Adding a Ribbon to Your Bible

Why moan and complain about the lack of ribbons in your Bible when you can take a page from Matt Blair’s book and add them yourself? Matt, who blogs at The Foolish Galatian, has created a photo tutorial demonstrating his method, which involves a pencil, epoxy, some ribbon, and scissors. Check it out:
Adding Ribbons to Your Bible
You may be wondering why anyone would need more than a single ribbon, so here’s a quick explanation of the multi-ribbon craze. If you’re reading your Bible front to back, or you only use your ribbon to mark a single passage (say, the text for a particular sermon), then one will do fine. But suppose you adopt a reading plan that involves daily excerpts from the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Psalms? You’ll need three ribbons to mark each place. Prayer books and breviaries, which send readings back and forth in search of the various parts of a single service — order, psalter, collect, lectionary readings, etc. — have long sported multiple ribbons, often of various colors, but until relatively recently, it was unusual to find a Bible with more than a single ribbon. Now, having two is considered a luxury, but the optimal number seems to be three (OT, NT, Psalms).
With Matt’s help, you can now add ribbons to your heart’s content!

26 Comments on “Adding a Ribbon to Your Bible

  1. I have done something similar, but I have a question for Matt, or anyone else. Have you added ribbons by first removing the headband and then reattached it so that the ribbons sit under it like a factory ribbon?

    • There’s a website showing how to replace by removing the headband from the book block, I haven’t had the verve to try it yet.

      • Update to this, I’ll be doing my 4th Bible soon. I used 2 top grain leather Zondervan Life Application Bibles to experiment with, which worked out beautifully, then I did my Tyndale Select black Calfskin Bible which I changed the ribbons to 3 Royal blue 10mm ribbons & I just received a LCBP 400 Note Taker that I’ll be changing the ribbons on… The bibles look absolutely incredible, just leave plenty of length on the ribbon.

  2. I just got an Oxford 1979 BCP (a beautiful red one!) that has three gold ribbon markers. I actually thought that was a bit overkill, but I guess I’m wrong.
    I don’t really know how to use the BCP (beyond reading the daily psalter). Is there a website that gives a simple introduction to it?

  3. In the UK from most Christian bookshops, one can buy a set of five ribbons (of different colours) attached to a thin piece of plastic (12 cm x 2 cm). I am sure you can find them in the US too. This simple device easily slides into the spine of your Bible, hardback or leather. And hey presto, five ribbons in five seconds. Cost £1.50/US$3.00. Ribbons are 14 inches long but can be cut shorter and 1/8 inch wide. It does the job and does not damage a Bible. And lots less messy than all that epoxy.

  4. Regarding use of the BCP, this Wikpedia page has some basic guidance:
    I would think, however, that most Anglicans would expect one to receive instruction from local clergy if you were going to utilize the BCP as designed. However, if like me you are not an Anglican, but rather a “separatist” (Baptist in this case), you might want to engage in your own reading of the BCP when nobody else is watching. ;>)

  5. I know this is heresy in this blog, but what about using post-it book marks. I have been using post-it note book marks for years, and they are great.
    I must admit, I am very “low-bible” and plain hard cover pew bibles which I love to read, especially with larger type. I have not bought a soft cover bible for more than 10 years.
    My bibles are not doing bible-yoga nor do I want them to. 🙂

  6. Hey all!
    I intended this method to be geared more towards those of us who can’t quite afford as of yet to have our Bibles rebound and would like an inexpensive method to add ribbons.
    The amount of epoxy is so minimal that if and when that Bible would be rebound, the ribbons can be easily picked off…it’s very low invasive.
    I know this technique may not be for eveyone, but it’s been great for me thus far.
    Hope it helps!

  7. Jerry, thanks!
    I’m not Anglican at all, but there are days when I feel like reading very old prayers and burning incense, haha (plus, I’m an anglophile, and I love Lewis). I have both a Cambridge 1662 BCP and now the Oxford 1979. Obviously I prefer the 1662, but the Psalms in the 1979 are NRSV and much easier to read.
    I have a few Anglican friends who hate the 1979 version because apparently several people on the committee purposefully slipped in Pelagian doctrine, to move the Episcopal church further away from its conservative, Reformed roots.

  8. Matt —
    Thanks for posting this. It looks very useful, and I plan to try it out on a prayerbook next week.

  9. Alex —
    I am with you — I would rather have a high quality hardcover Bible than a soft leather bound Bible (although I must admit that I go crazy for leather bound hardcovers). That being said, there are some problems with a number of contemporary hardcovers. First, a number of publishers (Oxford, I’m talking about you) smythe sew many of their leather Bibles, but not their hardcover Bibles. Second, many hardcover Bibles are bound in a type of glossy photo covers that are quite garish. Give me a nice understated cloth binding anytime.
    Of course, I understand that if one is carrying one’s Bible everywhere, things may be different. But in that case, I think I’d opt for a cheap Bible so I wouldn’t worry if it got banged up. Usually I read books in my office or at home, and a hardcover is just perfect for those situations. Hardcover is particularly good, because it is well suited to storing books in a bookshelf.
    That’s why I am especially happy when Mark talks about Bibles that have special features on the inside, such as wide-margins, innovative layout, useful additional features, etc. I’m not yet convinced that there is a very strong relationship between price and the quality of interior features (although, the anecdotal evidence that Mark has presented certainly makes a strong case that there is often a relationship between price and the quality of leather binding used.)
    I have found I actually prefer the Tru-Tone covers to real leather covers — Tru-Tone doesn’t require maintenance, and is inexpensive enough that I don’t worry about “abusing” a book by using it aggressively to read and markup. I really appreciate Mark’s introducing me to the pleasures of Tru-Tone.
    So far of all the reviews that Mark has posted, the ones that have proven particularly useful for me are the ones about wide margin editiona and the ones about innovative versions of the KJV, such as the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible and the Pocket Canon series.
    I suppose, in the end, it comes down to this: don’t judge a book by its cover.

  10. Lyov,
    You said, “I have found I actually prefer the Tru-Tone covers to real leather covers — Tru-Tone doesn’t require maintenance, and is inexpensive enough that I don’t worry about “abusing” a book by using it aggressively to read and markup.”
    I thought the same thing at one time. When I bought a “genuine leather” ESV, I was very disappointed because it was stiff and didn’t feel very soft to the touch. Not just the TruTone, but also the bonded leather editions are softer and more flexible (and much cheaper!).
    However, after holding a Cambridge bible in goatskin for the first time, I am completely converted. It felt so soft to the touch, and opened flat so easily. At the time, I didn’t even know anything about fine bindings (and I had not been to this blog yet), I could just tell that it was a world of difference.
    And to be honest, I don’t understand the worry about abusing a nice Bible. Yes, you payed a lot of money for it, but that’s the point. If you abuse a Cambridge Bible, you should be able to keep abusing it for the rest of your life. That’s what quality binding and leather is for. Sure, you can feel good about abusing a TruTone Bible, but I’ve seen TruTones that are consistently abused, and they’re fried within 2 years. Not only do you lose all those notes, but you’re buying a new $15 Bible every 2 years. Now, I’m no mathematician, but it seems to me that buying one $100 Bible is actually the cheaper way to go. 🙂

  11. Iyov,
    Well I am in a different boat to you, as contrary to the fundamentals of the Christian faith (at least it’s popular expression), I don’t like marking up a bible, or even writing it. Even the study note versions don’t look that appealing. Just give me the text (in black only).
    This does give me the freedom to buy cheap bibles, and move from one bible to another. In the last 10 years I have bought the NSRV, ESV, NIB, REB and now NTL as cheap pew bibles. I also have a GNT which is sort of hard back. Yes their covers have disintegrated as I carry them in backpacks, but it’s no worry if I loose them or have to replace them, since they were not a expensive investment in the first place, and my notes are else where.
    Another thing which tends to loosen the binding on hardbacks, apart from rough handling, is placing paper inside the covers, and in the text. Things like church bulletins, meeting notes, etc. will loosen the cover from the rest of the book, especially over time.

  12. If you want hardback, go for it. I’ve been there and done that and now reside in the Promised Land 🙂

  13. So, can anyone tell me if the epoxy affects the flexibility of the binding? I want to add a couple ribbons to my calf-skin Crossway SCR, but don’t want any pages to stiffen up.

  14. I’ve been using those little plastic supplemental ribbon sets for 30 years and thoroughly enjoy them. They’re inexpensive and very utile. I keep them in my Kirkbride Bibles constantly. I’ve even cut them down to 2-3 ribbons for thinner Bibles. Maybe not the most elegant, but so what!

  15. Richard, where can you find those ribbon sets these days? I’ve looked recently with no success. No luck with an on-line search, either. If you have a source, it would be great to know.

  16. This last weekend (after receiving my Allan ESV–yippee!), I found my way to a craft store. I bought some ribbon and cut up a Digiorno pizza box and glued some on. It slid down in the spine, and away I went. Extra ribbons! Custom colors!

  17. I’ve grown impatient with waiting on the Cambridge ESV Wide margin so I purchased the Crossway WM (it’s functional but not primo). Cut out the original ribbon and added three. I appreciate the suggestion on the 5 minute epoxy. I had done this before several years ago but used something close to binding glue. The fast setting epoxy made it much easier. I didn’t use the pencil trick. I actually bound the pages in a bench vise and clamped together the covers above the vise. This had the effect of opening the spine to insert the ribbons and I did all three at the same time. Once dry, I inserted a piece of nylon reinforced tape to add a little strength. Works great.

  18. I use a 1979 Book of Common Prayer bound together with the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible for reading the Daily Office. It has eight ribbons, three bound in by Oxford University Press and five that I added. I use the ribbons thus: for the ordinary of morning or evening prayer, for the collect, for the Psalms, for the Daily Office Lectionary, for the Old Testament reading, for the Gospel reading, for the Epistle reading, and for the last reading (either Epistle or Old Testament).

  19. Where do folk get their ribbon?
    It seems, with the almost maniacal focus on bindings, that shoving in just any ole crafts store ribbon and epoxying doesn’t accord with a desire to achieve the highest quality and the greatest durability. I have worn out a set of store-bought ribbons in about 15 years of use–they get sliced through by the sharp page bottoms.

  20. I spewnt yesterday eveing adding ribbons to several of my bibles. I used heavy filecard stock cut to slip snuggly into the space between the spine and the binding. I found ribbon in colors to match my single or double existing ribbons ar JoAnns Fabric. An 18 foot spool of red, black and navy blue were only $1.99 each. The color and ribbon construction were very close to what in in my Cambridge Pitt Minions and Allans KJV Ruby. Three works great for me, Old Testament, Psalms and New Testament each have a place keeper now.
    I have a Cruden’s Concordance from Allans that came with a ribbon as well nd can already see a second one would be great as I am often following several references.

  21. I have finally taken the next step in adding more ribbons to my bible. I have managed to raise the headband on the bible and remove the existing ribbon and add in the ribbons I want and then re-attach the headband with the 5 minute epoxy. I’ve done this to two ESV bibles that I got from Crossway. One, a cordovan calfskin and the other a Tru-tone. I’ll try to post pics later.

  22. I’m in the process of adding more ribbons to a number of my books (not just my little NIV “beater” Bible, but also worship planning aids, Vulgate, Greek NT, etc.) This posting has inspired me. 🙂 I really like how extra ribbons add both to beauty and functionality. I have so far lacked the nerve to do anything more permanent than attaching the ribbons to a piece of cardboard that slides down into the spine, behind the text block. Maybe someday if I practice on a book I don’t care about first….

  23. I just did the “cardboard-down-the-spine” trick with my Crossway WM, after spending the princely sum of $.99 for six yards of nice, wide, Allan’s-blue ribbon. Dang, but it makes a cheap book look nice.

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