Thin is in, which is a good thing. And a bad thing. First, let's get the negatives out of the way. Because we like thinline Bibles so much, I think publishers may be a bit reluctant to come out with an edition that's too thick, for fear that we'll reject it. As a result, certain design virtues — like prioritizing the page spread over the book — can be squeezed out. Since the ideal single column setting I'm always stumping for requires larger print, it'll be thicker than its two-columned cousin. So the last thing I want to do is set an artificial width limit.
Above: The Tyndale Select NLT in Mahogany Calfskin. When it comes to slouching, it's no slouch.
Not to mention, with so many people growing concerned about inordinately translucent paper and its impact on reading, I want to be circumspect is cheering for slimlines, since one way to cut the fat is with gossamer-fine pages.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I have to admit … I like slimlines. A lot. And not for the reasons you might think. Personally, I appreciate the way a thick book fills the hand. My ideal size for a single column Bible would be something akin to Oxford's combined NRSV and Book of Common Prayer, a small, fat volume I can't help but love. But I can't think of a form factor that shows off the beauty of a limp cover better than a large, skinny thinline.
The Allan's Long Primer is a great example, and so is their new NIVC in chocolate brown goatskin. The natural leather comes alive in the form factor. You see the same thing with the Nelson Signature Slimline, the Holman Legacy KJV, and the Classic Thinline ESV. Thinlines and limp bindings seem to go hand in hand.
And you can add another one to the list: the Tyndale Select NLT, available in both mahogany calfskin and ebony calfskin. It's a generously proportioned, slender, two-column text-only setting of the New Living Translation, printed on fine paper and bound in limp, beautiful calfskin.
Above: The mahogany calfskin is midway between tan and dark brown, attractive and versatile.
I snagged a review copy of the mahogany calfskin edition, and the first thing I want to share is an obvious flaw. Not because I think it spoils the Tyndale Select, but just to get it out of the way. Also, because I've been asked before whether publishers cherry pick their best to send me, I think this will demonstrate how far from true that is.
The title page of my copy was somehow pushed back during the printing process, folded accordion-style on itself, so that when the text block was trimmed, the bottom corner went uncut. When I fold it flat, there's an overhang around the corner, as you can see:
Compared to many of the anomalies I hear about, this is fairly major. But the solution is as simple as keeping the page folded, or snipping it with a pair of scissors. Or you could send it back for a replacement, which the publisher would no doubt be happy to supply, along with profuse apologies. In my case, though, it didn't seem like that big a deal. As a matter of fact, I kind of like it, which is why I never performed the necessary surgery.
Trust me, though, unless there's a hiccup like this, you're never going to notice the title page, because you'll be too busy looking at the cover:
Above: Grain this way, grain that way.
Natural skins inevitably show variations, and mine has a unique grain that reminds me somewhat of the NASB New Testament
that Alan Cornett had rebound by McSpadden Bookbindery awhile back. I've always loved that look, and while the "wrinkle" effect is much less pronounced here, I still find it very interesting. The cover itself is extremely thin and flexible. Pinching the corner between thumb and forefinger, you can literally peel it back to reveal the lining.
The fact that this brown Bible has a black lining leads me to suspect it was bound by Abba Bibles in Mexico City, but that's just a guess. Some people like that brown/black combination, and others don't. If you call into the latter category, then the ebony (i.e., black) calfskin cover is for you.
One of the first things you'll notice opening the Tyndale Select NLT is the reinforced hinges on either side of the text block. They prevent the text from laying perfectly flat, but I'm guessing they up the rating on the sturdiness scale by a mile. Not delicate, but they convey a "built to last" quality in keeping with the overall package.
Above: Sturdy hinges keep the text block from laying against the cover, creating that plumed effect. The binding is sewn, and the page edges feature gold gilt.
Above: The flexible cover drapes elegantly when the spine is supported.
Inside, there's plenty to praise and one or two quibbles. First the praise. From the beginning, the NLT has had attractive, readable layouts, and this is no exception. The Tyndale Select is clearly a reader's edition, dispensing with references to provide maximum room for the text. The trim size is roughly 6.5 x 9.25, so this is a nice big page spread. The font size is 9.8 points, which is quite generous. This is a red letter edition, but the red is red, not pink, so it's on the readable end of the spectrum. Reading from this edition is a pleasant experience, thanks to the clean design and generous size.
But the photo above illustrates my quibbles, too. As you can see, the ribbons are on the short side. The function a ribbon is meant to serve is simple enough. It marks your spot so you can open directly to a particular page. Think a moment about the biomechanics involved. You pinch the ribbon protruding from the bottom of the Bible, then slide it outward until you reach the page edge, using the ribbon's length to lift the text open. But when the ribbon is too short to poke out past the bottom corner of the page, you can't use it for its intended purpose. Another inch or so and these would be good to go. As it is, they're merely decorative.
My second quibble is not unique to the Tyndale Select. As the proceeding photos show, there isn't much room at the gutter — the place where the inside margins meet — so the text actually curves into the crease. That makes reading the words at the edge difficult. The hinges contribute, since they prevent the text from opening as fully as it otherwise might. Even so, a little more allowance at the gutter would have made for a more elegant appearance.
Above: Note the gap between cover and text block, created by the hinges.
Like other soft calfskin covers on the market, the Tyndale Select shows satisfying flexibility. If the size gets to be too much, you can fold the cover under and it becomes instantly manageable. Where the Tyndale Select seems to differ, though, is the leather finish. Where most soft calf covers these days tend to have a matte, non-reflective surface, this one has a bit of shine too it. Not so much that it's glossy, but enough to catch the light. This is subjective, but I think it gives the Select's cover a slightly more refined look.
Above: For a sense of scale, compare the Nelson Signature Slimline NKJV to the Tyndale Select. The extra height and width takes full advantage of the cover's limpness.
Above: The Brevier Clarendon from Allan's in brown calfskin, the Nelson Signature Slimline NKJV, and the Tyndale Select NLT.
I suspect that for some readers, the large format will seem like a downside. In spite of its thinness, this is far from a compact edition. But I find myself appreciating the size more than regretting it, not only because of the way it showcases the leather, but because it helps facilitate the goal of easy reading. Besides, the thin spine does mean that, in spite of its larger than average footprint, the Tyndale Select is still easy to tuck in your bag or briefcase.
Above: The larger size means the Tyndale Select takes up more room in your bag, but it's slender, too, so there are no complaints.
Above: With its elegant raised bands and refined leather, the Tyndale Select would not look out of place on any shelf — though I don't recommend storing softcover Bibles this way!
When the Tyndale Select NLT was released in late 2007, it was the only game in town. If you wanted an NLT with a sewn binding and quality calfskin, this was the only option. This year, Cambridge is apparently planning to release an NLT of its own, adding to the mix. While the thought of a Pitt Minion NLT will no doubt thrill the translation's fans, I think the Tyndale Select is going to hold its own. For sheer reading pleasure, it's a winner, and in spite of the proliferation of soft calfskin covers out there, this one still manages to look unique. There are some flaws, as I've pointed out, but if the New Living Translation is your favorite, then the Tyndale Select is a great way to enjoy it.