ESV Journaling Bible in Calfskin

If the National Security Administration’s sophisticated anti-terrorism software could be calibrated to zero in on the phrase “I wish Crossway would do this,” imagine how many e-mails, blog posts, and telephone calls would be intercepted. They’d have to hire extra staff. Considering how recent a translation the ESV is, it has a lot of fans. And some of us are, for lack of a better word, obsessive. We focus in on details most people would never notice. We are demanding. As a result, we tend to dwell on what’s wrong and sometimes lose sight of what isn’t. At any rate, I do.

One thing Crossway has done a fantastic job of is offering its editions in a variety of covers. The original Classic Reference setting, for example, is now available in more than a dozen editions. There are over twenty thinline editions to choose from. You even get two options on metal-bound ESVs, choosing between the sleek refinement of “brushed aluminum” or the grungy authenticity of “weathered metal.”

Journaling ESV 1

The Journaling Bible is no different. My money’s always going to be on the original, Moleskine-inspired edition, which I’ve reviewed here. But if that doesn’t float your boat, there are four other options to choose from — a plum hardcover, a terracota/sage hardcover with elastic strap, a brown leather flap-and-strap cover, and the black calfskin featured here.

Journaling ESV 2

It took me awhile to realize just how magnificent the black calfskin hardback is, because I was blinded by the original edition. As I mentioned in my original review, the Moleskine-cover option emerged from an idea I pitched to Crossway several years ago. For the first — and so far only — time in my life, I brought a Bible idea to a publisher and, after putting some thought into it, they responded with a new product. My idea was to put an ESV New Testament, as is, inside a Moleskine cover, so I can’t take credit for the whole Journaling Bible concept. Still, I wanted a Bible that looked like a Moleskine … and got one.

So I didn’t really warm to the other options at first. Why would you want a sage and terracotta hardback when there was a black one? Why would you want a wraparound leather flap? Moleskines don’t have those, so why should you? When I was asked to suggest other cover options, I made a predictable suggestion: why not a red hardback with elastic strap, to mirror the new red Moleskines? Yes, I know. I’m a broken record.

Journaling ESV 3

So what happened to change my mind? A trip to the bookstore. Over the holidays, I found myself trolling around in section at Barnes & Noble dedicated to journals. Variety is the spice of life, and in spite of my crush on the little black notebooks, I found myself checking out the competition. There were a lot of interesting options out there. Lots of brown leather journals with wraparound flaps. Some black leather hardbacks with exaggerated raised bands. Where had I seen these options before? Oh, right. The Journaling Bible.

Journaling ESV 5

So I took a second look at the black calfskin hardback I’d had for about a year. I haven’t taken very good care of it — you can see a few dings in the leather from my carelessness. Think of it as a patina. I also goofed by storing it for awhile in the cardboard sleeve, which made a nice little line on the cover. But in spite of this, when I looked again at the black calf, I was really impressed. The spine is rather majestic, a bit like a Hollywood prop director’s take on an ancient codex. Like the original Journaling Bible, it opens flat and features lined margins for note-taking. I even think the cream-colored pages work better with the leather than with the original. (Moleskines have white pages, after all.)

Journaling ESV 4

Now here’s a little mystery for those of you who understanding binding better than I do. When I look at the spine, I see signatures and a layer of what I take to be glue. But I can separate individual signatures and pull them away from the spine until reaching an interior stitch. Like so:

Pulling a Signature

Is the binding glued or sewn, or a hybrid of the two? I’m no expert, but I’d love to know.

Journaling ESV 6

If the Journaling Bible is your thing, but the Moleskine look isn’t, this black calfskin hardback strikes me as an elegant alternative. It comes a premium, since this edition retails for more than twice than the original. But I have to say, as much as I like the original, in this case the extra money might just be worth it.

17 Comments on “ESV Journaling Bible in Calfskin

  1. I love the calfskin ed!!! Although I have not yet been able to overcome the “square – look” of the journaling bible since I have always been a rectangular bible guy. Though I struggle because the anal side of me LOVES the lined margins. I considered rebinding a journaling bible and cutting an inch off the sides to make it more rectangular looking. THe small print used to be hard for me but the new ed. have a larger type which works good.
    I only wish the ribbon was satin material (I have never been fond of moleskin ribbons)

  2. Mark,
    Awhile back, I left a comment about the different types of bindings which you subsequently turned into a post. The Journaling Bible is exactly what I was trying to describe with what I called the “hybrid.” I don;t know what the glue is for, other than maybe to keep the colored bands attached to the text block instead of sewing them to it as on a more traditional binding. Either way, they still open up flat and the pages don’t come out like a normal glued binding, so it seems to get the job done.

  3. Hello, Mark:
    Thanks for the great reviews. The ESV journaling Bible looks like an interesting product that might finally get me to write my own notes in a Bible. I’ve been contemplating an ESV for a while now. I’ve been more into the NRSV and lately the RSV. The ESV seems a logical step from that.
    I noticed in my local bookstore that there are some thinlines and compact editions with the 2007 text. I’ve discovered the easy way to differentiate is the color of the ESV logo: light blue = 2007 text; red = first edition. Are you aware of any of the other editions being printed with the 2007 text?
    Thanks again!

  4. I think I like that, too bad it only comes in ESV. I do not so much care for the ruled margins. I have a set of Pigma Micron pens and tend to take notes so small that I can almost read them. I am a little over verbose with my note taking, so I try to use as little space as possible.

  5. Dear Mark,
    Thanks for the great review of this edition, and for all your reviews of other editions! However, now I’m torn, I’m starting a bible study group at my church and I was all set to use the Moleskine style journaling ESV. But the siren call of calfskin now reverberates in my brain.
    Is the Moleskine-inspired version feature a sewn binding? I can’t remember from my last visit to the Christian bookstore. That might be the deciding factor, because of my near pathological aversion to glued bindings of any kind.
    Keep up the great work!

  6. Mike — My hardback seems to have the same kind of hybrid binding as the calfskin version, so you should be good either way.

  7. I was just wondering if anyone had a journaling bible ESV that was Brown Leather that was wrap around with a strap – and if so is the quality good?

  8. I have 4 or 5 black and also red Moleskines and all of mine have yellowish paper, not white. Bizarrely, one storyboard Moleskine that I have actually has yellow ink printed over the thicker pages so that it matches the other styles, but when I erase on it the actual white paper shows through. I wonder if Crossway was trying to match the color of these.
    Yeah, I’d like a red ESV journaling bible as well… that would be pretty cool.

  9. I’m considering one of these Bibles but want to know about the quality of the pages in terms of writing. Are the pages fountain pen friendly? Any feathering or bleed-through?
    Thanks for an interesting site,
    Louisville, KY

  10. I noticed today -whilst at the Christian bookstore- that the Journaling Bible has the OLDER ORIGINAL ESV text, not the updated version.

  11. Jeffrey–
    I just received my brown natural leather ESV Journaling Bible today, and it is really nice. The leather is very smooth and has a deep brown color that is just right. It is far superior to any bonded leather binding I’ve had. I love how the flap wraps around the front of this Bible. The leather strap will take some getting used to, however. It comes separately in the box and you have to tie it on yourself. This is a good quality Bible to have. Please note however that pictures you see on the websites of this
    Bible are taken under a very bright light. Under normal light the leather will look darker.

  12. That is great. I’ll have to order one or something similar to it in the near future.

  13. FYI, this item is now on sale at evangelicalbible dot com.
    ESV Journaling Bible; Calfskin Leather, Black
    Usually $75.00 Now $33.75
    Save: 55% off

  14. I bought this for a friend and it is phenomenal! The calfskin has a wonderful feel and I am absolutely crazy about the cream pages and the raised bands on the spine. Slightly thicker pages might be nice, but the square look doesn’t bother me at all. Finally a wide-margin you can carry! I wish I would have checked first though. I got mine for a little more than the $33.75 listed above.

  15. Alas, I got this Bible thinking I would write out my thoughts on certain doctrinal issues, and I find the print is so tiny, that I cannot read it even with my glasses. I should have checked the dimensions of the bible closer, I guess.

  16. I would love a journaling Bible with white pages the cream color pages hurt my eyes. I also don’t like hard cover bibles, I feel like I am throwing my money away they don’t last.

  17. Are these still made? I’ve spent some time looking online but haven’t found any.

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