Bibles and Notebooks

Wide-margin Bibles are one way to keep your notes, but there’s an argument to be made for using a separate journal. A teaching outline can get pretty cramped in the confines of an inch-wide margin. Using a notebook gives you room to spread out. They’re easier to write in, too, when your only solid surface is your lap, as is so often the case when you’re sitting in church, taking notes on a sermon. Sometimes you don’t want to carry all your notes around with you, either. A separate journal gives you the option of leaving them at home.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few combinations:

Leather Journal with Calfskin ESV

Above, you get a glimpse of the combination I took to my last Worldview Academy retreat. I had to pack light, and the Compact ESV is nothing if not small. It slides right into an inner pocket in my briefcase. My matchy-matchy nature dictated the rest. The brown leather journal had been sitting idle for a couple of years — I bought it on a whim but, thanks to Moleskines, never used it. In practice, I found the flap a little awkward to wield, so I ended up not using it as much as I otherwise might have. Lesson learned.

Moleskine with Crystal KJV

Above, a typical combination for church. Growing up, I always attended churches with traditional pews, giving me room to stack Bible, hymnal and whatever else I happened to have nearby. For the past few years, though, my churches have all been pew-free, featuring various kinds of stackable chairs. Since I have nowhere to put things but the floor, I tend to gravitate toward Bibles I can slip in a pocket when I need a free hand. The Crystal KJV from R. L. Allan with its beautiful goatskin cover and clear text is perfect for the job — and it happens to coincide pretty closely with the measurements of a black Moleskine notebook.

Red Moleskine with Pocket Reference ESV

Above, a due that doesn’t work, as much as I’d like it to. I love red. I have a red Cambridge NIV and a red Moleksine, so it’s a match made in heaven, right? Not so much. The reds actually clash, as you can see, and the difference in sizes makes it harder to keep a grip — the notebook likes to slide right out of my hand. In fact, if there’s any “lesson” in my own experience, it’s been that the closer the match between the Bible and the notebook, the handier the combination. If it’s a close match, the two become one in your hand. Otherwise things can get a little awkward. (Then again, maybe it’s the clash of reds throwing off my motor skills.)

Moleskine with Journaling Bible

Finally, the tag-team I took with me for Worldview Academy 2007. Spending two months on the road is always a challenge, partly because I have to decide which Bible to take. It has to stand up to abuse and be convenient for teaching. It also has to be replaceable, just in case I misplace it. The Journaling Bible did sterling duty across the board — and yes, in spite of the extra space in the margins for notes, I still kept an extra notebook handy, this time a full-size Moleskine. At the beginning of the summer, it was pristine, but eight weeks later it looked like an old-fashioned steamer trunk.

How about you? Do you have a favorite companion notebook? I’ve corresponded with some people who are pretty fanatical about the subject. The last thing I want to do, as you know, is introduce more fanaticism into anyone else’s life. But I’m interested in other people’s note-taking habits, including the journals they choose. Does everyone try to match journals to Bibles, or am I in the minority on that one? More on that one another time ….

31 Comments on “Bibles and Notebooks

  1. I saw these photos when I was checking my flickr contacts and was wondering where you might be going with the photos. That Crystal KJV from Allan looks great! How is the type for older eyes?
    I’ve been using the small Moleskines for about 3 or 4 years now but I’ve been thinking recently that the full size might be a great match for the Dailey Reading Bible and the Allan ESV.
    I’d like to get a KJV Allan in maybe a tan but the various type sizes have me a little concerned as the type in the Daily Reading Bible is a little small at the end of the day unless I wear my glasses. Same with the Allan ESV. Maybe that is what I will end up doing. Even with my glasses the footnotes are often difficult.

  2. I used a composition book up until last fall when I successfully filled the pages up. It was black, so it matched my ESV Journaling Bible. Out of a desire to be thrifty, I found a small black journal at Target that is a much closer match (and about half the size of the Bible), however, like your red combination, it doesn’t always stay in my hand as well when I carry them. What I liked about the composition book was how well it would stay open. I kept my outlines for my quiet time talk, as well as some points I went over with my students at the start of each camp, and it worked quite well. I may go back to something larger for this upcoming summer just for that reason. That said, this smaller style journal is very handy.

  3. Considering the fact that the Crystal is a tiny *reference* Bible, I’d say it’s extraordinarily readable. But tiny is the operative word. If you have trouble with the Daily Reading Bible, then one of those little magnifying cards sometimes used with small Bibles might come in handy with the Crystal.

  4. I really enjoy using the large moleskine cahier, because they are the exact same size as most thinline bibles. It just slips right in.

  5. I am still searching for the perfect combo to take to church. Right now I would most like to try the TNIV by Allan’s but at $120 after the uphill exchange I just don’t see it happening. Also, the KJV is not an option really though I’m super impressed with the one you featured here (and half the price of their TNIVs). In December I bought a small moleskine and a 3 pack of the thinner cahier notebooks to try them out. For the last two months I’ve been carrying a Uniball 207 Premier with a thin Cahier Moleskine and my Compact ESV Portfolio:
    They are small enough to easily fit into my jacket pocket this winter, and when it warms up they are only an inch think stacked and easily carried.

  6. So, in the last paragraph, is it that you do want to ‘introduce fanaticism’ or is the word ‘last’ missing? I just wondered 😉
    Like you I like the moleskine notebooks and use them a lot

  7. Good catch, Glenn. I corrected the line. I believe that’s what they call a Freudian slip. Of course, the sentiment I was trying to express goes something like this: “If I have to suffer, I want all of you to suffer with me.” But it seemed nicer to pretend like I don’t. 🙂

  8. I use Levenger’s Circa agenda which I carry in a leather cover. The color is called saddle. I enjoy carrying it to church meeetings with my ESV portfolio. Does anyone else use Levenger; I like their leather but I am no expert.

  9. Did you have a compact ESV rebound? If so, is there any chance of a full report? Is it a sin to covet someone else’s Bible?

  10. Just wondering where is a good place to purchase the moleskine notebooks? I haven’t seen any in colors other than black.

  11. No, I didn’t have it rebound. used to offer that edition, but discontinued it. The binding only allows it to open about halfway, so maybe that’s why. Small, glued edition = bad candidate for rebinding.

  12. Mark wrote: “At the beginning of the summer, it [moleskin] was pristine, but eight weeks later it looked like an old-fashioned steamer trunk.”
    Which is why I’m thinking about getting one of these:
    Seems like the best of both worlds to me. Has anyone out there bought one? If so, what’s your impression?

  13. Allan’s Pitt Minion Text KJV* is my read-through-the-entire-canon Bible this year, partly because it looks and feels so great, but also because I’m traveling a lot this year and don’t want to switch Bibles each time I leave home. I’m using a pocket Moleskine 2008 Pocket Daily Planner to summarize each day’s chapters and record verses that stand out, as well as passages from the day’s Masses, e.g., collects, etc. The Pitt Minion isn’t sized anything like the Moleskine planner, but the planner and an old hardcover 1928 BCP next to each other are similar to the length and width of the Pitt Minion’s box and the three pack well together. I also like using a dated planner as it gives me more incentive to read and record something every day, and the irrelevant time markings in the Moleskine planner are so unobtrusive I don’t even see them anymore.
    Otherwise, the Allan Pitt Minion in its box is pretty close in size to a Large Moleskine notebook – about half again as thick, a half inch shorter and almost the same width.
    *(To my knowledge, Allan is the only company offering text-only Pitt Minion KJVs, as opposed to Cambridge’s Pitt Minion Reference editions. Does anyone know otherwise?)

  14. @chad: I love that Uniball 207 Premier pen too; I just love the grip on it – I use it for exams!
    I’m normally use blue Pilot G-2 05s for notetaking…
    My current Bible & notebook combo:
    ESV Classic Thinline (tan) + Large Moleskine notebook (black)
    The Bible is a tad taller than my Moleskine notebook, and color don’t match. But once I get my new SCR Premium Calfskin, they’re gonna look like a happy married couple 😉

  15. @Brian:
    I’ve bought Moleskine large ruled/plain notebooks from my local Borders store.
    $16.95 regular price; I usually use the 20% coupon they regularly have from their website. Comes out to $13.56 before taxes.
    I’ve also bought from Amazon: $28.98 for 2pack (but you gotta pay extra for shipping)

  16. I’ve been using these:
    The paper won’t bleed through or feather with whatever ink I load into various fountain pens. The biggest advantage is that with the wire binding they completely fold around, cover to cover, making it easier to take notes with the journal balanced on my knee.
    The fancier journals I save for the desk at home.

  17. Mark, ever since I found out about the Moleskin journals from your site last Spring I’ve been using them. I think they’re the perfect size to carry anywhere (5×8), especially to church for taking notes when you don’t always have a lot of room around you, and your lap is your desk. The paper quality and color is also great for writing on. The two bibles that I use with my journal depending on the situation are my ESV Journaling Bible and my Allan’s ESV Reference (both thanks to you again).
    I have to say that I have been kind of rethinking the idea of using a wider margin bible for the note taking ability, but I really enjoy having a bible that’s a handier size. And as you mentioned above, you can write more in a notebook and still have it to look back at. With a wider margin bible you can only write limited info. I don’t use my Journaling Bible for note taking, but rather for journaling my thoughts related to specific things I believe God is teaching me or steps of faith I need to take.

  18. I enjoy writing in journals, and have done so for a long time now. This article has been very informative, as I’ve never used Moleskine notebooks before.
    One thing you must have, IMHO, is a quality fountain pen for your note taking. Of course, any pen will do, but a fountain pen and journal seem to be a wonderful match. This is, of course, just an opinion of a fountain pen collector. I use one probably 99% of the time when any writing has to be done. Just a thought.
    Pastor Ron

  19. Does anyone know where I can get a metal or a wooden Bible holder/stand to place my Bible on let’s say on the dining room table while I write notes next to it. I have seen a few that Kenneth Copeland uses but haven’t had an answer back yet. I just don’t like putting my Bible on the table while I’m drinking coffee, this way if I do have an accident nothing gets on my Goatskin Bible.

  20. I’ve looked at Moleskines several times but have never bought one. The reason is that I don’t like to surface of the covers. I have however found something that I use alot that are very similar to moleskines. They are called Naturals Journals. They can only be bought at a Books-a-Million and unfortuanlly I haven’t been able to locate them online anywhere making be believe that Books-a-Million is the sole distributor. They have hard cloth covers and they come in several colors that match many of my Bibles. Also they come in roughy the same two sizes as the moleskins (I did a side by side comparison at the bookstore and found that there was less than a half inch diffenece between the two). Just another option for people still looking for a good journal notebook.

  21. The leather journal looks great. I have one similar to that and it makes you think more about what your write down rather than just pen random thoughts or lists.

  22. That red leather journal and bible threw me off at first, but I think it grew on me.

  23. Jacqueline,
    You might want to go back in the archives ( )and read the comments from posters in the following threads. Note many spill over into successive pages (see “more comments” at the bottom.)
    1. Thread on Writing and Highlighting in Your Bible from March 20, 2008
    2. Thread on Note-taking Systems from Sept 5, 2008
    3. Recent thread on R. L. Allan’s Journal (Third Generation) Dec 15, 2009
    It appears the Pigma Micron pens are most popular with an occasional weirdo (me!) for soft, ultra-fine drafting pencils.

  24. Samuel, I have a couple of the small Naturals that you mention, and really like them. They’re a bit stiff, making it hard to write all the way into the gutter, but for the price you can’t beat the durability, and the small blue one I have is exactly the same size as my little blue Compact Thinline ESV.
    It also helps that they’re seemingly always on sale at a good discount here in Birmingham. Hometown advantage, maybe?

  25. Love the article ^__^
    those are such nice photos ~
    I have a mixture of those – Bible + Moleskine ~
    I’ve made myself a small pocket Moleskine Bible ~
    check it out at my site ~ you can get one, or get the materials to make your own

  26. I think the Moleskine Cahier (large & extra large) is the best notebook on the market. They are like composition notebooks bound with black thread in a cardstock cover. The quality of the paper is excellent and the last few pages are perforated. I use them for outlining sermons when preaching and for general note taking/writing. They are simple but perfect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *