The Virtue of Inflexibility

Note: Now that April 1 is past, I want to state for the record that what follows is pure satire. Believe the opposite of everything you read here, and you’ll do fine.
One of the things connoisseurs of fine Bible binding truly cherish is a stiff, inflexible cover. It is sought after because, in the early days, it was quite rare. Back in the days when supple leather was in abundance, cost-cutting publishers made constant use of the stuff, giving their products a soft, mushy feel that the cognoscenti deplored. Charles Spurgeon delivered a famous sermon on the topic, laying the blame for the latitudinarianism of his day squarely at the feet of the Bible publishers. “If his Bible be spineless, is it any wonder, brothers, that the man himself is spineless also?” Despite this, the publishing concerns cranked out an endless supply of limp leather covers — what’s worse, the objectionable editions were made to such a high standard of quality that they lasted and lasted. Even if a new, satisfyingly stiff substance could be found for Bible binding, the public would not embrace it because their flexible-covered Bibles were still in excellent shape.
Standing Upright
Above: The test of quality. If a Bible can’t stand on its own, supported by its rigid cover, how can the reader be expected to stand upright in the faith?
Fortunately, modern manufacturing practices have made the inflexible Bible cover, once reserved for the wealthy elite, a staple of everyday life. The old, unsatisfactory leathers were abandoned for new “bonded” varieties, in which the natural molecules were scientifically fortified with those of cardboard. As a result, the Bible became a “sword” not just metaphorically but in practice, too. While the old covers would peel back at the slightest pressure, the new ones were rigid as steel and capable of taking a keen edge.
For the photograph, I assembled a variety of contemporary Bibles that meet the rigidity test. You can perform this diagnostic yourself with your Bible and a flat surface. Hold the Bible gently by the spine, then set it down on the edge of the cover. If the cover can support the weight of the Bible, you’re holding a quality product in your hand. If, on the other hand, it flops languidly to the tabletop without making much of an effort to stay upright, you’ve been conned out of your hard-earned money.
Unfortunately, after a thirty year Golden Age, publishers are once again cutting corners: this time resorting to cheap foreign synthetic leathers that mimic the spineless qualities of the bad old stuff from yesteryear. They won’t stand up, let alone bear the kind of weight a good bonded cover can. (Even the bonded leather wasn’t perfect; with use, it sometimes lost its stiffness and had to be replaced.)
Falling Down
Above: Disappointment. These high end Bibles couldn’t even stand up long enough to be photographed. They puddled down, toppling one another like dominos. Buyer beware!
Imagine my embarrassment when I applied the rigidity test to a variety of the high-end Bibles I’ve recommended here, only to find that they failed miserably! Instead of standing upright, supporting their own weight, they collapsed immediately. Some managed to rest on their paper block a moment before keeling sideways, while others crumpled at once. The stiff Bibles — whether bonded leather, genuine, or even nice, rigid calfskin — stood proudly for minutes at a time. But the expensive goatskin editions performed the worst. They didn’t even try.
Lest you suspect me of Photoshopping the photographic evidence, I decided to supply video demonstrating just how quickly some of the “nicest” Bibles fell flat.

On this day, the first of April, we should all renew our commitment to the pursuit of stiff, razor-sharp Bible covers — and settle for nothing less!

23 Comments on “The Virtue of Inflexibility

  1. AMEN AND AMEN! I am surprised you did not put one of the metal covered Bibles in the photographs. Dispel all rumors of a spirit of timidity with the latest in these technological wonders. Moreover, there is nothing quite as impressive as the look feel of an old lunch pale when carrying your Bible. Holman now publishes one of the metal covered Bibles complete with a thermos. You can be the first to get yours at GREATAPRILFOOLSPOSTMARK.COM

  2. How sad it is that we’ve progressed so far technologically only to regress in Bible binding by using the floppy leathers of yesteryear. I can empathize with your embarrassment over the rigidity test. Some of my Bibles have also failed to live up to “Spurgeon’s expectation.”
    However, in the spirit of Christian fellowship, as a brother in Christ, I’m willing to trade with you all of your Bibles that have failed the rigidity test with ones that are built to respectable standards.
    email concerning details. :-)
    God Bless,
    David

  3. Ah, the sweet sting of a backhanded compliment!
    Too good! :-)

  4. “However, in the spirit of Christian fellowship, as a brother in Christ, I’m willing to trade with you all of your Bibles that have failed the rigidity test with ones that are built to respectable standards.”
    I threw out my back laughing at this.
    Sadly, some of my Bibles would not pass mustard on the stand alone test

  5. I’m slightly horrified but also greatly amused. Great soundtrack by the way.

  6. Nice, stiff Bibles aside, I’m wondering what kind of watch is in the video?

  7. Kyle — I’m kicking myself for not including a metal Bible.
    David — I’m touched by your generous offer, but in the spirit of “the first shall be last,” I’ll let Jesus swap his terrible floppy Bibles with you instead. After all, I feel a little responsible for pointing so many people in the wrong direction. I should let them benefit from your kindness first. :)
    Nathan — It’s a little tune that comes with iMovie. I don’t have a bit of musical talent myself.
    Dave — The watch is a Triumph automatic, just $49 at the local TJ Maxx. Nothing special: a Japanese movement with glass back, calfskin strap with deployant clasp. There’s a better photo here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmarkbertrand/2377609897/

  8. Reminds me of the Delaree bible of a few decades ago. Once the technological challenge of producing super-thin sheets of stainless-steel pagination was finally overcome, the fledgling company itself collapsed when the engraving process led to excessive bleed-through…and though the use of laser etching could now easily solve that problem, the infamous (and alleged) cocaine-smuggling scandal left the Delarian Bible but distant memory in the April annals of history.

  9. “If his Bible be spineless, is it any wonder, brothers, that the man himself is spineless also?”
    Downright hysterical!

  10. Very cute. But you know, it is not entirely a joke — I know that you, like Spurgeon and me and many others, appreciate well-bound hardcovers. (Hardcovers are certainly easier to store and easier to use at a desk.)

  11. ;o)
    That said, perhaps some video reviews of editions is not a bad idea?

  12. In the video, every Bible Bible fell over – and every Bible fell over in the SAME direction every time! Very curious! What’s going on here? Is it, like water always going anticlockwise down the plughole (at least in the northern hemisphere), proof of the earth’s rotation? Or perhaps it is because the leather comes from cows that (like the famous Scottish wild haggis) live on a hillside and always walk in one direction round the hill, thus becoming stronger on their left hand, rather than their right hand, sides? Or could it even be a case of these Bibles being slain in the Spirit?

  13. Interesting observation, David. Perhaps this requires further study.

  14. So, then, is it better to get a goatskin binding or a stiffer french morocco binding or the likes.

  15. David,
    Just so you know. The idea that water flows down a drain in one direction in the northern hemisphere and another in the southern is wrong. Water will go down a drain in either direction in either hemisphere. The Coriolis effect can effect the movement of hurricanes but is to weak, by a couple of orders of magnitude, to affect the flow of water down a drain.

  16. I’m speaking in terms of wide margin bibles, specifically the NKJV Wide Margin by Cambridge which I am anxiously awaiting and pre-ordered.

  17. Tommy — The NKJV wide margin is a thing of beauty. You will not be disappointed. Since the article here is an April Fool’s joke, the opposite of everything said is what’s true — i.e., stiffer is worse, not better. The first Bible in the video is the NASB wide margin from Cambridge, and it’s essentially a twin of the NKJV, so they both behave in liquid fashion, which is a Good Thing.

  18. I can’t wait till it comes. It hasn’t shipped from Amazon yet, but the price is right. I’ve been waiting a long time for a wide margin NKJV. I have the NASB but NKJV is my favorite version. Thanks, Mark.

  19. I just got email confirmation from Amazon that my two NKJV Cambridge wide margins shipped out yesterday. I’m psyched up. One of them is going to Mexico to get rebound and the other is staying in its factory condition.
    Christianbooks.com and the bakerbooks is showing the Bibles in stock now.
    God Bless,
    David

  20. “David — I’m touched by your generous offer, but in the spirit of “the first shall be last,” I’ll let Jesus swap his terrible floppy Bibles with you instead. After all, I feel a little responsible for pointing so many people in the wrong direction. I should let them benefit from your kindness first. :)”
    yo no hablo ingles
    -jesus saenz

  21. “yo no hablo ingles”
    So, the truth finally comes out: a ghost writer is responsible for all those posts over at Jesús’ blog! ;-)

  22. And here I was thinking that I paid all that money for my top Bibles and yet the cheap Bibles were the only ones that would stand up. I didn’t bother reading that this was an April 1st post. You got me good.

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