How to Carry Your Bible

Q. I like to carry my Bible with me, but I don't want to damage it. Do you have any suggestions about Bible covers or cases? 

A. Absolutely: Don't do it! At least, don't get one of those oversized, zip-around briefcase style thingies for toting around your Bible, a dozen different highlighters, and a year's worth of church bulletins. Or one of those frilly, lace-edged ones Holly Hobby ones. Generally speaking, avoid even the appearance of kitsch. Better to hold your Bible in your hand than to sheath it in one of those things.

Maybe I'm exaggerating for effect. But I'm kind of serious, too. When it comes to protecting your Bible, there are inelegant solutions and elegant ones. The advantage of the inelegant ones is that they're easy. The market is flooded with unattractive Bible covers and holders. Christian Book Distributors has a whole section devoted to them. I don't find any of them aesthetically pleasing, and some are downright depressing. 

So on to the elegant options:

(1) Bag with fitted pocket. This is my typical solution. I've selected briefcases with the problem of keeping a Bible intact in mind, so my current one has pockets to accommodate my "carry" Bible, the ESV Deluxe Compact in pigskin I wrote about recently, and also an Allan's ESV1 if I decide to bring one along (different pocket, of course). This requires some fussiness up front — finding just the right bag — but is painless going forward, since it doesn't require keeping track of a case, and doesn't look like you're carrying your Bible around in a protective sheath. This is the most elegant approach, because it gets the job done without calling attention to the fact. 

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Above: On the left, my ESV Deluxe Compact is tucked into a book-sized pocket stitched inside a, well, pocket. 
On the right, an ESV3 dropped inside a big side pocket. Nothing else is in there, so it should be fine.


Now I realize that Option #1 might not seem like an answer, since it's as simple as tucking the unprotected Bible into an existing pocket. But that's what I like about it. No fuss. And to my mind, carrying a regular satchel or briefcase is a lot more practical than a standalone "Bible case," which won't have room for other stuff.

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Above: The antique brown ESV3 slipped into one of the side pouches of a smaller, thinner briefcase.

(2) Slipcase. For an added level of protection, there's always the slipcase. Cambridge used to supply their Bibles in two-part slipcases. Using the part the book slides into, you could protect your Bible from undue harm and still remove it easily. Library of America slipcases its hardbacks this way, and it's a great idea. Unfortunately, Cambridge discontinued the process. But you can make your own slipcase following instructions like these. Perhaps there are bookbinders who still make them, too?

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Above: An NIV Pocket Cross Reference Bible in its slipcase. Ready for anything.

The slipcase essentially functions the way a laptop sleeve would. When you put your computer in a padded sleeve, you don't have to worry about whether your briefcase or bag has a built-in compartment. The sleeve transforms any bag into an appropriate vehicle for technology. Of course, the slipcase isn't padded, so don't get crazy with it. While the slipcase is a bit fussier than nothing at all, it gives an added level of protection if you're worried about dings and scratches.

(3) Portfolio. If you're really looking for aesthetic pleasure, you could always carry your Bible (along with pens, notebooks, etc.) in a zippered portfolio. I photographed an Allan's NIV poking out of one, and people mistook it for a high end Bible case, which is what originally sparked the idea. The nice thing about the portfolio idea is that you can use it for other applications, as a standalone case. Then, whenever you want to transport your Bible, just slip it inside for carry, or put the portfolio in a larger case. Here are a couple of links: Levenger, Papworth, Aspinal. Those are all pricey, but there are cheaper options out there. I found one in my local Staples that would do the job for not much cash. 

DSC_0014
Above: A TNIV Reference Bible inside the Levenger portfolio.

Option #3 is really Option #1 stripped down to essentials. I don't know that getting a portfolio for the express purpose of carrying a Bible around makes a lot of sense, but if you have one already, it's a pretty effective, minimalist means of achieving the end.

(4) Custom. I'm not really a fan of the rustic look, but if you are, you might get in touch with Renaissance Art and see whether you can have one of their custom laptop bags made to fit your Bible of choice. They also offer a cafe-style bag that one reader, Edward Lyons, points out fits the Allan's ESV1 perfectly. He slips an Allan's Journal in the back pocket and is ready to go!

Edwardsbag
Above: Renaissance Art's Essential Satchel, true to its name, holds the essentials.

(5) Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. I can't bring this to a close, though, without making a quick case for doing nothing at all — i.e., for taking no special precautions. There's a difference between use and abuse. A quality Bible is better adapted to use than the perfect bound softcovers we so readily jam into any available space, so why baby it? Sure, it costs more, but the way I see it, you're paying not to have to take special precautions. You certainly shouldn't have to go out of your way. No matter what you do, your nice Bible isn't going to remain pristine unless you leave it in the box. So bite the bullet and take some damage. You might be surprised how liberated you feel.

* * * 

While I've exhausted all the options I can think of, I'm sure there are others I've left out. If so, please share. And if you feel the urge to set me straight about Bible covers, then feel free to do so. I look forward to hearing how other people would answer the question.

59 Comments on “How to Carry Your Bible

  1. Myself am about to buy saddlebacks medium briefcase and plan on having my bible in that for protection along with my small laptop and the other essentials :) a but high on the price but i think its worth it!

  2. “No matter what you do, your nice Bible isn’t going to remain pristine unless you leave it in the box.”
    And that’s exactly what I do. I carry it everywhere it it’s original Allan’s box. Obviously I take it out at home. In fact, that box proves to be very useful I find. If I want to make some notes on notepaper, I can rest it on the box and have something hard to write on.

  3. I am currently looking for a way to carry my bible as well, but I haven’t found a perfect cover yet, probably Portfolio within the carry bag will be the best protection.

  4. I made a cardboard enclosure a little bigger than my personal ESV which fits into the front pocket of my backpack (the bag itself is not very solid, which prompted me to do this). The this protects it from being crushed. I didn’t keep the original box, because it was not easy to reach into it and pull the bible out – so I made my own. It also helps the pages held closely together and re-straitens the cover.

  5. Ditto on Mark’s last comment regarding taking some damage. I never like to see a new Bible damaged; but there is a sense in which I can’t really use it until it’s been roughed up a bit.

  6. In general, I’m all for number 1 — carry my Pitt Minion ESV in the papers pocket of my laptop bag. Works great, especially since I’m always toting my laptop to church anyway.
    However, I have to put in a plug for those ugly custom-sized Bible covers, because they do their jobs magnificently. Leading at a youth retreat, where you have to switch between games, a Bible lesson, food, worship, and what not means that I need something to really protect a Bible and a few papers, but it really is all that I’m carrying. And it needs to be something that can get manhandled as other people pick it up and move it or use it. Keeps it dry, keeps it safe.

  7. I will always remember that Sunday morning when I saw, out of my car, my wife dropping my newly acquired, precious little Cambridge Cameo Calfskin bible into her carry-all bag that was filled with multiple sets of key-chains, big hair brushes, pens, pencils…and what nots…swinging her bag wildly while rushing towards my car…
    My heart sank…

  8. I must be odd because I WANT my Bible to looked well used. I love how worn and used Bibles look and I love knowing that my less than pristine cover and pages remind me that I take it with me everywhere. I bought it to use and mark and carry around – why should I spend extra time, money and effort to make it look like that’s not what I’m doing with it? Maybe it was my fascination with my grandfather’s black calfskin KJV he used and carried so faithfully when I was a child. I’d do my homework at his kitchen table while he studied for his Sunday School lesson. He’d turn the pages carefully because they were loose and sliding around, but he didn’t want to get a new one. His was “good enough” and he had years of notes in it. It’s the only thing of his my mother requested after he passed away and we still have it on our bookshelf now.

  9. Carrying my Bible? Left hand or right hand? Spine up or pages up?
    Seriously, I never put a cover on my leather Bibles, but I do think a cover can make a hardback Bible more comfortable and convenient to use.

  10. How did Matthew get an ESV Pitt with two ribbons? I thought they only had one…

  11. I normally carry my Bible of the day, “naked in all it’s glory”. However, the rain has gotten to the gold leaf on some and that bothers me. I don’t mind some scuffs on the leather, but the gold leaf damage bothers me. So, I have checked the Renaissance Art site and will be ordering the Essential Satchel with 9 pockets. Not too big and not too small. My brief is too large for casual carry.

  12. This is exactly why I am so fond of the full yapp, and even semi-yapp designs from Allan’s. The bibles don’t need a lot of additional protection with that feature. But, similar to what Matthew posted above, I carry an army surplus messenger bag when I am toting multiple bibles or other items.

  13. Thank you for this post, Mark! Right on!
    At Leonard’s, we see damage to spines of Bibles all the time, when people slide their Bible’s cover into the inside pockets of their Bible cases, and then dangle them by the spine when they’re carried. A spiral notebook or a pen in the same case can also inflict wounds on a softer Bible’s cover.
    If there’s a handle to any carrying case, and you have a choice of either laying your Bible spine-side-down when carried or spine-side-up, always choose spine-side down. The pressure of the weight of the Bible on the edges of the cover doesn’t do it any good at all.
    Think of carrying a baby. Would you rather carry a baby face up with your arm cradling his back, or would you rather dangle him upside-down by the arms?

  14. Although the majority of examples on the following site pose, shall I say, aesthetic challenges, the craftsperson behind the site does offer some tasteful crosses and borders, and will make plain cases. I’ve had her make two plain black slipcovers-with-snap-flaps for the Anglican Parishes Association 1928 BCP + KJV w/ Apocrypha. Their sizing is perfect and the leather used is thick and satisfying.
    http://www.custom-leatherworks.com/bible_covers/index.phtml

  15. Weekdays, I carry my Bible (mostly an ESV Pitt Minion or sometimes a compact NRSV) in the papers pocket of my ancient, hard shell, briefcase. When I travel without my briefcase, I use a neoprene case logic zip up case with carry handles that I think was originally intended for cds. The Bible, plus a thin prayer book fit nicely in there. It even has a front pocket that holds a small note pad or pen. Even though it’s a soft and flexible case, it provides a good degree of protection and liquid barrier. Taking it to church, it’s just barehanded.

  16. Anybody have a good working case for an ESV study? Too thick for most and it’s so heavy that when put in a bigger case binding down, the pages flop and can get caught/bent. I checked with some of the custom places, but I was wondering if anyone had any other ideas. I recently lost one in a “oversized, zip-around briefcase style thingies” when unknown family culprit spilt a drink on the zipper, which went straight through and into the pages. When it was discovered it had dried already… I am amazed you can’t find like a water-proof indestructible case to carry it.

  17. Thanks Brandon,
    I am thinking of doing that. The box should work well it is a nice hinged one. I e-mailed about the custom ones but haven’t received a reply yet. I have alos tried to find a place who makes the velvet type ones that you can get for gift Bibles. No luck. You’d think someone by now would have come up with some nicer cases.
    @Bruce
    An appropriate bag for spiritual warfare eh???

  18. Stephen Jones,
    Thanks for the info on the Tactical Bail Out Gear Bag. I ordered one yesterday.

  19. Dave, I have a velvet Bible cover that came with my Crossway Heirloom. I do not use it. If you are interested in it, I will send it to you. The price is FREE. The only problem is that you would have to de-fuzz it as it has been in the closet for a long time. The dust bunnies had their way with it. Let me know.

  20. For those who are mostly concerned about the pages staying safe/dry/wrinkle-free, you may consider a bible with a zipper. I understand that Trinitarian Bible Society sells a couple of calfskin KJV’s with zippers.

  21. Ok everyone here’s a web site that will answer all you prayers regarding a quality man bag to carry your bibles in: http://store.saddlebackleather.com/
    I currently have a Hartman man bag that was given to me by my daughter about three years ago so I haven’t “pulled the trigger” yet. However, my next man bag will no doubt come form this site or prehaps eBay where they sell “seconds”. From what I’ve seen and heard the leather is quality, the workmanship has a 100 year warranty and I’m still drooling… one of these days…
    Check it out (the briefcases) at your own risk….

  22. I saw Transformer 2 last night…and i can’t help but notice the Astronomy professor “resembles” Mark :)

  23. So is it safe to assume that this blog has reached the end? It was good while it lasted.

  24. I can’t imagine it has reached it’s end. Summers are slow while Mark does Worldview Academy. Hold on until fall.

  25. I was wondering if the next post would be Mark’s obit…guess the wondering can stop. lol

  26. Hello? Any chance we can get an update on what’s going on with this site?

  27. This is my man-purse:
    http://www.maxpedition.com/store/pc/viewPrd.asp?idcategory=4&idproduct=6
    It is not as elegant as a leather satchel, but it is durable, understated, and multifunctional. It has all the requirements of an “every-day carry” or EDC bag, with multiple compartments for a lot of things (including a compartment for a concealed carry handgun, if that is your thing). The main compartment is big enough for most personal-sized Bibles.

  28. Got a question I would like to ask, when someone accidently got water over their Bible pages, what is the best way of rescuing it, as you know the Bible paper will shrink when water molecules get in contact with the paper fiber. Do you first slip in a newspaper or tissue in between the wet pages, wait it dry a bit, then use a hairdryer and blow on the page?

  29. You could always opt for the classic brown paper book cover, made out of a grocery bag. A grade school mainstay that I’ve recently revived for several of my more valuable theological books. Somewhat durable, super inexpensive, and provides more protection than you’d think. You don’t have the pleasure of looking at or feeling the cover of your Bible anymore, but it does protect it. (Works best with hardcover bks.)

  30. I purchased a Cambridge KJV Concord bound in goatskin leather. I like the advice given. Dont take any special precautions. It is a well made Bible and is meant to be used, not just left in its box and used as decoration. Materiaism is rampant, and we can even become materialistic with our well made Bibles. My wife has a new Cambridge Pitt Minion, bound in French Morocco leather, and ahe uses it and takes it everywhere, but with quality craftsmanship, it will last. One percaution I do take: I take my KJV Concord bound in French Morocco out when it is raining.

  31. I want to put in a plug for the Levenger briefolio like Mark mentioned above….I have the bomber jacket briefolio that I use for work and it is perfect for carrying a bible, notepad, etc….the bomber jacket one is only about $130 I think, instead of nearly $300 like the one Mark has pictured above (it’s high quality leather too)……I’m able to fit an Allan’s Readers Edition or Cambridge wide margin, along with a pitt minion and a moleskine in mine very easily.
    I’m a big fan of Levenger products and was happy to see them mentioned here….I’ve never had any trouble quality-wise with any of their stuff and it always ships fast.

  32. If I’m not mistaken, that’s a Glaser Deal Bag in the picture under option (1) above. Speaking from experience, the GDB cannot be beaten when it comes to pockets.

  33. Hi, All! Posting my question here as it seems closest to the topic I’m asking about…
    As a result of reading the reviews here, I’m now up to FIVE nice leather Bibles…and still have at least two I have my eye on! :) My question is about storing them. I’m not talking long-term storage…just “in-between use” storage. I know standing them up on a bookshelf is NOT a good idea.
    Right NOW, I have them in Bible cases and lying flat, two or three stacked. What’s the best way to handle this situation?
    Thoughts would be MUCH appreciated! THANKS!

  34. @Dan, try searching under “storing”…Mark had a thread going in September 2007 on the topic although it never got much traction. If you have a large, conventional hardback library, there’s usually space at the tops of the volumes, before the next shelf, to store them flat, one at a time. That’s basically the best way to get at them without damaging the spine. Folks here seem to agree that you want them stored flat to keep the edges from buckling over, although I’ve proposed the use of felt or hardboard spacers that support the text block so you can store them vertically upright on a shelf without damage to the yapp edges.
    Still, that way they can get dusty with time…yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking…so the box or at least slipcase helps in that regard, but don’t you want them easier to get at? Besides, I don’t like the idea of cardboard against the leather for extended storage–you’ve already mentioned the mildew possibility. So I’d consider lining the box with Kraft or wax paper, or at least high-quality acid-free bond. For the real “specials”, I like using a zippered nylon-over-neoprene netbook case, 9″ netbook cases for the octavos and below, 10″ for larger. Good for transport in the rain too! They’re under $10 with shipping on Amazon if you look for the ugly colors from the “used” vendors, which usually just means returned (didn’t-fit) articles.
    The topic of leather treatment with neatsfoot or mink oil, automotive leather seat products, etc gets discussed here occasionally but it usually turns divisive–it’s like religion, you know? :-)
    Our dear Donna McCormick, over on Mark’s blog I believe, had some impressive pictures of her stash of Bibles and their storage. Sure would like to see Mark’s!

  35. This post may be dying, but I’ve been keeping my calfskin leather bible in it’s original cardboard case. However, I was wondering if sliding it in and out of the snug-fit case would wear the leather down somehow? I’m not opposed to just keeping it in my bag, but I always prefer to keep pages from getting bent or torn. Any idea if the slipcase will ruin the leather over time?

  36. Sounds like a good plan, Sean. My concern was leaving in a slipcase for long periods in a mildew-friendly environment. If you’re taking it out regularly, that’s not a problem. It even offers the gilded edges some rain protection. And if the case starts getting worn on the edges, a little clear packing tape should fix things up for another few years.

  37. This makes me want to laugh; there’s actually a fashionable way to carry around your Bible? Really? Well, I’m not one to judge, I guess, and the article was interesting enough. I generally carry my things in a briefcase with little care for their condition, so what do I know, eh?

  38. I’ve seen a couple Bible covers over the years that I liked, but I agree most of them are awful. Just the other day I was in a Christian bookstore looking around at all the schlock, and saw an entire wall of bible covers. Easily 90% of them had a handle running down the spine so one could carry it like a purse. Riiiiiight. Thaaaaanks.
    For about 20 years I had a portfolio that I literally wore out. I still miss it.
    Today, I have become a crossbody bag kinda guy. Mine is made by Tumi, all brown leather with no metallic hardware, just a soft leather pouch with a folding flap for protection that stores a bible or two and some pens and a notebook. It’s the sower of the seed look. If you know what I mean. Hey, at least it ain’t a purse. It’s nice to have my hands free, too.

  39. Someone tell me. How much do I have to spend so that when I carry my bible around (in OR out of a case) it will not detach from the spine??

  40. Gee Wendy, sounds like the heft of the text block is being accelerated at a different vector than the covers. I hear there are some clergymen that shake their Bibles in the air or at their congregation and have such detachment problems but you state the problem is only when you carry your bible. Are you an astronaut? Regardless, sounds like you need a cover that keeps the text block firmly in contact with the rest of the Bible. I suggest a slightly undersized neoprene rubber cover like they market for laptop, netbook, or pad-based computers. Try a bunch until you find one that snugly fits your favorite bible when it’s zipped up. Then you’ll be ready for blastoff or whatever else is detaching your spine.

  41. I found some gorgeous higher end ($65-110) leather bible covers at Leatherology http://www.leatherology.com/SearchByCategory.aspx?CategoryCode=Book_Bible_Covers. Some are masculine, others feminine, even ‘your’ dreaded purse model. I’m a woman so I like the more femme styles. ;-). I like a cover on my Bible outdoors because it rains a lot here, and I’m the type to drop mine in a puddle- oy!
    I saw some covers there which do carry the bible spine down. I probably will get the organizer because I like to carry notebooks and pens with the bible. I never write in my Bible so I do need to carry a separate notebook. The one I like has has both pen slots and elastic rings.
    I see the organizer version doesn’t come in sizes, fitting ‘up to’ 10 inch Bibles, so I was a little concerned about slide, but then it might not be an issue carrying the Bible spine down. I’ll buy one for my new ESV Clarion and see how it works.
    If not, I did see some nicer covers at Christianbook.com in the $44 and up range.

  42. I have a question on how to care for a high end leather bible. I am planning to buy the ESV 1 Classic R.L. Allan TAN Highland Goatskin but was concerned with a few reviews I read. Some are saying that oiling and maintenance is required to keep the leather from cracking. Has anyone found this to be the case? If so, how do you care for a nice leather bible?

  43. Why protect it. I write and take tons of notes and drawings from what I learn. I carry mine everywhere. It is falling apart but at the same time I want to give it to someone when I’m done and they have all my notes.

  44. I wanted to give Bob Siemon Design a plug. They make the finest leather bible covers and cases today. Although the cases are expensive ($48.99) they do the job. I have a black bible case, a burgundy bible case, and I just ordered a brown bible case for my Allan ESV Reader’s bible in dark brown I just ordered as well.

  45. I too use a Bob Siemon zippered case to carry my Bible and notebook to church. I place it in very carefully with the spine resting on the zipper. I have a large vine design with beige and brown! It’s beautiful and feminine. I alternate beyween my kjv concord and my semi yap longprimer. As soon as I make it through the church doors, I take it out…so noone really sees it. I never put pens inside…just in case!

  46. In the spirit of the discontinued Cambridge slipcases that Mark mentioned in this post, here’s a hack I performed on the case that came with my Cambridge Clarion:
    DIY Slipcase with Pencil Holder
    Pretty simple: Cut out one side of the box, slice out grooves to better grab the Bible out of the case, wrap the whole thing with craft paper, glue it all together. I also included a holder to clip a pen or pencil.

  47. I want a bible cover case with the KJV verse of John 3:16 only begotten son everlasting life.

  48. For Bible class I find a small zippered case that also hold a thin pad and pen is perfect. I can pop the entire thing into my everyday tote with no problem. If you’re thinking of giving a Bible case to someone–a friend or minister–I suggest you ask them how they like yours so you can give them exactly what they want. Or surprise them with a “pick it out yourself” gift online. Try intergalacticshipping.com and click on Home & Garden/Luggage/Bible Covers. Nice selection, very reasonable prices. I got mine there and it’s just right.

  49. Cigar boxes rock for carrying Bibles…plus it’s fun in the mean time while you empty the box.

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