Compact Thinline ESV from

According to the ESV site, the new Deluxe Compact edition will be available tomorrow. My Amazon pre-order says it will ship Friday. I mentioned this edition back in February when it was announced, mainly because it will feature a sewn binding, making it a great candidate for rebinding. Given my affection for “itsy bitsy Bibles,” it’s no surprise that I plan to get a lot of use out of this one. In honor of its coming, though, I thought I might share some photos of the edition I’ve been using in the meantime. Compact ESV 3

You’ve seen photos of it here and there, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about this compact ESV at much length. It’s an edition that used to be offered by, a compact thinline ESV rebound in supple tan calfskin. (Based on all the talk recently about Abba Bibles, I suspect that’s who’s responsible for the excellent cover.) This little Bible is truly a thing of beauty — the graceful semi-yapp edges, the soft leather, two ribbons. Until you open it up, that is. You see, this edition breaks Rebinding Rule #1: “Start with a sewn binding.” Because the compact thinlines are, of course, glued.

That’s why, when you try to open it flat, this edition won’t cooperate. Take a look at the text block near the spine and you’ll see why: Compact ESV 2

Because the individual signatures are no longer intact, the text block couldn’t be re-sewn in the traditional way. So the needle has to run back and forth through the separate pages. That’s why it looks like someone is pinching the inner quarter inch of the text block together. In a sense, somebody is. As a result, the text block won’t open fully. The gutter inside is more pronounced, making it harder to read text nearby, and the little Bible always wants to close itself in your hand.

This Bible yoga shot makes the problem clear: Compact ESV 1

The cover is extraordinarily limp, very flexible, but the text block doesn’t play that way. That’s what happens when you do remedial work on a glued binding. The results can be quite nice, but there’s something incompatible about the project. It never feels like it should, because the text block can’t behave properly. It’s constrained.

Still, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of this Bible. In fact, its faults probably account for the frequency with which I’ve employed it. Some editions are so nice you’re tempted to coddle them. You don’t want to scratch the precious cover or crinkle the delicate pages. But I’ve never felt that way about this one. Because the binding wouldn’t open flat, I felt perfectly at liberty to abuse it. Paradoxically, as a result of the punishment, the little thing has improved. Compact ESV 4

The cover is even softer, the page edges are a little dinged, and the binding has loosened a bit (so I can keep it open one-handed, which was tough at first). The semi-yapp edge is more than decorative. Because of the places I’ve stowed this edition away, the extra leather around the pages serves a protective function. It just so happens that this edition is the perfect size for one of my briefcase pockets. I slide it inside, and the semi-yapp edges keep the pages from rubbing on the case. Compact ESV 5

The lesson here, if you’ll allow me to moralize, is that a Bible doesn’t have to be perfect to be of great use. In fact, its imperfections may help in that regard, since they help you overcome the temptation to keep it under glass. A well-made Bible isn’t a museum piece. It’s meant to be used frequently. It’s meant to stand up to neglect. Like a piece of field-grade equipment, a quality Bible should take abuse, build patina, and develop a craggy character over time.

Sure, I was frustrated when I first realized that the binding on this edition wouldn’t open properly. Yes, I was tempted to send it back, to lodge a complaint. (And I haven’t always been kind in writing about it in the past, in the brief mentions I alluded to earlier.) But on the whole, it’s served me well, and though I plan to retire it once the sewn Deluxe Compact arrives, I have a feeling I’ll be keeping it handy all the same.

15 Comments on “Compact Thinline ESV from

  1. How do you know the text block was actually sewn and not just left glued by the binder?
    God Bless,

  2. Inquiring minds want to know: Where did you get your nice briefcase? What brand, etc.?
    I left my last nice one on a train, with iPod, Monastic Diurnal, and a few other goodies. Ouch.

  3. David — Thanks for the question. I just spent the last fifteen minutes pulling and prodding, and you know what? I think you may be right. I *assumed* it has been re-sewn because of the way the text block pinched together (which isn’t something the compact thinline does out of the box, in spite of the adhesive binding), but no matter how deep I push, I can’t find the stitching. So I take it back. I think this puppy was re-glued. I’m not going to push any farther or I might do some damage. 🙂
    Scott — The briefcase comes from Saddleback Leather ( There are better photos of it online here:

  4. This really resonated with me: “Like a piece of field-grade equipment, a quality Bible should take abuse, build patina, and develop a craggy character over time.”
    My interest in high-end Bibles is durability & longevity, not primarily luxury (though that’s an added bonus). I bought an Allan’s because I wanted a Bible that I could use daily & lug back and forth from church without worrying about the thing falling apart after a couple years (my previous experience with Bibles).
    However, I am increasingly finding that the idea of gold edges is actually contrary to this goal. While Smyth sewn bindings and quality leather add durability, gold edging seems so fragile (though only cosmetically).
    So while I completely expect my Bible to age well, the gold will undoubtedly become more & more scarred looking as time marches on (a process that has already begun). It almost seems like no-edging would be a better alternative.
    Sorry, just something that has been bugging me lately 🙂

  5. I love the bag! I wish I had an extra $495 or so. Maybe I should learn to work leather and bind books as a hobby. The Bible looks good, but I would start with a sewn binding, and I don’t do red-letters.

  6. Greetings sir(s). You have inspired a somewhat frenzied desire on my part. I now want to find the “perfect” bible. As you have all opined that such a beast does not, in fact exist, I initially determined to create it. Such endeavors generally fail in my head in a few hours, but this one has continued a bit. I am an NASB guy (not exclusively, but in this search at least). I want a single-column paragraph-format reasonably compact NASB. As Mr Bertrand has stated, he feels that “single column” and “compact” are diametrically opposed. I (quite respectfully) somewhat disagree. I think that if the text block is limited to text (or very few additional options) and the text is formatted in a modern paragraph style rather than the more space-consuming verse-by-verse format that it possible to take up only a small amount of extra space.
    I did find the Thomas Nelson published “Classic Companion” bible, which measures (if my memory serves me) 8.5″ x 6 ” x 1″. This is compact enough for my taste. The problem is that it is one of those “consumer grade” Bibles. The paper appears thin (contributing I’m sure to the 1″ thickness), and the spine is glued.
    I say all that to say this:
    1.) have you ever, since this recent aformentioned escapade, had a glued binding ACTUALLY re-sewn? If so, were the results acceptable?
    2.) Are any of you familiar with the Nelson Classic Companion (or a similarly formatted piece)? I will probably be purchasing one for the 27.00 amazon price, just to hold it in my hands.

  7. Jacob,
    I used to be an NASB fanatic buying most every format from every publisher that I could find and afford. Even reviewed a few for Lockman years ago. I had the Bible you describe when it was being published by World (which was bought out by Nelson a few years back). You won’t find another NASB like it (SC, paragraphs). If that’s what you want, I would buy one in a hurry as they are relatively scarce and maybe won’t be kept in print. During the 90’s I was very vocal with publishers about getting a paragraph format for the NASB update and even getting permission to build my own. These days, there are a few out there and initally I was ecstatic. But after using them for several years, I became a little disillusioned. The NASB was translated literally ( which is good!) but, in my opinion, was not translated to be used in a paragraph format. It is still my reference translation for the very literal translation, but not for purposes of reading. I would recommend before you go to the expense of having that Nelson rebound, read it for a while in that single column format. Also, I have also had a non-sewn Bible sewn. You will lose inside margin, and the difficulty will be losing it without the text creeping into the seam. My recommendation is to send it to the binder and ask their opinion on that particular Bible. Hope this is helpful to your perfect Bible quest. Many of us are still on that journey!

  8. Jacob a good way to see if a BIble or book ould be rebound is to place a pencil in the margin if there is room for the text it should be ok. This came from the binder I use for many Bible or book being resewn. Yet I do agree send it or take it to a binder to see.

  9. Thanks to both of you! I will read it for a while and evaluate. I already ordered it from Amazon. I had never heard that about the pencil, neat trick.
    Without this turning into a version vs version discussion, I am admittedly a bit of an “enthusiast” of the NASB. I like the literal translation, but would never go so far as to say that it is the ONLY version to use. I don’t hesitate to pull a different version off the shelf on occasion. I have been meaning to poke around for a parallel NASB / Message bible. I think the contrast could be interesting. I also tend to enjoy my old AMG Key Word NASB study bible. Having the original languages available brings some of the “life” out of the translation in my opinion.
    Thanks again for the comments. I will take both of your advice.

  10. Jacob a great place to order NAS update is from american Bible sales under their damage section. I have ordered many from them under that section and could not see any damage. I have seen the thin line or what ever they call it in that section and it is smythe sewn.

  11. thanks for sharing this link about Compact Thinline ESV from

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  13. Hello I’m catholic and this topic is very interesting and I’m agree with this information Compact Thinline ESV from

  14. I love to read this book
    Very nice cover page. i like to
    purchase it.

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