Tyndale Select NLT in Mahogany Calfskin

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. 

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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. 

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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Above: Note the gap between cover and text block, created by the hinges.

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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.
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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.
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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. 

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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.
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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.

36 Comments on “Tyndale Select NLT in Mahogany Calfskin

  1. Another good review. Thanks for the work you put into your reviews.
    I’ve been considering a Tyndale Select NLT and you may have pushed me over the edge. I’ve not sure if I want the mahogany or black (like almost all my other Bibles).

  2. You might be interested to know that Tyndale has evidently licensed the NLT text to Cambridge and there will be several Pitt Minion editions of a new reference Bible available in August. Bindings are black and brown goatskin and a black French Morocco. See here for more details.

  3. I have this Bible, and your pictures show the same annoying flaw that I have in my copy, the paper crinkles in the middle of the Bible when the pages are opened. I have a number of other bibles that do this as well. Also, for some reason the cover on my copy of this Bible curves up and won’t stay flat even after it has been in a heavy stack of Bibles for a long time or after I have spent lots of time to bend it the other way. All in all, I am not impressed very much with this binding. I am much more impressed with Nelson’s Signature Series Bibles. I do agree with your assessment of the layout although I have seen more readable type.

  4. I’ve owned a copy of the Tyndale Select NLT Mahogany for a couple of years now and thoroughly enjoy it. This Bible’s larger footprint provides sufficient space for a larger font size, making this Bible a real joy to read while laying in bed or some other slouch/casual position. The red font on my copy is dark, crisp and readable, not the dreaded “atomic pink” which strains the eyes when using suboptimal reading light.
    I’m personally not a big fan of Mahogany colored Bibles if other color choices are available, and the first one I saw was more of the traditional mahogany with the pronounced red hues. Fortunately our local Bible store had about six copies of this Bible in Mahogany when I was visiting, and I had the opportunity to review and compare all of them side by side. I was surprised at the color variation between all of them in that no two were exactly the same color. I got very lucky and grabbed the one that had the most distinctive brown hue to it. It is very similar in color to the Allan’s ESV dark brown goatskin, although it doesn’t have anywhere near as nice a grain pattern as the Allan’s Bible does. Its worth the effort of shopping around if you’re looking for a particular hue of Mahogany for this wonderful Bible.
    On a separate note, I’ve got a question regarding the 2nd Edition NLT translation which is used for this Bible. Take a look at the following verse:
    Ge 3:16   Then he said to the woman,I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.
    Notice “desire to control your husband” as something new? I’ve never seen another translation use “control” before in this context, including the 1st Edition NLT translation. I never formally studied Greek, so I was wondering if some of the readers of Mark’s blog might have some insight.

  5. Mark, thanks for the review. Beautiful photos! You’re right to conclude that we don’t cherry pick products to send out for reviews–you’re also right that we’d be happy to replace your copy (or anyone else’s) if there’s a trim error. Steve, this applies to your concern about the cover, too–I’ve never seen a copy of Tyndale Select do that–I wonder if your Bible was exposed to extreme heat in the truck on the way to the store. Tyndale customer service’s number is 1-800-323-9400.
    CA Dave,I can add a bit of insight to your question on Gen 3:16. The Cornerstone Commentary series includes translation commentary on the NLT and this is what commentator Allen Ross says about “control” there:

    The word “desire” is rightly translated in the NLT as “desire to control.” The word has often been assumed to mean physical desire, based on its use in the Song of Songs (Song 7:10). But that desire is not a result of sin; it is not a curse. Song of Songs is written in praise of the union of the sexes in marriage as God intended. Genesis 3 is an oracle declaring the effect of sin on the human race. The clue to the interpretation of this word comes from its use in 4:7, where God speaks to Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you [lit., "its desire is for you"]. But you must subdue it and be its master” (lit., “you can have the mastery over it”). It is that kind of struggle that is intended in 3:16, a struggle between desiring to control and mastering. This is not what God intended in a marriage; it is what sin looks like.
  6. Unlike others, I was considering this bible and your excellent review has caused me to wait for something better to come along. I am glad that this will no longer be the ‘only game in town.’ It’s quality does not seem to justify its price tag.
    Ryan

  7. Laura: Thank you for posting your response. Very informative and helpful. Perhaps someday Tyndale will do this cover with a single column text and cross references within the inside column hint hint :)
    Ryan: Amazon Price is at $85. For whatever its worth, I can tell you hands down this is an awesome Bible for its price. The premium calfskin cover on mine is very supple and soft. It’s an absolute joy to hold and read because of its nice sized footprint but thin thickness. A friend of mine has the ebony version and it looks great and has the same feel to it. The upcoming Cambridge Pitt Minion version sure sounds appealing, but I kind of look at the Pitt Minion size as having a completely different utility in that it’s about 1/3 the size compared to the Tyndale Select. Probably best to play it safe and get both :)

  8. I too own this bible, and obtained it by mail, sight-unseen.
    Unfortunately, it demonstrates the rather poor quality of binding I’ve noted with Tyndale bibles since back in the ’70s. (I still have a leather-bound Living Bible from back then!)
    The page stack (the convex hillock of pages near the centerline of an opened-flat bible) is lumpy and irregular, or one might say “wavy”, due to poor compression and stability of the center binding. My particular copy of the NLT also has the mahogany leather cover bound considerably off center, both from left-right and top-bottom directions, and slightly rotated (skewed) as well, making for a really sloppy-looking bible! Maybe it was a “Friday-Bible”, but Tyndale’s QC really leaves something to be desired. :)
    I can put up with the paper bleed-through, but the binding is truly mediocre. There’s no comparing a binding like this to that on any Allan bible, and for those who do own a Long Primer, you’ll find the page stack to be solid and the center binding tight.

  9. All that you people with the bad bibles have to do is contact customer service of the bible manufacturer and I’m sure any of them would be happy to rectify your problems. We’ve even heard on this blog of a bad bible or two coming from Allan’s. It happens. But don’t gripe unless you can’t get satisfaction from the bible maker. If you make an effort, most of them will bend over backwards to help and make sure you return as a customer.

  10. Why did Allan’s stop making their NLT bibles? The ones I’ve seen on ebay look great! If Cambridge is making a pitt minion, can a wide margin edition be far behind? If so, sign me up!

  11. Jeff I own a Allans NLT Bible (bought on ebay around a month ago) It is a great Bible from allans. Note it is not leather lined and the print is a bit small, but readable. I had emailed Allans around 4 months ago to see if they still sold copys and they do not. To answer your question along with other Bible version Allans just feels they want to go forward with other Bibles and leave some older version ( note the NLT Bible is from 2001). And if you noticed the Bibles being sold on Ebay and other sites noted in this blog there were other Allans Bible never sold again.

  12. I realize that Allan’s probably didn’t have much success with the NLT or they would still offer it. I’ve been contemplating an NLT and the one reviewed here is the one I like. But, as I stated above, I believe I’ll wait to see what Cambridge offers. It’s not Allan’s, but a well made Cambridge wide margin would be worth the wait (if they make one).

  13. Just received my new wide margin Cambridge NASB in goatskin. So nice I’m scared to open it!!! But then what good is a Bible if it’s not read, right? Anyway, I thought I’d post this because it was this sight that offered everything I needed to make my decision. As a minister, this is a great Bible and I plan to use it from the pulpit. Thanks for the great information. Helped a million.
    Marc S
    Beaumont

  14. What is the price of this Bible?? I am looking for a NIV Bible where can
    i get a NIV indexed with leather cover for a decent price.
    Thanking u in advance.

  15. There are two deal breakers for me with this Bible: the wavy pages in the center (“gutter”?), and the little margin space in the middle where the pages meet.

  16. Thank you Mark! I’m NLT big fan since English is my second language. Every blessing from Argentina!

  17. FYI, I just got the ebony version and the ribbons come about three inches out of the bottom, so they’re quite a bit longer than the ones in that picture. Hopefully it’s a quality control issue.

  18. As a result of listening to Garrison Keilor (!) reading a Gospel harmony (ISBN13=978-1598870169) I’ve become quite impressed with the NLT and was fortunate to receive a large-print Premium TuTone Slimline Reference from my daughter for Christmas. Mine is ISBN 978-1414313986 with new copies available for <$20 from Amazon sellers. The synthetic leather is the best I’ve seen, wonderful to touch, and I like the “in-paragraph references” approach for reasons I’ve stated elsewhere. I generally prefer single-column layouts, but at 9-10 words-per-line, this one avoids seeming choppy during reading. The only draw-back (other than the red-letters!) is the ghosting, which is just at the ragged edge of what I’d call being tolerable without using a black backing paper. Judging from the pagination, this is the same printing as the Tyndale select model Mark is reviewing. And judging from Mark’s pictures, the ghosting is just as bad in his “select” edition.
    So my question is, does Tyndale use the same text block, including even the same paper, in its select editions as in their imitation leather editions at 20% the street price? This won’t be the first time publishers have done this. We’ve got to get through to these guys that it’s not just the binding; we also expect top-of-the-line paper to go with top-of-the-line prices.

  19. Thanks for yet another solid review Mark and for causing my wallet to become lighter…again. ;)
    I went with the NLT Select in Ebony Calfskin and couldn’t be more thrilled. A lot of the problems that you and others who commented above experienced simply did not happen to me. Maybe it’s because I have the ebony calfskin edition. Who knows?
    Anyhow, below are 100 pictures of my incredibly flexible Bible. For all those debating whether or not to take the plunge, trust me, it’s well worth it. Enjoy the pics…
    http://kowalker.com/2010/02/05/100-pictures-of-my-tyndale-select-nlt-in-ebony-calfskin/

  20. Mark,
    You mentioned this line below in your review above:
    “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…”
    You were right on.
    I was at a local Christian bookstore and opened the Mahogany Calfskin and it did just that: It wouldn’t lay flat. However, my Ebony Calfskin edition laid flat right out of the box. The Ebony Calfskin is so much more flexible, softer and overall, feels way more durable in the hand.
    Anyhow, on a side note for the commentators above, I replaced the two, very cheap, short, 2″ black ribbons on my Tyndale Select NLT Ebony Calfskin with 3 longer, 4″ red ribbons. The ‘red on black’ is AWESOME! Below is a link to view the pics. Enjoy…
    http://kowalker.com/2010/02/06/tyndale-nlt-in-calfskin-with-3-red-ribbons/

  21. These appear to be out of print now…that was fast!
    Does anybody know how to get ahold of one of these? I have looked high and low and can’t find one. I suppose it would be a better investment to just wait on the Allan NLT next year but would love to have one of these Tyndale editions….

  22. Dale, I have one that I would be willing to send to a good home. Mahogany. mashmouth(at)gmail(dot)com

  23. I believe R.L. Allan will be binding the next run of these. They said they were doing the slimline reference edition, which I believe is this text block.

  24. No I think the slim line is smaller then this edition, I have the first edition allan bound and it’s print size was around 8 pt I think this may be the same print size for the new one Allan will be binding. The select edition has a larger print size and it is calfskin.

  25. Does anyone around have one of these available? If so, I would be interested? Thanks.
    chris(dot)fodera(at)gmail(dot)com

  26. This might have been the only NLT 2nd Ed with a sewn text block! Luckily that’s changing:
    http://tyndale.com/Premium-Value-Compact-Slimline-Bible-NLT/9781414364636
    Granted the covers are just plastic, but the edges are gilded and the textblocks are sewn so they’re ideal candidates for re-bind. I note the dimensions and page count of the large print edition are quite similar to this out-of-print “Select” edition…I have one on order.
    CBD only has page samples for the “personal” size edition, but it appears to be an all-black text as well, similar to the “Mosaic” but without references.

  27. Well my Premium Value Large Print Slimline Bible NLTse certainly arrived quickly. It’s pretty much a one-trick pony. The sewn textblock is nice, and I like the all-black text, but that’s about all to commend it. The cover has to be the crummiest artificial leather I’ve ever seen, although it does look durable. The paper is pretty poor, hardly worth a $100 re-bind. It has a newsprint feel, and the ink just doesn’t make a good, sharp impression. Comparing it to my glued Premium Slimline [end-of-verse] Ref Ed Large Print proves there’s a lot more to a book than sewing. The tactile feel of the old TuTone is much better, the paper and ink is much lovelier to touch and see, and it’s a bit wider, so that there’s an extra word-per-line in each of the double-columns, which makes it read better. It’s the same layout as the Select that Mark reviews above, and possibly the same paper, just the signatures get sewn in the Select and get cut and glued in the Premiums which saves a few seconds of manufacturing time.
    But the biggest issue with my new $15 bible is the way the text is printed all the way to the bottom and outer edges. I’m not kidding, there’s only ~1/4″ of margin. (Zondervan does this with their cheap bibles too–like they’re trying to save every last penny of paper.) I think the ESV legacy and the hype about Perfect Renaissance Layouts, etc has made me appreciate the importance of sizable outer margins in “framing” text, away from distractions etc.
    I’m not one to write in Bibles. I just know that it’s easier reading my old Premium Thinline with half-inch margins even if the inner text is somewhat rolled into a glued gutter. (Both are 9.5-10 point type and the fonts are similar enough to be a matter of taste.)
    Still, it’s far from being a great Bible. But for those of us who need bigger than Pitt Minion type size, there’s not a lot of choices out there. Why can’t Tyndale make a NLTse like the 1st editions which were available direct from Tyndale in some lovely leather covers, comfortable margins, excellent paper & ink, etc? Or just re-release this “select” edition Mark reviewed 3 years ago?
    OTOH, if you like the NLTse and you just want one to keep in the glovebox, it’s hard to beat these new sewn bibles for the price!

  28. Mark, what brand is your leather bag? And where did you get it?

  29. The bag in that photo was by a brand called Medium — as far as I know, it no longer exists. Just a standard messenger-style bag in leather.

  30. Re: But for those of us who need bigger than Pitt Minion type size, there’s not a lot of choices out there…
    So true. In fact, THERE AREN’T ANY. As a pastor of a large church that is contemplating switching exclusively to the NLT because of its clarity and accessibility, I have been shocked to discover that there is not a single premium version available that is appropriate as a pulpit bible. No not one. Although the Pitt Minion is a fine Bible for personal use, the fine print and tight text block does not lend itself to use in the pulpit. And, the slimline version being proposed by Allan is hardly any better. For this purpose, the NLT select was a decent choice, but is no longer available. Frankly, what I’d really like to see is a good basic Allan or Cambridge Bible available in a reasonable 9-11 pt. font.
    Allan, Cambridge, Tyndale… PLEASE! Those of us who make a living using the NLT need a good basic NLT Bible in a readable text and a quality binding. Surely someone can profit by this void in the NLT line up.

  31. So what is Allan offering, supposedly in October of 2013, in a premium large-print NLT???
    http://www.bibles-direct.co.uk/products/?c=60
    There are some large-print NLTs out there with lousy text-blocks. Hope Allan isn’t just putting a nice cover on one of them.
    Could maybe some of these “Tyndale Select” sewn textblocks still be available? Or possibly another print run was commissioned?

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