is “the Internet and the ESV that have driven our growth,” Ian told me over coffee and M&S flapjack bites in his Tolworth warehouse. The space is neat and clean, freshly stocked with boxes shipped from the old Allan headquarters in Glasgow. Every Allan’s customer loves the trademark blue box. Being surrounded with stacks of them will make you downright giddy.
Ian Metcalfe is the nephew of former Allan’s owner Nicholas Gray, taking over the enterprise along with his wife Dominique on November 27, 2013. Gray still consults, and visits with Metcalfe monthly, but Ian brings extensive Bible publishing experience himself. Formerly at HarperCollins, and now Publishing Director at Hodder & Stoughton, he was instrumental in bringing a number of translations to the UK public. In his job with major Bible publishers, he has even sold unbound printed sheets to R.L. Allan over the years. Allan’s NIV Versa type edition actually was set by Ian in his day job.
The US is the biggest driver of Allan’s sales with 70% of its Bibles going to the States. Only 15% stay in the UK. Despite its wide popularity, NIV editions make up only a small portion of Allan’s sales. “NIV readers are not as interested in the physical book,” Ian observed.
Ian explained that the large Bible publishers, many of them suppliers of unbound sheets to R.L. Allan, are happy about Allan’s existence. With Allan’s filling the high end Bible niche, the big boys don’t feel the pressure to offer fine editions in every color. At the same time, Allan’s has shown there is a real demand for quality Bibles, which has lead to a revived interest in producing for the high end market from some larger houses. Ian was complimentary of Cambridge’s work, and also of Crossway. Despite its short time as a Bible publisher, and its non-profit status, he admired Crossway’s aggressiveness in reacting to the market and producing quality Bibles.
The perennial production challenge for R.L. Allan is binding. Ian explained that meeting the printing demand is never a problem, but the handmade nature of their bindings means there are only so many Bibles that can be bound. Allan’s lovely art-gilt edges, for example, can only be done by two firms in the UK. He constantly is exploring additional options that meet the standards Allan’s has set.
Ian is well aware of the constant push for opaque paper, and we joked about the mythical thinline with completely opaque paper Bible. He also brought up the concern for proper text line matching, something he said he is “passionate” about, but also mentioned unique challenges like the possible distraction of line matching with verse.
During the course of our conversation Ian shared some thoughts about the gender inclusive language translation debate. “It’s not gender inclusivity,” Ian said, “but gender accuracy.” That is, translators are trying to capture the intent of the text, not bending to a social agenda. While the NIV 2011 has received most of the press over the issue, “the existence of the ESV opened the way for the NIV 2011. The ESV showed gender inclusive could be done.” The market would accept gender inclusive language after all.
In the future R.L. Allan wants to maintain its classic editions backlist while exploring new options. Ian indicated a particular desire to expand the Longprimer format into different translations, and showed me the newly restocked KJV Longprimer colors. The NLT edition is scheduled for release in February.
I didn’t want to leave the warehouse empty handed, and hinted about buying one of Allan’s website password protected hymnals for my wife. Ian politely declined to sell me one. I did end up with a red Allan’s journal, which includes the challenge of finding something profound enough to write in such a gorgeous blank canvas.
R.L. Allan has survived for a century and a half. With Ian and Dominique at the helm, Allan’s seems to be in good hands for another generation.
The most interesting of the Bibles slated for release by Crossway in 2014 has to be the ESV Reader’s Bible, which features one of the purest, most uncluttered layouts we have seen in a long time. The Reader’s Bible looks like a book meant to be read: the 9 pt. text is set in a single column and paragraphed. There are no cross references, no superscript notes, and even the verse numbers have been done away with. A running header at the top of the page locates you in terms of book, chapter, and verse range — but chapter numbers are whisked off to the margin. The header, the chapter numbers, and the page numbers are printed in dark red, setting them apart from the text itself.
Now that Crossway has released a PDF preview of the interior layout, you can take the Reader’s Bible for a test drive. I received mockups of several page spreads and a blank sample of the hardcover edition, so I can offer some insight into both the design and form factor. The snapshots in this post depict pages from the Reader’s Bible pasted onto black poster board. Since they’re hard copies, they give a slightly different sense of how the Reader’s Bible will appear than viewing the PDF online. However, please remember that these images do not represent the final paper. They’re output on very opaque stock. No matter how opaque the paper Crossway ends up choosing is, it won’t be this opaque.
What makes for a reader-friendly Bible? If you take any edition of the Bible, enlarge the scale, and print a new run on more opaque paper, you will have a reader-friendlier book than you had to begin with. This is how most publishers up to now have approached the problem of making Bibles for reading. The design hasn’t changed, only the execution. Now execution is important, and the success or failure of the ESV Reader’s Bible when it releases in May will depend a great deal on the quality of printing and paper. Before press work and paper become a factor, though, there’s the question of design.
Traditionally Bibles have been designed more like reference works than books meant for reading, and this has subtly influenced the way we use them. A Bible for readers ought to look like the books you read start-to-finish. Some people use “looking like a novel” as a shorthand, but single-column paragraphed text is standard both for fiction and non-fiction. When you open such a book, the design is transparent. It simply works, without calling attention to itself. The text, not the layout, is what shines.
The only difference between the ESV Reader’s Bible and the typical book is the type size, which is still small compared to the histories and novels on my nightstand. There are few distractions on the page, nothing to pull you out of the text. The proportions are elegant. The design team at Crossway has made it look easy, but I know from experience that it isn’t. In some ways, I think the Reader’s Bible represents the apotheosis of several years’ worth of good design coming out of the Crossway shop. Nothing here is out of step or novel in comparison with recent editions. The Reader’s Bible is a rigorous distillation of the necessities and nothing else.
One of my favorite personal design projects is creating the order of worship for our church each week. Our services are Scripture rich, full of readings short and long, and when I design these passages I remove all the apparatus but the text itself. The emphasis is on the words alone. This is the experience you get from the Reader’s Bible, about as unmediated as you’ll find. If you’re coming from an old two-column, verse-by-verse setting, the change will be shocking, invigorating — it’s as if someone just cleaned the pane of glass you’ve been staring through. If you already use a single column, paragraphed setting, the shift will be more subtle. Even though I’ve been using the ESV Legacy a lot recently, which is free of cross references and notes, with only chapter and verse numbers inserted, I find the Reader’s Bible cleaner and less distracting.
The mock-up hardcover is a little larger than my Cambridge Clarion, but easily hand-sized. It’s comparable in scale to medium-sized hardcover, though of course the page count makes it thick. As of now, this cloth-over-board cover and a couple of TruTone bindings are all we have to look forward to. I’m not disappointed … but only because I love hardcovers for their practicality and TruTones for their suitability for rebinding. The mock-up opens flat and looks pretty nice.
Don’t get me wrong: I would love to see Crossway do a Netherlands-printed, goatskin-bound edition of the Reader’s Bible. But I will be quite happy to get my hands on the humble hardcover, which will make a wonderful reader.
This is a first look at a Bible that doesn’t exist yet. When we see it in May, the question will be how well the Reader’s Bible fulfills its promise. Judging by what we see here, I’d say that potential is huge. If the printing is good and the paper sufficiently opaque (I’m hoping for Legacy-level opacity, at least) then we will have an affordable, beautifully-designed Bible optimized for pure reading. I am happy to see Crossway releasing such a unique edition. I can hardly wait until May.
This morning Crossway waved its magic wand and made 2014 very interesting. The game-changing Bible publisher previewed this year’s coming releases, and there are some awe-inspiring editions in the mix. For the full scoop, check out the Crossway blog: “2014 ESV Bible Preview.” I want to highlight a couple that I find significant:
A Single Column, Compact NT
Whatever happened to pocket New Testaments? They used to be all over the place, but now they’re relatively rare. And if you can find one, it will have an old-fashioned double-column layout to cram all the words in. I have dreamed — dreamed! — of a single-column New Testament that will give the text room to breathe. The single column setting that inspired my passion was a New Testament, after all: the Cambridge REB New Testament, now sadly long out of print. This month Crossway comes to the rescue:
The ESV Pocket New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs is a highly portable edition ideal for a number of uses. This new edition will be available in a variety of covers, including gift editions to commemorate special occasions like baptisms, weddings, and births.
Size: 3.625” x 5.25”
Words of Christ in red
Admittedly, I could live without the red letters, but a super compact NT with a single column setting and a sewn binding? I’m all over that. You can expect to see this one on Bible Design Blog in the near future.
A Reader’s Bible Without Chapter and Verse
Ever since the Books of the Bible, there’s been a cutting edge niche pushing for a “pure,” uncluttered reading experience, minus not just cross references and superscript notes, but also chapter and verse indicators. Frankly, I’ve never been too optimistic. Fortunately Crossway has proved me wrong. In May, they are releasing a Reader’s Bible that lives up to the name. I have seen the layout, and will be sharing some thoughts on this Bible soon. If they get the paper right, it’s going to be a winner.
The ESV Reader’s Bible was created for those who want to read the books of Scripture precisely as they were originally written. Verse numbers, chapter and section headings, and translation footnotes are helpful navigational and interpretive tools, but they are also relatively recent conventions. In the ESV Reader’s Bible they have been removed from the Bible text. The result is a new kind of Bible-reading experience in a volume that presents Scripture as one extended story line.
Size: 5.25” x 7.75”
Black letter text, no verse numbers or footnotes
Two ribbon markers
Expect to see a lot of coverage of this one on Bible Design Blog. It ticks a lot of the boxes for me. The layout looks great and the form factor is excellent. The only question will be whether the quality of production lives up to the design.
Did Somebody Ask for a Psalter?
If the prospect of a single column, sewn compact New Testament has be excited, then you can imagine how I feel about a single column edition of the Psalms with a sewn binding, “high quality paper,” and 11 pt. type. Ecstatic. I have raved about the psalter before, and look forward to doing so again when this edition releases in June.
The Psalms is a beautiful presentation of this beloved section of Scripture. Featuring the ESV text, each psalm is presented in large, readable type on high quality paper. The layout gives ample space for the text and adds to the aesthetic value of the biblical poetry. This is a wonderful edition for devotions, for liturgical use, and as a gift.
Black letter text
It’s great to see Crossway coming on strong this year with “specialist” editions. Again, we’re going to take a close look at this one on Bible Design Blog.
Did Somebody Say Jongbloed?
Crossway’s release of the Heirloom Bible is a big deal, too, since it appears these will be printed and bound in the Netherlands by Jongbloed, which does high end work for Schuyler, R. L. Allan and Cambridge. A thinline Heirloom will release in February, and when September comes we’ll see the beautiful Legacy text setting receive the Heirloom treatment:
The ESV Heirloom Single Column Legacy Bible is a special edition of the original ESV Single Column Legacy Bible. Based on the Renaissance ideal of a perfect page, the Single Column Legacy Bible features a simple, clear layout with generous margins. As with Crossway’s other Heirloom Bibles, the Heirloom Single Column Legacy Bible is printed in the Netherlands on high-quality European Bible paper and features art gilding, two ribbon markers, and an extra-smooth sewn binding. It is available in black and brown goatskin covers. The Heirloom Single Column Legacy Bible is a fine edition that combines elegant design with the best production materials available.
Black letter text
Single-column, paragraph format
Two ribbon markers
So this is big. Huge, actually. Crossway has released some higher shelf editions in the past, with bindings by Abba. But the Heirloom promises to set a new standard. It’s nice to see a publishing house the size of Crossway teaming up with Jongbloed, and on a single column text setting. The paper was “right” for me on the original Legacy (printed in Italy by LEGO), so if Jongbloed does better, well, this will be an edition to watch. And it will be available in black and brown. I’m pleased.
There’s more on the list, so check out the complete line-up at Crossway. And let me know in the comments what you’re excited about for 2014.
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