First Glimpse of R. L. Allan Personal Size Reference ESV

The second best thing to getting a package in the mail from R. L. Allan is getting an e-mail with photos attached. Nicholas Gray kindly sent along some photos of the new Personal Size Reference ESV. (For specs on the PSR, see my review.) These are advance copies with 1/5" wide ribbons, but don't worry, the production ribbons will be 3/10" wider. 

Here's the one I've been looking forward to with great anticipation: the red highland goatskin. It has dark blue leather linings and blue ribbons.

ESVP Bibles 006
ESVP Bibles 003

Then there's the chocolate brown brown in the same configuration we saw with the last series of ESV1s. The ribbons are green, purple, and brown.

ESVP Bibles 007

ESVP Bibles 001
The black edition this time around has red ribbons instead of blue, reminiscent of the limited edition ESV1 offered recently.

ESVP Bibles 004

ESVP Bibles 002
These should be hitting the market here in the US early in October. The price is Β£90. The buffalo grain ESV3s have dropped in price to Β£65, and the ESV1s are currently out of print, awaiting a reprint in early 2010. In the meantime, Nicholas has just inspected running sheets from the Reader's Edition, on schedule for an early November launch, and says they look great: "The India paper is writeable and white and the bigger margins will please note-takers. The print is 8% bigger than the Classic reference editions and this enlargement is quite noticeable on the page."

31 Comments on “First Glimpse of R. L. Allan Personal Size Reference ESV

  1. Amazing! I’ve been waiting for more info on this little edition. One question: The original text block binding from Crossway was glued… is this one Smyth Sewn like the rest of R.L. Allan’s bindings?

  2. Of course. And actually, the original text block was only glued on the TruTone. The genuine leather had a sewn binding. Check out my review (linked above) for the details.

  3. As a lover of one-column Bibles, particularly for the Psalms, I ordered a Personal Ref. ESV from Crossway. For all my appreciation of the one-column format, I found the print just too small and fine (in terms of both the density as well as the height of the letters). The book has sat on my shelf unread since it arrived, apart from occasionally being picked up due to my guilt for not making use of it. I’m glad the book will finally be bound well, and the photos are most enticing, but I won’t be spending my money on a copy. Caveat emptor.

  4. If only….if ONLY they corrected the type, this would be a grand
    slam. I find the greyish font a bear to read overlong periods of time.

  5. Whoa! The dark blue leather lining and ribbons contrasting against that red highland goatskin cover is a thing to behold. Beautiful! And as expected, the brown and black editions are wonderful also! However, I hope the font is darker than in the TruTone I have.

  6. I pulled the trigger and preordered the red one. Thanks for the pictures! By the way, Allan’s site says the red edition is “Alhambra goatskin” instead of “highland goatskin.” Anyone know the difference?

  7. I spoke to Nicholas Gray by email today about the red, he states, “Alhambra is a supple, grained goatskin which Smythson of Bond Street use in their luxury brand of leather goods. It looks and feels quite natural just like Highland goatskin.” I like the look of the red but I’m a little put off by what I hear about the readability of the text – these old eyes aren’t what they were.

  8. I agree with Benedict and others about type size. This is right at that transition to difficult reading for me. 1.5-diopter readers help but Mark’s given us the real solution…same size pages, 10% larger font, 10% fewer words per line, and 20% thicker binding. And why not? I just can’t understand why the Bible market insists their 1200-page Bibles must be thinner than their 600-page hymnals.

  9. Thanks for the Alhambra info, Gary. I suppose if it’s good enough for Smythson, it’s good enough for me. The PSR is widely available in bookstores, I think, so this is one instance where you can check for yourself before committing. Despite its faults, I like it.
    “Mark’s given us the real solution … ” Music to my ears. πŸ™‚

  10. Will the Allan PSR have maps? to my knowledge none of the Crossway editions have maps.

  11. There has been some discussion as to whether this Bible will be semi-yapp or not quite semi. The pictures suggest they have got it dead right, that is the perfect amount of overlap given the overall size. Too wide a yapp on a smallish Bible would look silly, I think.
    Initially, I planned to order the red ESV PSR, but not with blue linings and blue ribbons. I am ordering the chocolate brown instead. I think it is a better colour than either dark brown or tan.
    And, as far as I know, there will be no maps in this edition.

  12. As usual, the brown and black Allan’s editions are a work of art, but I simply can’t believe Allan’s producing this edition in red-for me it just seems so garrish…but of course I realize that’s just my taste. Personally, for me a bible is not a book that has to be so outlandishly showy. I think, for example, of the tables of stone that Moses had, or the book that was read in the NT quoting the book of Isaiah In simple terms, this particular red seems to be inconsistent with the seriousness of the message found in the book.

  13. @John
    Well, that’s an interesting opinion, and it is, as you said, just your taste, but we must be careful not to spiritualize our taste. I could also make the case that a red Bible represents the scarlet thread of redemption, or the blood of Christ or it’s kinda’ like the “garrish” colors used to clothe the priest and the tabernacle for the serious business they were to be about. πŸ˜‰
    But the honest truth is, I just think the red looks cool. The black and brown look good as well, but my shelves are filled with black and brown Bibles. The red would make for an interesting change. And if you’re carrying around a red Bible in public, you’re bound to get some questions about it. Who knows, maybe it will open up a chance to share it’s contents which matter more than the cover.

  14. John, you should do a search and read Mark’s past posts on red Bibles. It’s a traditional color. As for ‘garish’, have you ever seen an illuminated manuscript or considered the ostentation of Solomon’s temple?
    That said, I have been leaning toward the red, but now strongly considering the chocolate. I believe evangelicalbible is supposed to have actual pre-production copies in house this week with more pictures to follow. I’m anxiously awaiting more pics to make a final decision. I will say the Smythson connection is a bit of a plus for the red. And who doesn’t like to say the word ‘Alhambra’?

  15. It was noted that the ribbons would be 3/10″ wider, is that the same width as Allen’s reference ESVs?

  16. Laboring over the decision to get one of these. I’ve been using the Crossway Genuine Leather edition for over three weeks now for my daily Bible reading (slightly revised Professor Horner Bible reading system) and I love it, but if I could make one change I would agree with Bill: Mark’s solution sounds great. The thickness of the block text is not such a big deal to me, so give me a larger font, please.

  17. Why did they have to do this Bible in red? I have a PSR in genuine leather (at the time I purchased it, I intended to have it rebound so I wanted the sewn binding). Print was so small that I did not rebind. I make very limited use of this particular Bible. Why did they have to make a red binding? The font is just too difficult to read over long periods. Red. Supple red leather. No way am I going to order one of these difficult to read, hard on the eyes, garish Bibles. Well, no way am I going to pre-order one of these. Probably.

  18. Brett,
    Which Professor Horner are you referring to? I ask because I had a Professor Horner for Biblical Studies as an undergraduate, and I’m curious if it’s the same person. πŸ™‚

  19. Just to put in my two cents on the text block, I have gotten quite comfortable reading from my Crossway PSR. I purchased the Forest/Tan, Smyth-sewn Crossway PSR for under $20 from, and have been quite happy with it.
    The text did seem alittle smallish at first, but I found it quite reasonable; certainly a worthwile sacrifice to make for the brilliantly sized compact overall package. It was easy to get accustomed to, for me. I bring this Bible with me just about any time I leave the house.
    If I understand things correctly, Allan’s PSR will have exactly the same text block as Crossway’s, only the binding will be different.

  20. …I would have also like to seen “Holy Bible” stamped on the upper front cover as well. It’s a nice touch that for some reason, seems to have lost its popularity. The wide margin Cambridge ESV comes to mind as a good example of what I’m talking about.

  21. In case y’all haven’t noticed yet, the good folks at have posted many more photos to their website and to their Facebook page.
    They look gorgeous of course, especially the red. I was dubious, but I might go for it. To my eye, the blue ribbons set off the red nicely.
    The text however seems to show a lot of ghosting. I had a look at a PSR in the store, which had the same problem, and the quality of the printing overall was soso. So, cover looks beautiful, and I love the idea of a single column text, but does it make sense to get a Bible with a premium cover wrapped around a mediocre text block? Oy, decisions, decisions. They’re never easy it seems.

  22. Just pre-ordered the dark brown. any pics of size comparison between the Cambridge version ?

  23. The Cambridge is ~5″x7″ and this one (being the same text block as the Crossway PSR) is 5.5×7.5
    This one’s a little bigger, and although the font is probably no larger, it’s more readable (methinks) due to the single-column format which gives a little more wasted white space. I think you chose wisely.

  24. I’ve found the Pitt Minion to be easier to read, personally, because of the bolder type face. And the Pitt Minion is more compact. The PSR beats the Pitt Minion in its concordance, but the PSR has *NO* maps, whereas the Pitt Minion has copious maps with an outstanding map index. The complete lack of maps is unforgivable for a reference Bible, in my opinion. All in all, I choose the Pitt Minion, although I can certainly see the appeal of the PSR, and would replace my Pitt Minion with a PSR if only they would add some maps (and, preferably, a map index).

  25. Since William Kerr mentioned about the Holy Bible stamped on the cover, I was wondering if you can get that done at a Christian book store? I know they stamp names on the cover, but I don’t know if they can stamp bigger letters in gold.
    Which brings to mind another problem.
    I own three Crossway Bibles, two in Tru-Tone and my ESV Study Bible in Leather. On my Thin Line Bible, which my wife bought me, the gold printing on the spine is almost gone. Yes, it only cost her $30.00, so that may be the problem, but… is there a way to prevent this from happening?
    Like putting clear nail polish over it or something else?
    My Classic Reference is black Tru-Tone with the Celtic Cross on the cover, but the words Holy Bible and ESV, etc., are etched into the binding’s spine and I really like how that is done and the way it looks. The Tur-Tone on this model looks like old grained leather, but very soft.
    If I buy an Allen Bible, which I am seriously thinking about, will the gold lettering come off of that, too? Or does it hold up better with Leather and Goat/Calfskins.
    I have an old Dakes KJV Bible in Genuine Leather, that I have had for almost 20 years which saw heavy use, but the gold is still intact as if it was new.
    What is the difference?
    Never gave any of this too much thought until I started to read Mark’s site. Great stuff. Thanks, Mark.

  26. Sorry, but that comment was posted by Matthew and not William Kerr. My first time posting and I did not notice that the names are printed under instead of over, like on other sites.

  27. Is this type of Bible still available now? I searched the website but did not find it. I really like this size and think it is better compared with ESV compact in terms of font. Thanks for your help.

  28. To Xiao Han
    Allan’s no longer stock this Bible, though Crossway still sell the PSR in their own binding, mostly tru-tone. You can buy from Amazon. However, at the end of this month, Crossway are releasing a new Personal Reference edition, with an increased font size of 8pt instead of 7.5pt. Allan’s say they might produce these with their own high quality Goatskin bindings, perhaps next year.

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