Turns out what I expected to write about the new Allan's ESV3 and what I'm actually writing are two different things. Here's what I expected: "If you like the top-of-the-line Allan's ESV in highland goatskin, but this economy has put it too far out of reach, then there's a runner up edition that might do for you. But my advice is to scrimp and save until you can make up the difference, then go with the Real Thing." Not that I figured the ESV3 would be a disappointment. I just didn't think it would hold its own in a side-by-side comparison with the ESV1.
Only I was wrong.
I'm not going to say the ESV3 is better, because there are definitely some disadvantages to choosing the less expensive edition. But it's certainly a contender -- and for more reasons than just the price tag. So let's take a closer look.
Above: The ESV3 is available in Antique Brown Goatskin (above) and Black Goatskin.
The ESV3 shares one thing with the ESV1: the text block. Internally, the two editions are the same. Everything I wrote about the ESV1 text block is true of the ESV3, so I won't repeat myself here. What's different is what happens around the margins. For one thing, the ESV3 comes with standard gilt edges, the shiny gold treatment, instead of the red-under-gold art gilt option. Instead of three ribbons, there are just two -- but they're the same thick, high-quality markers you get with the ESV1. The cover is goatskin, but not the natural grained, leather-lined highland stuff. Instead, these skins are stamped with an attractive buffalo grain. They're stiffer, too. Flexible, but not limp. The semi-yapp edges from the ESV1 are gone as well, replaced by a more conventional not-quite-flush edge.
In other words, the ESV3 is what an Allan's ESV1 would look like if it came with a Cambridge binding from the 70s, only a little nicer. Not too shabby, if you ask me.
Above: The pages are gilt, the cover loses the semi-yapp edge, and there are just two ribbons. Still, it's quite nice.
The ESV3 is reserved yet refined, the workmanlike aesthetics upgraded by a seriously attractive goatskin cover. Remember the Brevier Clarendon in buffalo grain calfskin? This is a similar idea, only it's much more flexible. Presumably the flex is due to the grain being stamped into goatskin instead of calfskin, but I can't say for sure. The closest comparison in terms of feel would be the goatskin covers on Cambridge's current Pitt Minions, except that this is slightly more pliable.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but I think most of us would agree that these covers qualify:
Above: Antique Brown (left) and Black.