Deluxe Compact ESV in Tan Pigskin by Leonard’s Book Restoration

I get a lot of e-mail asking questions along these lines: "I've just purchased the amazingly beautiful new Bible you recommended. Now how can I take care of this thing so it stays pristine?" Sometimes I'm tempted to suggest dropping it from a second floor window. Not because the sudden impact will preserve the cover's glossy sheen, but because the resulting damage will make the idea of "taking care of" your new Bible seem silly. 

Don't get me wrong: I understand the impulse. And share it. But the reason to invest in a quality Bible isn't so it can look shiny and new for years to come. You spend the extra so, when you don't take care of it, the thing won't fall apart. 

After all, if regular use turns into abuse and things get really bad, you can always have your Bible rebound. That's what I did recently, though in this case it was a preemptive rebind. I'll warn you now, it won't be to everyone's taste. But hopefully this will serve as a first-hand introduction to the subject of rebinding, and introduce you to an excellent rebinder: Leonard's Book Restoration

Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Comparison

So what did I do? I had a Deluxe Compact ESV rebound in natural tan pigskin, simple as that. (In the photo above, you can see the result on top, compared to a vintage pigskin wallet below.) First let me explain why I chose the Deluxe Compact, and then we'll get to the pigskin.
For years now, by bang-em-up, go-everywhere Bible has been one of the original Compact ESVs rebound in tan calfskin, which my wife ordered for me from LeatherBibles.com as a Christmas present. It's a rugged little Bible, giving the lie to the notion that there's anything "delicate" about quality editions, requiring special love and care. 
Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Comparison 2



But it suffers from a couple of drawbacks, the main one being that the text is smaller than a Cold War microdot. Now I happen to like small type, because it goes hand in hand with a compact Bible. But even I think there's a problem when I'm holding a book six inches from my eyes just to make out the words. Crossway agreed, which is why they introduced the Deluxe Compact, which is ever-so-slightly larger than the original, with a darker, easier to read font. The moment it came out, I decided to upgrade. Sadly, while the Deluxe Compacts feature sewn text blocks, there wasn't a calfskin edition available. To replace my stand-by, I'd have to have the Deluxe Compact rebound.
The goal from the beginning was practical: I wanted a durable, flexible cover for a Bible that will spend a lot of time stuffed in briefcase pockets (as below) or jumbling loose with other stuff. It might even be jammed in a jeans pocket and sat on from time to time like its predecessor. 

Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - In Pocket


If the original was so good, though, why replace it? Small type aside, there was another problem, one that seriously impeded use. The one thing I wanted from the rebound Deluxe Compact was a Bible that would open flat. Since the original Compact ESV had a glued text block originally, the rebound version had to be sewn in a funny way (no intact signatures, remember), which kept it ever from opening flat. Or really opening for that matter. At best, it was always half shut. Take a look:

Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Open Flat


The rebind glows in comparison, as the picture above demonstrates. We'll talk more about the cover in a moment, but first, let me explain about the pigskin. Pigskin is supposedly bottom line, an economy option. If you've read Animal Farm, you know there's nothing noble about the pig. My understanding is that "genuine leather," the ubiquitous mystery skin, is in fact sourced from our friend the swine. This fact isn't apparent at first, because the skin is typically stamped with an alien grain. The stamping process also contributes to stiffening the leather
I've been in love with pigskin for awhile. I have a vintage pigskin wallet that's simply beautiful. My dream gloves (when you live in South Dakota, you dream about gloves a lot this time of year) would be in tan pigskin. So I decided to try it on my Deluxe Compact. Only I wanted a natural grain — a pigskin cover that declared its origin. The photo below illustrates the natural, large-pored grain. (As always, you can click to enlarge.)
Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Grain Detail


I'd discovered Leonard's recently, and I was impressed enough to get in touch. We exchanged e-mails and I found they had a nice natural tan pigskin. To give the cover the maximum flexibility, I opted for a thin suede leather lining. You can't see it, of course, because it's underneath the cover, but the results can be felt. Compared to other rebinds I've handled, this one is rewardingly suppled. The suede added $20 to the bill, but for me, it's worth it.
Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Open


Naturally, I opted for three ribbons. Why do I insist on three? It's pretty simple. Crossway's Daily Reading Bible comes with three, coordinated its three-part reading plan. One ribbon stays in the Old Testament, one in the Psalms, and one in the New Testament. My old Compact had black ribbons and liners — a bizarre choice for a tan Bible — so this time I opted for wine-colored liners and matching ribbons. In the photos, the ribbons came out a little redder than in life, thanks to the studio lights.


Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Page Spread


Above, the Deluxe Compact layout. Yes, there's bleedthrough. And in this photo you can see a little of the damage the text block picked up before rebinding, especially that odd anomaly in the gilding on the left-hand side. I'll say more about the text block in a bit. 
The workmanship is quite good. In the past, I've emphasized that there is often a certain "rustic" quality to rebound Bibles. Unlike the mass produced product we're accustomed to, these are individually made. They don't look like they just rolled off the assembly line. In terms of fit and finish, they can be slightly rough. But as you can see in the photos, this one has a polished look. And it feels as good as it looks. "Very soft," my wife commented the first time she handled it. 
Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Three Ribbons


Flexibility is a hard thing to quantify, but I'd describe this Bible as limp without being "floppy." It doesn't pour out of your hand like a big Cambridge wide margin in goatskin, but it does shift and mold in a satisfying way. Perfect for a Bible this size. 
To try and illustrate this, I snapped the photo below with the Bible propped up at the spine. The cover curves gracefully downward. I didn't take the usual yoga photos, so let me explain why. This Bible curled up exquisitely into yoga poses, but the moment I put it down to photograph, it uncoiled. I wasn't fast enough to get a focused shot. But take my word for it, the cover is flexible.

Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Flexibility


The photo below illustrates a couple of things. First, you can see wine-colored liners. The color is represented accurately, and you'll have to imagine the ribbons more in line with the darker shade. Once the light hits them, they brighten considerably. In life, it's a harmonious match.
Second, note the little rip on the page. As I mentioned, I sent Leonard's the Deluxe Compact I'd been using for awhile, so it had some little nicks. It's also fanned out a little, which I've noticed on other people's Deluxe Compacts. As I said in the intro, this is a Bible for use. Part of me wishes I'd sprung for a fresh Deluxe Compact so everything would be perfect for awhile, but the reality is, this Bible's going to have a lived-in look before long, so why not now?

Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Liners


My favorite photo of the rebind is below, because it shows off the pigskin grain so well. The color is tan, but it's a bright, orangey tan rather than a darker brownish one. I'm not sure whether it will darken with use or not. No doubt you'll be seeing more photos as it ages, so we'll find out together.

Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Bottom


Below, another look at the gilding. The gold doesn't last long on today's Bibles, I'm afraid. No use crying over it, but it does make me grateful for nice art-gilt edges. One thing I had on the original Compact that I didn't get this time around is a semi-yapp edge, which helps protect the page edges. There's some overlap, as you can see, but frankly I forgot to ask if Leonard's could do semi-yapp. 
Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Side


One last shot of that beautiful grain. I realize not everyone will like the natural pigskin look, but I think it's interesting, and much prefer the idea of natural grain to stamped. (Though I have a soft spot for water buffalo grain calf, as everybody knows.) 

Deluxe Compact ESV in Pigskin - Cover


When the new Bible arrived, the first thing I had to do was gather up the other brown and tan Bibles I had handy, just for comparison. First, I stacked the old and new Compacts on top of the old and new Allan's ESVs in tan highland goatskin. (The old Allan's is on bottom, the newer one on top.) Look at all the pretty grain.

A Study in Tan


Then, I stacked up everything I had handy. From top to bottom: the LeatherBibles.com Compact in tan calf, the Deluxe Compact in tan pigskin, the Allan's Clarendon KJV in brown water buffalo calf, the Nelson Signature NKJV in tan calf, the new Allan's ESV in tan highland goatskin, the original Allan's ESV in tan highland goatskin, Crossway's Thinline ESV in cordovan calfskin, and the Classic Reference in cordovan calfskin. I believe the LeatherBibles.com Compact, the Nelson Signature, and the two cordovan calfs were all bound by Abba Bibles in Mexico, so the photo gives you a comparison of their work, Allan's, and the example from Leonard's. 

Tan and Brown

Most of the rebinding projects I highlight on the site are someone else's. Since I don't get to see the vast majority in person, I'm not in a position to comment. Hopefully you've appreciated this more in-depth look at a rebound Bible. One of my goals is to do more first-hand reporting on rebinding in the future.
In closing, a little advice for those thinking about having a Bible rebound. (If you've gone through the process yourself, feel free to share your insights in the comments.) First, have realistic expectations. Second, avail yourself of the list of Rebinding Links in the right hand column. Explore the sites, get in touch with the rebinders, ask all your questions. Third, look at all the rebinding projects highlighted on the site for an idea of what to expect from each rebinder. Then make your choice, send your Bible, and wait.
My experience with Leonard's was excellent. We had a thorough, detailed correspondence in advance, and they were great about updating me on progress along the way. From start to finish, it didn't take much more than a month, and the cost for a project like mine was just under $100 shipped. 

26 Comments on “Deluxe Compact ESV in Tan Pigskin by Leonard’s Book Restoration

  1. That looks wonderful. I personally really like the look of pigskin. Based on an old leather portfolio of my grandfather’s that dates from the early 1930s, I can tell you that it is very, very durable and that as it ages it picks up a really wonderful patina, if that’s the right word to use for leather. If you use this bible every day, spill coffee and your take-out Chinese dinner on it, handle it with greasy hands and generally give it ordinary everyday treatment (in contrast to the way we usually handle bibles!) it will still be looking and performing nicely when your grandchildren get it. Enjoy!

  2. Mark,
    First, let me say that I am going to copy you immediately (although with a different Bible). Second, I just HAVE to know about the comment concerning the binding on the two cordovans. I purchased a thinline years ago in the cordovan and it is my favorite binding of all. I finally decided to purchase the cordovan in the classic reference — it was a piece of junk. Do you know if Abba stopped handling these Bibles? I want a classic reference IDENTICAL in feel to my thinline, but cannot find one (the one I purchased is a significantly thinner and stiffer leather). Is there a difference in your two cordovans? Thanks for the great photos as always.

  3. I’ve been talking to Abba Bibles for the past couple of days on rebinding my paperback One Year Bible. I want it to look more like a journal since that’s how I’ve used it for the past couple of years. They said that it wouldn’t be a problem and it would take about 3 weeks! We shall see.

  4. As far as the small print goes it’s a problem for me. I recently e-mailed Allan’s to thank them for the wonderful job they did on my ESV1 and to ask in the future if they might offer an ESV in a format similiar to the Longprimer. I received the following e-mail from Nicholas Gray in response.
    Dear Tom
    Thank you for your enquiry. We’re so glad that you like your ESV1 Bible. The indices at the back of our KJV Bibles are linked to that translation and so we can’t put them into the ESVs editions. The Longprimer is a beautiful, larger print setting that has encouraged us to consider a larger setting of our Allan ESVs later in 2009. So hopefully that will happen later this year.
    KInd regards
    Nicholas Gray
    This could be their best production yet. An ESV with full yap and the print size of the Longprimer. I hope they do it.
    I told him I thought he’d sell everyone he could make even if he charged a 100 pounds a piece. The ESV1 is a beautiful Bible and I can still read it without my glasses but it is small enough I don’t think it would be practical for older eyes. There may be some one of kind custom bound ESV’s with a full yap out there but I don’t believe anyone but Allan’s would even consider doing one as a production Bible. Better make sure you have an extra $150 or so lying around by the end of 2009. It would be tough to pass on this one if they do it.
    Tom

  5. Can anyone give me a price range for rebind from Abba bibles? I have not be able to reach them for this information and would love to have a bible rebound.
    Thanks so much.
    Tony

  6. Can anyone give me a price range for rebind from Abba bibles? I have not be able to reach them for this information and would love to have a bible rebound.
    Thanks so much.
    Tony

  7. Tony,
    My quote for the One Year Bible ( size being 8″ x 5.3″ x 1.5″ ) that I’m sending today (hopefully) is $45. That doesn’t include what it’s going to cost me to ship it to them in Mexico and if they are going to charge me for shipping it back. That does include the leather rebinding, personalization, and 2 ribbon markers. The leather that I’m using is just pigskin, not goat or calfskin or whatever by the way. If you click on my name, you’ll see what it’s going to look like when it’s done. There is a pic of a lot of bibles and the style that I chose is the one in the middle with one strap, but in chocolate.
    Here is the Contact Info for the person that I’m speaking with there:
    Lic. Lorena Villeda Valdez
    International Projects
    Abba Design SA de CV
    lorena@abbabibles.com
    Hope this helps.
    JM

  8. John — Is this the same glued One Year Bible with the pages falling out you posted about earlier? If they have to sew that together, because the signatures aren’t intact, you’ll get a book that doesn’t open right (like the one pictured above). I doubt it will feel as good as it does in paperback. I know you can get hardback One Year Bibles … maybe one of them is sewn? Regardless, all the best with the project. I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

  9. Thanks alot John…I did get a response from Lorena and actually spoke with her today. I am sending my bible today.
    Mark- thanks for such a great and informative site.
    Peace and blessings,
    Tony

  10. Hmmmmm…Well, It’s practically falling apart anyway so anything would be an improvement on its longevity. I did send them pictures of it beforehand.
    I would buy a hardback and send them that if it wasn’t for the fact that I have tons of things written in this one already, which is what makes me want to preserve it. It’s getting the year off since this year I started using an ESV Personal Size Reference for my yearly reading of the Bible.
    I’m gonna post about that too…because it’s your fault I got it. :)

  11. I’m a regular imp of mischief, I know. :) Now I get it. Preserving notes — maybe the #1 reason for a rebind. I’m interested in seeing the turnaround time. My enthusiasm for sending something to Abba cooled a little when the guys who did last year ended up waiting so long …

  12. I don’t understand why anyone would want a Bible where you can’t read the material closest to the center crease of the book. The layout photos above demonstrate exactly what I’m talking about. It seems that most Bibles nowadays have that problem. Why in the world do they bind a book like that? Does it bother anyone else other than me?

  13. I don’t understand why anyone would want a Bible where you can’t read the material closest to the center crease of the book. The layout photos above demonstrate exactly what I’m talking about. It seems that most Bibles nowadays have that problem. Why in the world do they bind a book like that? Does it bother anyone else other than me?

  14. Tom,
    I would love for Allan’s to produce an ESV Classic Ref., full-yapp, black, highland goatskin (three ribbons!) My ideal.

  15. Mark,
    Great posting as always. The bible looks amazing and the review was great. I am looking forward to see pictures of John’s One Year Bible project once is completed.

  16. Mark,
    I didn’t know where else to ask this so I’ll just post it here – what Bible do you use most frequently for teaching? For example, if you were regularly teaching through a book of the Bible on Sunday mornings at church, what Bible would be your own personal preference (taking into account ease of carrying, font size, presence of personal notes, etc.)? Just curious. Thanks. (I’m almost expecting the answer to be whichever Bible most recently came into your possession!)

  17. I really like the look of the natural pigskin. I don’t think I have ever seen a Bible bound in pig that has not been pressed to make it look like something other than the humble swine. I like it enough that it looks like I am going to have to go Bible shopping again to find something I can have rebound. I never thought I’d want a pigskin Bible, but here I find myself.

  18. After reading this article and went at stared at my “genuine leather” ESV for hours (ok, not hours, but a few long minutes at least). I discovered that when I held it at just the right angle in the light I could see the pores! (since, I assume, the natural grain goes a bit deeper than the fake grain impressed into it). It was pretty cool.
    Though I can see why publishers usually choose to shy away from calling it “pigskin.” It just doesn’t sound dignified enough for a Bible. :P

  19. After a couple of months drooling over the ESV Pitt Minion — the reason I found this site, by the way — I’m thinking seriously about have a Deluxe Compact redone. My good old blue Compact Thinline with the TruTone and the glued binding just doesn’t look so good to me any more. The 10th commandment’s not one I usually struggle so hard with …
    Seriously, though, the difficulty in keeping it open has been an issue in the past, and seeing a) how well yours turned out, and b) that beautiful antique blue calfskin on Leonard’s site makes me want to give it a try. Guess I’d better email Margie and hope the tax refund comes in soon. Thanks a lot, Bertrand! ;)

  20. I had a leonard’s rebind an nrsv in this leather, but i had them dye it to a medium brown. the result is stunning. it is rustic and elegant at the same time. the leather is thin and flexible. really nice.

  21. I just received back an ESV premium thinline Bible from Leonard’s, rebound in a dark brown deerskin. They did a fantastic job, and made a stiff, hideously bound Bible into a thing of beauty. It’s now soft and flexible, and a pleasure to use. If I could post pictures here, I would. Leonard’s is extremely easy to work with, and I’d highly recommend them.

  22. how may I find either red pigskin or white genuine leather with gold gilt that lays flat with font #10 in “microsoft sans serif” in as Dick & Jane simple a bible as possible — saying HOLY BIBLE on cover & my name on bottom right of cover I really want to read & understand the bible as easily as possible or I’ll never read it….
    P.S. approximately what is the cost?

  23. Greetings everyone. I’m trying to find a couple of things, first, A NASB that is large print and with Red Letter for Jesus’s words or a ESV in like manner. Second, Im looking for the best place to bind up my bible. I emailed Leatherbibles.com already and waiting forrespond. I just notice you guys was speaking about ABBA Bibble, I just emailed them as well. Now Im going to check Leonard’s website.
    However, through your guy’s experiences, which would be the better place? Maybe one who has differrent styles and differrent qualities of good leathers. Thanks for the help!

  24. Ruben,
    Leatherbibles sends their rebinds to ABBA if I am not mistaken. either way it will take you about 6 months to get it back, although the work is first rate. I am a big Leonard’s fan myself. Also, I have worked with Ace and they do good work. They are especially great if you want a quick turnaround. When I used them, my rebind took 14 days from the day i shipped until the day i got it back. Leonard’s is more like 4-6 weeks. But Leonard’s has better and more interesting leather options.
    Ryan

  25. Ryan,
    Thanks alot!! 6 months is way to long, It shouldnt take that long? 4-6 weeks sound legit. I feel more led to go to LEO’s. I’m just waiting for the bible I ordred to come in the mail; to see if thats what i want bound. Its hard looking for a bible you desire. I was seeking for a large print ESV with red letters (To hard to find). I found a Founder’s NASB reference bible with red letters and Giant print (14 pt). (Does anyone have comments on this bible?)
    If I like it, then I will email Leo’s. I wish I could find a bible company that custom make the style and referrence of a bible you desire e.g. ESV Large/Giant print with red letters not pink!. That would be so sweet!!

  26. What is the point size for the new compact? I think I have one of the earlier ones and I am going to have to find someone to give it to because my eyes have gotten worse as of late, and I realized I cannot read this thing!

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