R. L. Allan’s NIVC1 in Dark Brown Highland Goatskin

This is going to take some explaining. Let's start with the hat. It's a foldaway trilby from Christys' of London, and as the name suggests, it's claim to fame is that you can fold the thing up and stick it in the red tube. 


Above: A foldaway trilby from Christys' of London, a storage tube, and some gloves.

Below: The same hat, stuffed inside the tube for safe keeping.


Okay, so what does this have to do with the Allan's NIVC1 in dark brown goatskin? Is it starting to dawn on you? "Oh, no he isn't … "

Yes. I am. Before:


And after:


Your eyes do not deceive you. That's a Bible measuring approximately 6.5" x 10" x 1", and I just rolled it into a tight circle and stuck it in the foldaway hat tube. And there was plenty of room to spare. So would you like to know more about this Bible? I thought so.

If you've been reading Bible Design Blog long enough, it should be familiar already. This is the same NIVC I wrote about in March 2008, only back then it was bound in fairly stiff, grainy brown calfskin. Very attractive, but not the sort of thing you'd want to pack away with your trilby in the travel tube. Now the NIVC1 is back, sporting an incredibly limp, leather-lined natural highland goatskin cover.

It makes a bit of a difference.


Above: The NIVC1 in highland goatskin. A nice makeover.

I've recently waxed eloquent about short, fat Bibles, but even there I alluded to the fact that a tall, wide, thinline seems ideally suited to certain kinds of binding. When you put a liquidly limp cover like this one on a Bible with as generous a footprint as the NIVC1, the result is almost magical. A big, floppy text block with a big, floppy cover equals … well, you can see what it equals. Something remarkably tactile and compulsively touchable.

Inside, the NIVC1 looks familiar. This edition sports two ribbons instead of one. Otherwise, things have stayed the same. This is a cross reference edition of the NIV complete with concordance.


Above: Now the NIVC1 sports two ribbons.

The difference is on the outside. As I mentioned in my earlier piece on the calfskin NIVC1, I happen to love that pebble grain cover. The brown calfskin covers Allan's has made, while stiffer than natural goatskin, take color dramatically, making them striking subjects to photograph. But the goatskin covers are as much for the hands as the eyes. You might think the pebbled calf looks as good or better, but believe me, it feels nothing like the new goatskin cover.





Above: The old NIVC1 and the new, side by side.

The layout of the NIVC1 is not my favorite. That honor still goes to the NIV Bold Print Reference, which features the most compulsively readable two-column text setting I've ever come across. This one is quite good, though, and where the Bold Print Reference looks very modern and up-to-date, the NIVC has a classic air, a sophistication that its thicker cousin doesn't necessarily possess. 


Above: Getting all artistic with the double column layout.

The more flexible cover transforms my sense of the NIVC1's size. I remember trying to hold the original on my lap in church, always struggling a bit with the form factor. Thanks to the rigid cover, there was no folding the sides over. Open flat, the footprint measured something like 13" x 10", more than a handful. But the natural goatskin's limpness abolishes that impression. The cover drapes gracefully, and can even be doubled over without damage to the spine or leather. 

This is one of the advantages of a flexible cover that people often overlook. "I could never hold that thing in one hand! It would flop over!" In reality, you fold one side under and things are just fine. It makes managing a larger Bible that much easier.


Above: The trim size of a limp Bible doesn't equal its footprint. As you can see, one side can be doubled over without damaging the book, making a large Bible much handier. (Rocks sold separately.)


Above: A detail of the text.


Above: A detail of the concordance.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that a limp cover is pure necessity, without even a hint of luxe splendor. There's plenty of that, too. In fact, my guess is that for the first couple of weeks, you'll find yourself holding this Bible even when you're not reading — giving it a twist here and a bend there, telling yourself you're helping "break it in." As I said, this cover is compulsively touchable. Matched to this large, thin text block, the highland goatskin comes alive. You may have other Bibles similarly bound, but you don't know this hide until you've experienced it like this. Fluid, flexible, water-like — it soon exhausts the metaphors.


Above: A C-curve, shot from above, gives a great idea of the cover's natural grain.

After opening with the hat tube, a little yoga seems almost anticlimactic. But it's not. When you look at these shots, pay attention to the long, low oval formed under the spine. A stiffer cover supports the weight of the text block more, resulting in a rounder opening. When a Bible sinks into this low-slung posture, you know the cover is especially limp.



Another thing you might not appreciate without seeing the inside of the cover (below) is how thin it is. The fit and finish here is splendid, a testament to the bookbinder's craft. The inside is a darker brown than the cover, stamped HIGHLAND GOATSKIN in gold foil.


The cover inspired me to experiment with other angles, trying to illustrate just how flexible it feels in the hand. They might require a little explaining, so here goes. Below, you see me pinching the lower corner of the NIVC1 between thumb and forefinger, then letting the rest hang freely. Note how the cover rolls in harmony with the text block. Pure poetry.


Again with the curls — this time (below), I stood the NIVC on its edge, then let the weight naturally arc the cover downward. The slouching elegance of an unstructured suit jacket.


Finally, though perhaps not as dramatic, this graceful, almost meandering curve, like a bend in an art-gilt river:


Ecstasies aside, the popularity of the NIV over the years means that it remains one of the best supported recent translations. There are many different editions out there for people who use the translation. The NIV has been around long enough that some are vintage, too, with the corresponding up-ticks in quality. 

Even so, I find that the NIVC1 occupies a unique niche, thanks to its size. I've written about a variety of NIVs at Bible Design Blog, but this has to be the biggest. Cambridge offers the Pitt Minion and (if you can hunt one down) the Pocket Cross Reference, both quite handy. The Bold Print Reference from Allan's was larger, but is no longer available. But the thin, deceptively huge NIVC1, now clad in limp goatskin, seems rather unique. I like it … but then, that much should be obvious by now.


* * *


The NIVC1 lists for $145 at EvangelicalBible.com, the US distributor for Allan's Bibles. It's available in both black and brown. New stock is expected shortly, and editions in buffalo grain goatskin (designated NIVC3) are also available for pre-order as of this writing.

NIVC1 in Black Highland Goatskin

NIVC1 in Brown Highland Goatskin

You'll find a complete listing of editions and pricing at the Allan's NIVC1 page at Bibles-Direct.com, too.

30 Comments on “R. L. Allan’s NIVC1 in Dark Brown Highland Goatskin

  1. I’ve often wondered if doubling over a bible is hard on the signatures? Any idea?

  2. I haven’t had any problems. Typically, I fold one side over, relying on the flexibility of the cover, which means the spine is at a less acute angle than when it’s opened flat. Folding at the spine — the way people sometimes do with little mass market paperbacks — would be a bad thing to do.

  3. When I click on the links above, I see a price of $160. Am I missing a discounted price somehow?

  4. This looks like a result the current exchange rate. The GBP is closer to the value of the dollar now. The exchange rate has been in our favor (in America) for quite some time now, but it looks like things are changing.

  5. I believe this is by far the best review of any bible I have ever read. Mark is known for extensive, detailed reviews but this one takes the cake.
    In an unrelated note, I recently had a Cambridge NASB wide margin in goatskin start to come apart. I sent it in to get a replacement and they have started making all of the new wide margin goatskin bibles with a rounded spine and outside stitching just like on the new ESV wide margin. Most of you might know this but I wanted to share.

  6. Oops, I think I got my point across, but I made a mistake. To simplify things, the value of today’s dollar is less in relation to the GB Pound than before. Just 2-3 months ago, the same Bible would have been $20 cheaper.

  7. “I haven’t had any problems. Typically, I fold one side over, relying on the flexibility of the cover, which means the spine is at a less acute angle than when it’s opened flat. Folding at the spine — the way people sometimes do with little mass market paperbacks — would be a bad thing to do.”
    …it just seems like a lot of stress to be bearing down on that fragile connection, i.e., the threads and holes that hold the signatures together. Sounds like a question for a binder.

  8. There’s no stress involved, at least no more than would be produced by opening the Bible — and if it can’t stand up to that! The bending is not at the spine, but at the cover, and there’s no additional “pull” on the binding. The only thing being stressed is the board under the cover. If it’s leather-lined or has a flexible board, no problem. If it has a stiff, unyielding board, it either won’t curve or it will crease at the curve (which is why some covers, after ‘yoga’, have a bend in them that has to be massaged out — like the photo I posted of the genuine leather PSR).

  9. I have now listed a veritable plethora of rare and unusual NIVs on Ebay, including the Cambridge Leather Lined Celebration Text Bible, a Hodder and Stoughton Russet Calfskin Thompson Chain Reference, some R.L.Allan’s Bold Print Reference Bibles in Black and Brown Kidskin, a Hodder and Stoughton Pocket NIV Textbible in Black Calfskin and a Zip and the NIV Study Bible in Black Goatskin. Check out my items for sale on:-
    If you want to e-mail me and make an offer on any of them then please do through my Ebay shop…I am very open and friendly and want these to go to a good home!

  10. Mark, How does this bible compare with the Allans’s ESV 1 Higland Goatskin Tan. Do you think I would be happier with the slightly larger size since I am used to much larger bibles?

  11. Exquisite pictures and text. I am eagerly awaiting your other textual offerings this fall.

  12. Is this bible black letter? I can’t seem to find that info on any of the sites.

  13. David, yes this is a black letter Bible. Most if not all Allan Bibles are black letter.

  14. If you had to choose between this and the Cambridge single-column NIV bible, which would it be? I am a Navy chaplain, so I need something large enough to read from the pulpit, but small enough to take on deployment (ship or land). Also, I am particular about a high quality text block. I prefer one not printed in China.
    BTW, I haven’t received it yet, but just purchased a Pitt Minion ESV as my first ESV bible. My intention is read through it over this year and therefore carry it with me all the time. I assume it may be a little small for my regular preaching Bible, but if you would recommend that size for my overall needs listed above, I might consider a Pitt Minion NIV as well.
    Thanks for any help you can give.

  15. Chaplain Neil, the text in the single-column Cambridge is highly readable, including from a podium/pulpit. Many on this forum, who aren’t even big fans of the NIV, consider it their favorite bible because of its readability. For my eyes, the text in the Pitt Minion is positively tiny. I can’t imagine reading it from a distance, although of course your mileage may vary. However, it has references, which if you only have space for a single Bible, might be a considerable factor. Have you seen both? They’re really quite different animals.
    Crazy idea alert…A lot of Walmarts still have the $15 “version” of the Cambridge that you could compare to any number of Pitt Minions (even if not an NIV) that a quality bible bookstore should have on hand. Should make the decision easier, if you can see them (or approximations of them) side-by side. And rest assured, the Cambridge is far more beautiful than the utilitarian Walmart version!
    Or you could buy both and get deployed on a carrier. I understand they’re pretty big.

  16. As a former carrier squid, I can tell you that while they start out big, they get very small after about six months at sea. But I was an enlisted man; all officers get palatial suites, right Chappy? 😉

  17. I’ve tried to post a couple of times, and it hasn’t worked for some reason. I went with the NIV single column Cambridge and preached from it this last Sunday. It is extremely legible, though just a tad heavy and large for carrying around. It will likely be my regular preaching Bible when I preach with the NIV, but it would also make for an excellent reader from home as the single column is well suited to longer periods of reading. Does anyone have a particular ESV that someone would recommend for the same above specifications?
    BTW, the ESV Pitt Minion is the perfect size to carry everywhere, especially when it is necessary to pack light, but the text is on the small side. Also, I have yet to be stationed on a carrier, but from what I’ve heard the state rooms are palatial compared to other ships;) I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I get my chance. Thanks again for all your advice. I am currently stationed n Naples, Italy so I have to order any Bible I buy online.

  18. John, The Allan ESV Reader is a fantastic Bible, with a large, very legible font, though it’s two columns rather than one. Like your Cambridge NIV, it’s a little too big to slip in your pocket, though.
    I don’t have the extensive knowledge of quality Bibles that a lot of people here have, but the clearest and easiest-to-read text that I’ve found is in the ESV Waterproof Bible, of all things. The font isn’t especially large, but the “paper” — actually plastic — is extremely opaque and the print is very crisp and clear. I bought one out of curiosity, and have been very pleasantly surprised. Again, it’s not pocket-sized, and it’s heavier than most comparably-sized paper versions, but it’s also dang near indestructible.
    In fact, if you’d like one, email me at lechroom at gmail dot com. I’d be happy to send one to a fellow salty dog, just to thank you for serving.

  19. Jon, for single-column ESV’s, I think your choices, from small to large, are
    1. the Personal Size Reference: typeface is bigger than a PittMinion but still pretty small
    2. the Literary Study Bible: only about 15% of the bulk is the literary notes, which many here sort of ignore. Text is quite readable.
    3. the (recently discontinued) Single Column Reference: This is not “paragraphed” but verse-by verse. Very generously-sized type, but this is a big, fat Bible, considerably bulkier than your new NIV.
    4. the ESV Study Bible, avail in Compact (about the size of 2), Regular (a little bigger than 3), and Larger Print (absolutely huge). Unless you really want the notes, I doubt the ESVSB is what you’re looking for.
    Quite frankly, none of the ESV single columns approach the Cambridge NIV in readability (and cult-like devotion!) although there’s some with good eyes that are really digging the PSR, which is even available in a deluxe Allen edition.
    For 2-columns, the Reader is probably the best if money is no object. Chris isn’t the only one who likes the Waterproof, although I haven’t seen one yet. I’d throw in the ring the “value thinline text” edition which can be had for $10, although it’s hard to beat the price Chris is offering you! It is remarkably readable and portable. It’s not “my favorite bible” by any means but I find it’s the one I use the most because I can keep it stored on my printer within hand’s reach without fear of cracking the printer’s plastic case like some of my other volumes would!

  20. Bill’s right, of course … the Value Thinline rates far above its price tag. The Literary Study Bible is also a really nice single-column, with a good layout out and notes that are both very interesting and remarkably unobtrusive and easy to skip past. If you’d rather have the Literary SB, let me know .. I have one I was about to sell at the local used bookstore, so you’re welcome to that one instead.

  21. Love this Bible. My only complaint being that the blue end pages get caught on the cover, where the cover overlaps the lining. It is fraying the corners of the pages, and I’ve only had the book for a month. It is very flexible and readable though, and I love everything else about it.

  22. Does anyone around have one of these available? If so, I would be interested? Thanks.

  23. I have a brand new Allan 1984 NIV C1 in Black Highland Goatskin that I would like to find a new home for. I’m offering the bible at $119.00 plus $6.95 for insured shipping within the U.S. If interested, send me a note at ewfarmer(at)yahoo(dot)com to inquire. Cheers.

  24. I’m looking to buy a few slimline or thinline bibles (KJV). if anyone knows where i can locate some please let me know.

  25. Hi Mark,
    I’ve been on a quest for this Bible-NIVC1Br (pre-2011 translation) but have come up short everywhere. You don’t know
    anyone (perhaps yourself) who has one to sell do you?

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