Cambridge NKJV Wide Margin Reference Bible in Black Goatskin

I've been saving this one. Fourteen months ago, I reviewed the NASB version of this Bible, opening with a rhapsodic ode to limp goatskin:

"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:

28 Comments on “Cambridge NKJV Wide Margin Reference Bible in Black Goatskin

  1. I have this edition and i can just agree with all Mark writes in this review, it is a masterpiece, if you like NKJV this will be hard to lay down, it causes some kind of a “teddybear” syndrome that makes you allmost want to cling thigth to it while going to sleep. What grieves me even as this is a wonderful bible, is that I also have the KJV edition, now knowing two goatskin bibles can be different even as it is the same edition, I must say i wish cambridge had made the same kind of binding as with the KJV edge-lined edition. My KJV has “thick” goatskin, I would say almost double the thickness of the NKJV and I never seen or felt anything so wonderful, not even my precious allan bible come close. Dont get me wrong this is a absolute tremendous bible, but the KJV I have is just a bit better πŸ™‚
    And comparing the edge-lined edges with the Nkjv stitched, I can not understand how cambrindge can choose to make the high end editions without the edge line with the gold line?
    but other then that, this is a rolls royce of bibles
    noone will regret getting one of these

  2. I have become quite fond of brown Bibles of late. Is anyone familiar with the quality of Cambridge bonded leather? I know how nice the goatskin wide-margin Bibles are but the brown bonded leather ESV in the making intrigues me as well. I also prefer real leather linings over the shiny imitation used in these edge-lined Bibles. Cambridge seems to be phasing out the use of real leather linings, which is a shame.

  3. Does anyone have an idea how the French Morocco version fares when it comes to opening flat? If the only difference is that the cover is slightly stiffer, I would probably prefer that. I prefer flexibility with a tad bit of firmness.

  4. What a gorgeous Bible!
    Let me add another thing to make this Bible even better, imo:
    Verse format, instead of paragraph.

  5. I have this same Bible only in the NIV. It is such as beautiful as your pictures and does all the same tricks! It feels gorgeous. I love the wide margins and the type is easy to read….and I’m 52! πŸ™‚

  6. Thanks, as always, for the great review Mark. I purchased the hardback back at the end of March and then purchased a brown calfskin leather cover for it from Renaissance Art (which I also discovered here!). For the most part I have been happy with it, it is beautiful with the brown leather cover, I recommend Renaissance Art very highly! I do wish the text was set at least at 9 pt., and I would prefer verse by verse over the paragraph, that would be easier for me in teaching and preaching, but the ability to write extensively in the margins is fantastic! The concordance is very extensive, more so than the Pitt Minion I believe, and don’t forget the lined pages in the back. All in all a great edition of the Word of God in my main translation. Thanks again Mark!

  7. In the previous day’s entry about the French Morocco NRSV, someone wondered about whether “the days are gone when you could buy a Bible off the shelf at your local Christian bookshop and expect to have a lifelong relationship with it.” And then asked, “Et tu Cambridge?”
    This edition is a nice counterpoint to the French Morocco. Despite a misstep with that Bible, this Bible is a reminder that Cambridge looks fine.

  8. This looks fantastic.
    Allen also have a wide margin offering from Cambridge. I am wondering if the Allen version really has anything to offer that the original has not. Is there any difference at all.

  9. I own the Cambridge KJV Wide-Margin and Mark is right on. You want to twist and bend it all the time. It comes out of the box like liquid. You don’t have to separate the pages like in other Bibles. No pages stuck together in my KJV.
    The Cambridge Goatskin leather seems a tad bit thinner of a leather than the Allan’s Goatskin leather.

  10. Amazing bible. Plenty of space to write notes. I think I’m going to get two the KJV and NKJV.

  11. this Bible does look nice indeed. I fully understand what you’re saying in reference to the story about your brother as I recently received a long primer from my congregation and I have to admit that even while I am preaching there are moments when I make it do the yoga move :-). It just feels so good in my hands, I can’t help it!
    I am now in the market for a new King James and this wide margin may be the one, however I would really like to get one in the highland goatskin with the full yapp but I doubt that is possible.

  12. Mark, I was in The CUP bookshop in Cambridge today looking at the ESV wide margin bible. It’s certainly very nice. But I would advise anybody to get their hands on it first before buying it. Compared to the KJV wide margin Cambridge bible it is seriously wanting. Firstly, the print is rather small. Secondly, the margin space for writing notes is paltry in my estimation – at least compared to the KJV edition which has generous margins on both sides of the page. The ESV only really has note space on the right margin of any given page.

  13. Correction: my last line in the previous entry should read: The ESV only really has note space on “one” margin of any given page.

  14. I am currently searching for a NKJV(first and foremost), wide margin, softcover…. This one your reveiewing is the one I think… It is a hybrid of the one I have now which is a Zondervan TNIV (my first wide margin experience) which I will never go back to not having a wide margin! I also have a custom black goat leather cover on it and it is indeed “petworthy” (you wanna pet it) Anyhow, the binding I found was weak in addition to my opinion the translation. It is now in disrepair after several attempts of correcting separation from the spine with hot glue and clear packing tape I was unsuccessfull…. So, my question is: How is the spine quality of this Bible? Before I drop over $100 on it?

  15. Mind if I bump an old post? Love the blog! And I’ve learned so much in the comments, too. πŸ™‚
    I am seriously considering purchasing the Cambridge NKJV Wide Margin in Goatskin. It would be my first, and probably only “premium” Bible. (My primary Bible now is a NKJV New Geneva Study Bible with Genuine Leather.) Red letter usually doesn’t bother me, but I found a .pdf of the Cambridge which shows a *very* bright red: The ink doesn’t look that bright in Mark’s photos. (Although, it still looks pretty intense.) Can anyone tell me: is the ink as bright as is shown in the .pdf? I don’t think I could handle that. It will be hard enough for me to go back to double column after using my single column NGSB for so many years without also being blinded. O_O
    Many thanks in advance for any input you have. πŸ™‚

  16. *Question…I’m studying at a Bible School in upstate New York and I love to write in my Bibles. This bible seems like a perfect fit and all my teachers seem to use them and love them.
    I was wondering about the pages…are they thick enough to write on? I like to use colored pens that don’t bleed through in my softcover NLT but it’d be a shame to buy this bible to find out I can’t write in it and make it my own. If anyone has any input it’d be helpful. Thanks again and great blog Mark. πŸ™‚

  17. If you buy this particular Bible you will be able to write in it. The Bible is made to do so. I own it in the KJV and it is the thickest paper I have ever seen in a Bible. Thicker than normal Bible paper. I use the pigma micron pens in 01 tip size. These pens are acid free that won’t ruin the paper and are used for archival purposes. You will have some ghosting from these pens but no bleed through. Wide margins are great Bibles for any serious student of God’s Word.

  18. I’m looking for a Bible 8.5 inches wide, 11.25 lenght, with wide margins of 2″ sides,23/4 bottom as in KJV by the World Publishing Company, self-pronouncing edition.

  19. Robert, it sounds like you’re trying to replace a favorite Bible with an exact replica. Look on the back cover or within the frontispages for a unique number identifier like an ISBN, ASIN, or Library of Congress number. Then search on Amazon (or Google or even eBay) for matches. Good luck!

  20. For Greg Terry,
    I have the French Morocco Leather NKJV of this Cambridge Bible and your assumption is correct. It is somewhat stiffer than the goatskin version but it lies down nice and flat, perhaps needing a little push in the middle with the palm of your hand until the binding becomes more supple.
    The only thing I wish was different is the text size. At 53 years of age my peepers aren’t what they used to be, so it would be better if they went from their current 7.5 point size to something like 9 or 10.
    Other than that, this is a gorgeous Bible! πŸ˜‰

  21. Does the calfskin become limp over time similar to the goatskin? I’m trying to decide between the goatskin and calfskin models. I don’t really like the art gilding on the goatskin version. Other than that I prefer a matte look over a more shiny leather and I’m unclear which one would be more matte. The cost isn’t a major factor, but since I don’t like the edges on the goatskin edition if the calfskin becomes nearly as supple I may go for it. is there any durability difference between the two?

  22. I just bought one and it is a darling. Best Bible I have ever owned. I had been preaching from my old Thompson-Chain by Kirkbride NKJV. Love preaching from this one.
    Great stuff!

  23. I am looking for a Cambridge KJV wide margin Bible page sizes 6 x 8.25 inches and Bible sized 6.5 x 8.75 x 1.75 inches. Understand this one is out of print.
    Anyone know where I can get i or 2 of these? Absolutely love my Bible but the dog chewed up and spit out various passages and did so indiscriminately.
    Any help would be appreciated.
    Thank you,

  24. The bible is extraordinary. I want to use the functionality as it is intended to be used: The section “Index to Notes” in the back… I have ideas about how to best use this tool but unsure if there is something “official” about this tool. I was unable to find anything in the introduction or online.

  25. PLEASE, let’s do what we can to encourage Cambridge to come out with this same Bible in a larger, bolder, less crammed type point!!! I’m a Baby Boomer and it’s ridiculous that I cannot find what I need in this Bible.

  26. Thank you for your comprehensive review and “fluid photos”. I have a Cambridge KJV wide margin reference bible in Burgandy French Morocco leather. I have been window shopping for a NKJV one and didn’t understand the wide range of prices for leather bibles. Ironically my mum was looking for the same thing and one evening of joint obsessing we stumbled upon your review. Wow! I love my French Morrocco but, the goat skin looked much more flexible. 2 days later I spied a goatskin one during the service. Superlative!
    Thanks for sparing me buying another relatively firm covered bible. I had never considered this aspect but having just received mine it’s sumptuous and well worth the extra investment. While they both contain God’s word, the flexiblility of the leather is both practical and enhances the reading experience.


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