Opening a New Bible

Phil Auxier asked a question recently, and I’d be interested in hearing what other readers think.
Q. “Is there a way to open [a new Bible], bend it, etc, that will give it a longer use? I had always heard that you should open it in the middle, then alternate gradually towards the back from the left and right of center.”
A. I’ve heard the same thing, but I’m skeptical. I doubt the way you first open a Bible has much impact on its longevity — assuming you don’t do anything crazy. When I receive a new Bible, the first thing I do is pull the pages apart, since modern gilding tends to result in sticky edges. Until they’re separated, the text block won’t “flow” properly. Aside from that, though, I don’t do anything special, or observe any rules about careful handling. So far, I have never experienced any problems as a result of this negligence. (Knock on wood.)
Having said that, there’s probably some truth in the idea that, until a Bible has been used a bit, you should be careful how you treat the cover. Some loosen (in a good way) and grow more limp with use, so perhaps you might observe a “breaking-in” period. I don’t, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t prudent.
I’m interested in what other people think. Does anyone have a special ritual when opening or breaking in a new Bible? Any care instructions to pass along?

17 Comments on “Opening a New Bible

  1. This is how I was taught to gently break in a book when I was in fourth grade. I have been doing it ever since. I don’t think it adds to the longevity of the book; it loosens up the binding more quickly than normal usage would. It is parallel to opening a bottle of wine(sorry, if the analogy offends!!!) and letting it air before you drink it; both are forms of artificial aging.

  2. The old Oxford Bibles have a loose inserted booklet entitled “How to handle your new Bible” but they are more about what not to do and I doubt anyone reading this blog would do the things they say not to do (if that makes sense). The best thing that one can do to any leather Bible is to handle it as the oil from your skin helps keep the leather supple.

  3. If it arrives in the mail during cold weather, allow the binding to warm up for a day before opening the bible. Everything is hard and brittle and lacks flexibility at low temperature. I am suspicious that a Bible I had to return recently was torn due to this reason but I can’t say for certain. Otherwise I just separate the pages and work the binding. Hardbacks go straight to the shelf though 😉

  4. The following instructions came with an Oxford leather Bible I bought 10 years ago. They assume the Bible is overcast (i.e. that the first and last sections are sown separately):
    ‘Hold the closed Bible in one hand with the fore-edge uppermost and the back of the book resting on a smooth surface. Release first one cover then the other, gently easing them down. meanwhile holding the closed leaves of the book. Now take a few leaves at a time, first from one end and then from the other, pressing them down lightly until the centre of the book is reached. This operation should be repeated once or twice.’ A diagram helpfully illustrates what is meant.
    The Bible may not be damaged, though its owner might! Sounds like spiritual yoga to me. If you get your leg stuck behind your neck, please don’t blame me

  5. Years ago, when I worked in a library, we were instructed to open every new book in the same manner as the Oxford instructions. I’ve followed that practice ever since, although it somehow seems less important with a good leather binding than with hardbacks.

  6. Yes, I think that’s more of an issue with hardbacks than with a soft leather binding. For hardcover reference books and such it’s a good thing to do as it opens the book up nicely. I also have done this some to my McSpadden rebound NASB testament and it has helped open it up, too. If anyone is suffering from post-rebind tightness give it a try.
    Just a side note not related to (most) Bibles, if anyone collects first editions or rare books *do not* do this as tightness in the binding is considered desirable as it keeps it closer to pristine condition.

  7. I have also used the Oxford method with hardback books. It allows some hardbacks to lay flat (at least more so than had this method not been used). And I have seen some bindings in hardback books “break,” or begin to break, that had this method of breaking-in a book been implemented, such breaking of the binding could have been prevented, at least from what I could tell. But, then again maybe it is more psychological than physically beneficial.

  8. A mexican friend told me that the best way to open a Bible is from the corners, not from the center. But this was applied to those Bibles with no gilding, in order to keep the edges clean.

  9. Bible Abuse 101…. A long time ago, I learned the Oxford system, but from an insert in a Chain Ref Bible. Then, this is the scary part, I lay the Bible on its side and loosly pinch the cover near the spine keeping my thumbs pressed on the spine area for protection of the glue joints. I then pinch/roll the cover to the outside. I repeat this both ways until I get a nearly “rolling’ fold. Then I “grease her up” and let her rest a day. This has worked for me for over 20 years with no ill effects and is certainly not for the squeamish and faint hearted. All my Bibles would easily pass the stringent “YOGA” tests we all seem to enjoy. They end up softer than one would imagine and this also lets the grain “out”. Yes, I do my Allans and other pricey gems this way as well. Even that 1970s genuine leather stuff does well with this. I do not have enough oil in my hands and there is no way I will anoint my Bibles with forehead oils, so I use a bookbinder/conservators balm.

  10. Wear it out, just wear it out. If my Bible is in good shape then my soul isn’t. Does any one know where to get a custom parallel Bible? I would like a KJV/ESV.
    august (at)

  11. Take a lighter and Lighter fluid to any new translation, this seems to keep the toxic corruption from getting out. With the KJV just Open it and use it since it IS THE VERY WORDS OF GOD!

  12. KJVONLY – Please see the translation thread for translation comments. Regarding your comment though, you must be confused, the NLT 2007 is actually the very words of God!!! Prove me wrong 🙂

  13. KJV only – If you want to fight about translations then you’re on the wrong blog. We refuse to respond and malign your views,the KJVis a beautiful translation, though perhaps you would do better to read more of your KJV than merely wave it at others.

  14. Back to business…
    I suspect the accepted, careful opening of new books, what’s called the Oxford method in this thread, is more important with glued-only (so-called perfect-binding) Bibles than with sewn signatures. Still, there’s glue and binding tapes in sewn Bibles as well that should benefit from being carefully broken in, instead of forced creasing, which just opening a Bible in the middle is more likely to cause.
    I’ve opined in other threads that new all-glued Bibles seem to be much sturdier than older paperbacks and have attributed that to better, more modern glues. However, from what I’ve been able to find on the ‘net, perfect binding is still done with PVA, polyvinyl acetate, just as it has been for decades. So I’m afraid the aging process will be just as deadly with these new books, ie give them 2-3 decades and they’ll fall apart no matter how carefully you broke them in initially. Can anyone comment on adhesives used in mass-produced book-binding?

  15. hello friend excellent information about Opening a New Bible thanks for sharing!!

  16. thanks for sharing this important topic about Opening a New Bible this is very important for all Christians

  17. In this new year this is very interesting read about Opening a New Bible

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