"Like trying to hold water in my hands … that's what my first experience with the Cambridge Wide Margin Reference Bible was like. I expected the goatskin cover to be flexible, but this was ridiculous. Ridiculously good, that is. Wherever it wasn't supported by my hand, this Bible gracefully plunged toward the floor, almost like it was wet. I half expected it to be dripping, but of course it wasn't. That's the illusion a fine, flexible binding can give."
Nothing's changed. The Wide Margin Reference is spectacular:
This time, we're looking at the NKJV. If you're new to the Cambridge drill, let me explain that the Wide Margin Reference editions are basically grown up versions of the Pitt Minion. But instead of structured covers that spring open, the Wide Margin References have luxuriously soft, indolently flexible, elegantly slouching goatskin covers. If hedonists had a Bible, this would be it.
The dimensions are 7.25" x 9". They're Smyth-sewn with two ribbons, art-gilt page edges and indulgently wide margins. Unlike the original NASB I reviewed, this one has a tiny line of stitching along the edge of the cover, presumably to keep it from delaminating.
The grain is lovely, nice to the touch. But the real story is the limp flexibility of this edition. It's a heavy blanket of wide margin goodness, conforming to the lay of the land (or in this case, the hand). This Bible is the skin-and-wood-pulp embodiment of that Saturday morning, heavy-lidded, there's-no-way-I'm-getting-out-of-my-warm-bed feeling. If you don't like that degree of flexibility, Cambridge offers this setting in French Morocco and even a hardback.
But don't cheat yourself by getting one. The goatskin is fabulous. It's what a wide margin should be. With a more rigid cover, a Bible with such a large footprint might get in the way. This one folds over without complaint, a willing handful.
Bible yoga? Yeah. Not a problem. The Wide Margin Reference even bends its knees, as you can see below. In fact, that reminds me of my brother — not because he's flexible, but because he's the funniest person I know. He does an impression of Sean Connery saying "Welcome to the Rock" that cracks me up every time. My wife doesn't get it. "He doesn't even sound like Sean Connery!" Yeah, I know. That's part of what makes it funny. Point is, when we're together, I always want him to say his funny lines. He hates it, but I needle him until he gives in.
The Wide Margin Reference is the same. Once it's in your hands, you're going to keep twisting and turning it. "Do your little trick! Come on!" You'll be in church, bending it this way and that at inappropriate moments. Your family will be embarrassed for you. But you know what? You won't care. In fact, you'll pity them for what they're missing.
This is all well and good, but the real test of a wide margin Bible comes inside. The Wide Margin Reference offers generous outside and lower margins, decent ones up top, and even a tiny bit of space near the gutter. If you use it for preaching or teaching, all that space will come in handy. As you can see, this is a red letter edition set in double columns — essentially the same as the NKJV Pitt Minion I reviewed earlier. The Cambridge roll-out strategy seems to consist of the one-two punch. The slender Pitt Minion for everyday carry and the Wide Margin Reference for study and teaching. Makes sense, if you ask me.
The nice thing about using the same setting in each edition is that the page numbers correspond. Psalm 120 is in the exact same place on page 522 in both the Pitt Minion NKJV and the Wide Margin Reference, because the page spreads are mirror images. If you're one of those people who finds passages by remembering where they were on the page, going back and forth between the two couldn't be simpler.
According to Baker Books, the US distributor of Cambridge Bibles, the ESV Wide Margin References should make their appearance in February '09. The thought makes me giddy. They'll be available in black goatskin, brown bonded leather, and a gray hardcover. That's why, as I noted at the outset, I've been holding onto this one. If you use the NKJV, you can be happy now, and if you're waiting for the ESV, this gives you something to look forward to.
I mean, just look at this thing. The cover refuses to sit still, insisting that you curl it up, fold it over, and let it hang limply from your outstretched hand.
And when it's time to settle down and read, to take notes or transfer teaching outlines to the margin, the Wide Margin Reference will relax into a supine, responsive flatness, ready for contemplative action.
You can find these at various locations, so be sure to shop around. I'll include the Amazon links for reference: