R. L. Allan Personal Size Reference ESV in Black, Brown & Red Goatskin

Nineteen months ago, I posted a very thorough review of the then-new Personal Size Reference ESV from Crossway. I liked it a lot, but still had a couple of reservations. For one thing, the 7.4 point type was pretty small, with a column width that stretched a bit too far. On top of that, the only binding options were a sewn genuine leather cover and a glued TruTone. (Later, that changed, as Crossway offered sewn bindings with the TruTone covers.) The review ended with a "wait and see" reflection:

I love the Personal Reference ESV, but I understand if not everyone does. For me it delivers most of the goods — a readable, single-column setting with a clever approach to references and a relatively compact form factor. I’ve never enjoyed reading the poetry of the ESV more, and it’s never looked so good on the page before. All in all, I’m satisfied. Having said that, what I’m waiting on is a quality binding for the Personal Reference. It’s hard to commit fully until then.

At long last, the day has come. R. L. Allan is offering the Crossway-printed, sewn PSR text blocks bound in your choice of three leathers: black highland goatskin, brown highland goatskin, and a red goatskin Allan's has dubbed "Alhambra." Each comes with three ribbons, art-gilt (red under gold) page edges, and a semi-yapp cover. 

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Highland goatskin is a naturally grained skin that offers unparalleled flexibility. Some covers, like the black one reviewed here, feature a pronounced grain, while others, like the brown shown here, are smoother. This variation comes with the territory. Alhambra goatskin appears to have a printed grain (like the buffalo grained ESV3), so it has a firmer feel in the hand, but this is coupled with an impressive limpness, as we'll see.

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The Personal Size Reference ESV is a single-column text setting with cross references on the inside margin. If you can hack the small type, the formatting aids reading quite a bit. While a two-column paragraphed text is just fine, the width of the columns tends to force awkward line breaks wherever you encounter poetry. One of the advantages of a single-column setting is that the poetry has room to breath. 

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Of course, there are trade-offs. The reason two-column settings are ubiquitous is that they fit more words into the same space. The PSR features type roughly comparable in size to Cambridge's Pitt Minion, only it's quite a bit thicker. We'll do a proper comparison in a moment, but for now it's helpful to think of the PSR on a spectrum with the smaller Pitt Minion at one end and the larger Allan's ESV1 (which is essentially a rebound Classic Reference ESV) at the other. The PSR sits right in the middle. Not as ultra-portable as the Pitt Minion, but handier than the ESV1. To me the size (7.25" x 5" x 1.25") seems perfect for carry. It fills the hand in a way the Pitt Minion doesn't, but without the extra size of the ESV1. 

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For some time now, I've used the PSR as my daily reader. Is the type small? Sure. But I don't notice much anymore. What I do notice is the reading "drag" when I switch back to a two-column setting. The reading plan I follow is the same as the one found in the Daily Reading Bible. I removed the perforated schedule from that edition, and now it keep it with whatever Bible I'm reading through. Since there are readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, and the New Testament, you need three markers to keep up with where you're at. Like the ESV1, the R. L. Allan PSR comes with three, which makes things easy.

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Style-wise, the Allan's PSR takes its cues from the most recent editions of the ESV1. On the outside the chocolate brown and black editions look like ESV1s that were shrunk in the wash. The ones pictured here are advance copies, so I should note two dissimilarities. First, the ribbons here are the usual thin variety you see on most Bibles. The actual ribbons these PSRs will ship width are twice the width. [UPDATE: This turned out not to be the case. The review copies pictured here have 5mm wide ribbons, while the production copies have 7mm ribbons. Not double the width, but an increase of about 40%.] Secondly, the semi-yapp covers here do not wrap around the text block at all, instead projecting straight out. Typically my Allan's Bibles arrive wrapped in paper which has the effect of reinforcing that curve. These didn't. I don't know what the production editions will look like, but suffice it to say, if your edges project like this at first, they'll begin to curve with use. My ESV Pitt Minion is doing the same, though its cover doesn't project as much.

While a Bible like the R. L. Allan's Longprimer (which will be available in dark brown highland goatskin this fall) has more of an old world look, with its full yapp edges, the ESVs are trim and modern. 

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COMPARED TO THE ORIGINAL PSR

If you compare the Allan's PSR to the Crossway edition, you'll see the footprint is slightly larger thanks to that semi-yapp cover. (I'm afraid my original TruTone is looking a bit beat up these days.) Although I don't have a photograph to illustrate this, it seems like the paper used on the current PSR text blocks has improved a bit from the originals. While it's just as translucent — like pretty much all Bible paper today, regardless of quality — the pages look whiter. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me, but that's how it looks. 

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COMPARED TO THE R. L. ALLAN ESV1

The ESV1 never stuck me as a "big" Bible before, but putting one side by side with the new PSR certainly put the notion in my head. They're comparable in thickness (in fact, the PSR might be a hair thicker) but the PSR is shorter and slightly less wide. As a result, it's handier. 

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Of course, the biggest difference is on the inside. The ESV1's Classic Reference layout features narrower than average columns, which chops up the poetry sections pretty good. Comparing a page from, say, Lamentations, you can see the difference. Of course, the Classic Reference type is 9.5 points, so there are pluses there, too. 

If the paper quality of the Allan's PSR compares favorably to the original, it also shines in comparison to the ESV1's Collins text block. Again, there's still plenty of translucence, but the paper looks whiter and feels a bit nicer to the touch. In both cases, R. L. Allan is binding text blocks printed by the publishers, so they don't have much control over this factor. The Reader's Reference Edition coming soon from Allan's is a different story, so if you're iffy about the PSR's type size, don't mind a double-column setting, and want a higher quality paper, that might be the edition to look for.

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COMPARED TO THE CAMBRIDGE PITT MINION

Where compact ESVs are concerned, the Cambridge Pitt Minion is really the one to beat. Nice goatskin covers that age well, an attractive double-column text setting, and the ability to spring open flat at a moment's notice, all of these make the Pitt Minion an excellent choice. Though it isn't nearly as compact, the PSR gives it a run for its money in several categories.

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First, the highland goatskin cover is pretty hard to beat. My Pitt Minion has softened up after plenty of use, but the Allan's PSR is like butter straight from the box. It also boasts three thick ribbons to the Pitt Minion's scrawny one, though you have to use your imagination in this shot of the advance copy, where the ribbon width is comparable.

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Inside, it all depends on your reading preference. Type size is roughly the same, but the Pitt Minion's double columns let it pack a lot more content onto every page, especially where poetry is concerned. For pure reading pleasure, though, I prefer the PSR's single column layout.

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Above: PSR on bottom, Pitt Minion on top.

Below: Pitt Minion on left, PSR on right.

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If you've been reading Bible Design Blog long, you know one of the things I really like about the Pitt Minion is how close the footprint is to a personal size Filofax. You can hold both in the hand at once and it feels "right," which is handy for taking notes. The larger PSR doesn't quite fit the bill here. It's not a terrible combination, but it isn't as perfect either.

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Then again, the Pitt Minion can't do this:

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RED IS THE COLOR OF MY TRUE LOVE'S GOATSKIN COVER

My admiration for red Bibles comes up again and again, and it's taken an extreme amount of willpower not to do a little verbal dance about redness up to this point. I can't hold it in any longer. I get a warm and tingly feeling every time I look at the red PSR because it's so lovely, and they got the color just right. As with the ink on red letter editions, red can go right or terribly wrong. In this case, it's a delight to behold.

UPDATE: According to Nicholas Gray at R. L. Allan, "Alhambra goatskin leather is taken from the Smythson range of luxury leathers." If you're not familiar with Smythson of Bond Street, click on the link. It's not a bad idea to shred your credit card first, though!

If you look at all the photos, you'll see that in different light the shade behaves differently. Bright studio lights give it a near atomic glow. Is it that red? Well, yes, but not all the time. Gazing at it during church over the weekend, with a ray of sunlight filtering over, the cover seemed to have just the right balance, a rich liturgical red, neither burgundy nor pink. 

The Eyre & Spottiswoode KJV I wrote about recently is surprisingly similar in size, and while the detailing on the vintage Bible is more luxe, the color is nicer on the Allan's PSR. Let's say there's a purple undertone instead of an orange, though neither looks purple or orange under normal light. Here they are side by side, the KJV on the left, the PSR on the right:

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BINDING DETAILS

Everything that's true of the highland goatskin covers we've seen before is true about these. They are thin and flexible, leather-lined, finely grained, sophisticated. They melt in the hand and bend over backwards. Reading the PSR, I can't help folding the opposite cover over (not bending the spine, mind you, just the cover) which results in a truly handy handful. I don't store soft leather covers upright on a shelf like this, but I can't help taking the photos anyway:

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The black edition comes with three red ribbons, a combination first seen in a limited edition ESV1 earlier this year. While I love the black/blue combination of the regular ESV1, I have to admit this is a classic look for a reason. The red/black contrast is very attractive. Unfortunately, it doesn't work both ways. A black cover with red ribbons is nice. A red cover with black ribbons isn't. The red PSR comes with dark blue ribbons, the same shade we saw with the black ESV1. I'm not sold on this as the ideal combination, but it works. (I'll say more on this subject in a moment.) 

The brown PSR comes with the same brown, purple, and green ribbons seen with its larger ESV1 cousin. It was an eccentric but satisfying choice originally, and I'm happy to see the tradition continue here. If you loved the brown ESV1, you'll love this one, too.

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In terms of flexibility, there's nothing but good to report. That's no surprise where the two highland goatskin covers were concerned, but I had my doubts about the Alhambra red. The feel and finish is different — the Alhambra has more of a shine, and feels firmer in the hand. But whatever the highland can do, the Alhambra can, too, as you can see:

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Above: The black PSR is stamped HIGHLAND GOATSKIN, as is the brown.

Below: The red PSR is stamped GOATSKIN.

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To prove the point, I rolled the covers in on one another and snapped a few shots. As you can see, the Alhambra goatskin is very limp and flexible. 

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More importantly, the PSR opens flat. It doesn't have the uncanny springiness of the Pitt Minion, but it's excellent nonetheless. In this photo, you can see one of the advantages of placing the references in the inner margin: the text column is completely visible, without any words creeping into the gutter.

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THE RIBBON QUESTION

Before now, I'd seen two color combinations that worked: red cover with gold ribbon (illustrated here by an Oxford Book of Common Prayer) and red cover with red ribbon (illustrated by the Eyre & Spottiswoode KJV). The PSR introduces a third, red with blue.

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I have to admit, gold is still my favorite. I would have also preferred the inside cover to be red rather than the black-or-really-really-dark-blue lining the PSR features. Feel free to disagree. It's a minor point, and I know some of you have expressed love for the red/blue combo. I can certainly live with it just fine.

THE SLIPCOVER HACK

Not long ago, I devoted an entire post to strategies for carrying and protecting your Bible. It's not an issue for everyone, but if you carry your Bible a lot, and you don't believe in dedicated covers (which can put stress on the binding), then it's nice to have options. Cambridge used to package its Bibles in a clamshell, two-part slipcase that was perfect for this. Playing around with the PSR in my library, I discovered a hack.

You could make your own slipcase, but assuming you're not handy, you could buy a Library of America edition of Edith Wharton's novels. The PSR is a near perfect fit:

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It sticks out a bit, but that's only because my semi-yapp edges haven't curved around the text block properly yet. In time, I think it will be perfect. 

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AVAILABILITY

As of this writing (October 5, 2009), the first wave of Allan's PSRs has been slightly delayed. Inventory should be available in Glasgow by the 19th, hitting the States on the 26th. Pre-orders have been strong, and those will ship first. As always, they're available for order at Bibles-Direct.co.uk (£90.00) and EvangelicalBible.com ($149.99).

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113 Comments on “R. L. Allan Personal Size Reference ESV in Black, Brown & Red Goatskin

  1. Thanks Mark!!!
    I look forward to getting mine.
    Did you notice any difference in the “darkness” of text to the old PSRs?
    I agree that I would prefer Gold ribbons on the PSR to the Blue…but for some reason I love the blue anyway.

  2. Thank you for a great review Mark. I especially appreciated your links to previous posts/reviews. Solid intel dwelling in your archives. I thought I’d read somewhere that the print is actually darker on this run Allan is using. Maybe its the whiter paper you’d noticed giving the appearance of darker print?
    This PSR does not have maps, which is a bummer, but certainly not a “deal killer.”
    For the dice players out there……..red’s away!!

  3. While I have absolutely no desire for this particular product, my hat’s off to you (though I’m not wearing one) for this brilliant review. All the effort to make the review itself concise yet informative; and then the obvious effort spent in taking excellent photographs and applying clean, clear formatting — I must say: well done. This article in its published form is so crisp and filled with publishing class. I might be a bit nerdy to appreciate such things, but so be it. Again, well done.

  4. Mark,
    Like Matt, I would like to know whether the typeface on the Allan’s is darker than the Crossway editions. I like the format of the PSR better than the Pitt Minion, but my copy of the latter is more readable because the printing is darker than my Crossway PSR. In your photos, the darkness of the typeface of the Pitt Minion and PSR appears to be quite similar, in contrast to my copies. Thanks for another great review!

  5. 150 dollars is a hefty gamble for me. I would hate to shell out that kind of money only to find it still “work” to read as the old Personal. If it’s the same text block witn gray letters, it’s a huge dissapointment. I really wish they would have ironed that out beforehand. So close, so far….tsk

  6. Thanks, Mark! These look gorgeous!
    OK, so I have a question, and this is as good a place as any: does anyone know of a good pocket/compact Bible Atlas? You see, there are three Bibles that I really like, but I’ve taken off of my list, because they don’t have maps (the PSR being one, the Compact ESV and the Pocket Companion NKJV being the other two). It occured to me that this problem could be alleviated if I could throw a small, portable Bible atlas into whatever I happen to be using to carry my Bible(s) and other sundry with me at the time. The thought of having one of those makes the idea of saving up for an Allan’s PSR alot more attractive. I agree that the PSR’s layout is really attractive, and especially well suited for reading at length in English. But when I read chunks at a time I want the maps the most, especially if it’s narrative (to better follow, for example, Saul’s pursuit of David). So, that means the PSR just wouldn’t work for me as a reader. But then, most portable Bibles don’t have very good maps and lack map indexes altogether (the Pitt Minion being the glorious exception)–try finding the Wilderness of Ziph in one of the maps in the back of your Bible! So, the thought of reading I Kings on my lunch break with a PSR in my hand and a small atlas ready for use on the table–now that just sounds great to me.
    Any suggestions?

  7. For what it’s worth, I think the newer PSRs from Crossway have a thicker paper than the originals. I own one of the first editions, but the newer ones in the store seem thicker. I’d bet Allan is using the newer text block, which would account for the “whiter” appearance of the page. Maybe Mark can compare and confirm…

  8. I’ve had my order in with Allan’s for some weeks for the Alhambra. For me it is the perfect storm: a single column, black letter, ESV, by Allans and red leather as a bonus!
    Articles like this one gives me a ‘kid waiting for Christmas’ buzz. Thanks Mark for that.
    James Flavin,
    Sydney, Australia

  9. Mark
    Has Allens stitched in any extra blank pages in front and back?

  10. Wonderful review as always, Mark! I am glad to hear that the paper is whiter than the original PSR and I can’t wait to receive mine (I pre-ordered the chocolate brown).
    One question – the font looks darker than the original PSR. If so, that would be great news – I love my PSR, but find the text to be a little too “gray”, and not quite dark enough.

  11. “Then again, the Pitt Minion can’t do this:” I could have done without that picture. Hard enough to pass on this Bible — add to it the Filofax and I am totally helpless. Your affinity for and use of red on this blog reminds me of an old “Church Chat” where the church lady was commenting on one of the church members bringing red jello to the covered dish meal. “Red jello. Well, isn’t that special. Who else loves the color red?? . . . . . Nancy Reagan . . . .no, that’s not it. Little Red Riding Hood?? No . . . . . . . . . . . saTAN!”

  12. It sounds like my choice of red was the right one. Like James, this edition looks like the perfect storm of Bible editions. Thanks for the review.

  13. I’ve updated the review to include the fact that Alhambra goatskin comes from the Smythson range of luxury leathers, which is a strong endorsement in my book. Now, to answer some questions:
    “Is the imprint darker than in the original PSR?” Yes. Comparing the Allan’s PSR to my original TruTone, I’d say the paper is better and the print impression is darker. Whether you can generalize about every page in all copies is another matter. Since these are Crossway text blocks, you should be able to get a good idea of the print impression by checking out a Crossway PSR at the local Barnes & Noble. I should point out that, I’ve been using the original PSR as my daily reader for awhile now and haven’t thought of it as having light print or even “bad” paper. It’s only when you compare that the difference is evident.
    “If you had to choose, which would it be? Pitt or Allan PSR?” As I said, I’ve been using the PSR for awhile now as a daily reader. I carry my Pitt Minion in my briefcase, where its size is perfect for one of the pre-existing interior pockets. If I could only have one, I’d have to go with the PSR because of the great cover and the single-column setting. But in real life, I wouldn’t like to part with my Pitt Minion, either.
    About maps … No, this doesn’t have maps, but frankly I’ve never found them all that useful (apart from giving me something to look at during ninety minute sermons as a kid). If I had to have maps handy, I’d go with a larger edition like the ESV SB, which offers maps and more.
    “Are the current PSRs thicker than the originals?” Yes. I’d estimate the difference at about .25 inches, probably the result of the change in paper. Don’t hold me to that number — I’m terrible at measuring stuff. But that’s what I come up with applying a tape measure to each.
    Red is definitely the “it” color on this. It looks great, and it’s quite unique. Try finding any red goatskin Bible these days, let alone one with a single column text setting.

  14. Mark,
    If you don’t mind me asking… What kind of camera do you use to take these pictures? I have tried for similar pictures with mine and I can’t get them near as good.
    The Allan PSR looks to be very good but I have to admit that the price tag for a simple carry Bible seems a bit high. I understand if this is to be your primary read, study, and reference Bible but I do not normally use these “personal size” editions for that. When Crossway now has PSR’s in Trutone with sewn bindings that you can find for about $20 I would personally find it hard to justify the cost of Allan’s edition.
    I also have a hard time with reference bibles of this size. If the font is so small on the cross references how much are you likely to use them? Wouldn’t a simple text Bible for this purpose make more sense?
    However, I could see it if you intend this to be your primary use Bible for a lifetime. I am sure some people will disagree with much of what I’ve said but that is just my $0.02.

  15. If my wife decides on the ESV for her translation, this will be the one I buy for her. I use the Allan ESV1 at home, and Cambridge Pitt Minion for travel. And the Pitt Minion still wins for slimness for a travel Bible. But if I enjoy the wife’s PSR I might make accommodations.
    Regarding Trutone and the previous post. My Pitt Minion is a Trutone Bible. Not a fan of the material, would have much preferred Goatskin. Mark has a nice post about how the Trutone doesn’t hold up and can be damaged by heat with pictures people sent in. Eventually I’ll probably give mine away so I can order a Goatskin version of the Pitt Minion or the PSV.

  16. I have been using a Trutone ESV SCR for nearly two years and it has held up rather well. Most of the wear has been due to the material not being overly supportive of a larger Bible. I would not expect the same thing in a smaller edition. (Interesting fact though: My edition is glued yet opens flat and has had no pages fall out.)
    I look at things this way (and keep in mind this is merely my opinion).
    If we assume that a Trutone PSR costs $20 and will last for 5 years (which is a bit short I think) Then it will take almost 40 years to equal the cost of the Allan PSR at current exchange rates.
    However, you can’t put a price on taste. If you simply prefer the Allan material and binding then go for it.

  17. Thanks for the review. I own the ESV1 already, but if Allan’s made this new PSR into a full-yapp it would have put me over the edge to purchase it. I hope they offer a full-yapp version of the PSR in the future, which would be go well with this handy size Bible.

  18. The latest Crossway PSRs in Tru-Tone (like the new mahogany) have the white, thicker paper with darker print. They are quite nice, and, as Mark suggested by visiting your local B&N, can give you a really good idea of the differences. Looking at pictures of the Allan, I would think the latest text blocks of the PSR produced by Crossway is what has been provided to Allan’s. If you need a cheaper, sewn version of the PSR, check out and buy the latest Crossway product. But if you yearn to hold that goat and have those extra ribbons, Allan’s is it!! Thanks, Mark.

  19. Ah, if only we could have an Allan’s Bible on the scale of and with the type size of the ESV1 (I’ve gotten very attached to my copy), but in a *single column* format! I realize that it would end up a bit thicker than the ESV1, but I would count that as an added bonus. (Maybe it could even include the apocrypha . . .)
    Hey, let me dream my little dream!

  20. Mark, thanks for answering my question (though I had forgotten to phrase it as a question :P). That is great news to hear that the text is darker and the paper whiter and better quality. That was my only worry about the Allan’s edition. I can’t wait to get mine. Now with all the gorgeous pictures of the red, I have to say that I’m rather tempted to go for the red now!

  21. Thanks for all the info J. Mark! I love this printing of the ESV-PSR.! I also work in the Oil and Gas industry and love acronyms, LOL. I just got the TTV of the ESV-PSR with the really dark green and brown. Not my favorite cover, but it will work until I can save to get a rebinding done. Note to any publisher reading this post, I will gladly give your Bible a glowing review at http://www.bibledesignblog2.com just reply to this post and I’ll hook you up! I love reading out of this bible, I think the references in the spine was a great idea. It’s like a hidden drawer in and old secretary’s desk. I also love the single column, it makes so much sense. There is a lot of love in this post. I wish that the NASB publishers would take some notes from the ESV publishers and put out some more diverse printings. The Crossway and the ESV are leading the way. I can’t wait for some of the newer translations such as the ESV and NASB to get old and have archaic texts like the KLV. TTYL.

  22. Mark,
    do you know, or has anyone else heard, will Allan be making the PSR in any other translations besides the ESV? since seminary, I’ve grown used to studying out of my NASB and preaching/teaching (especially to students) with my Allan NIVC1. If you have any info I’d love to hear about it! Thanks so much for your great work on this site!
    Bryan C. Bailey
    http://www.baileyministries.org
    http://www.twitter.com/BryanCBailey

  23. Bryan,
    If I understand things correctly, Allan obtained the PSR text block from Crossway. This was mase specifically for the ESV. I do not think you will be seeing this in the NASB anytime soon.

  24. Do the production PSR’s really have thicker ribbon markers?
    Every picture I have seen of the bibles is with the thin markers.

  25. Corey: I got mine in red goatskin today from Allans. I can tell you that the ribbons are 7mm wide. Sadly I think its going to have to be reurned as there’s a few problems with it…sigh!

  26. Matt
    No worries, I’m really sad about it but the bible has a number of what I would call faults.
    First and worst is that there are a number of red ink stains on a number of the sheets… particularly in the final couple of signatures, near or in the gutter, which I dont think is acceptable.
    Second the last signature is nothing less than loose, when opening at that part one can see through to the binding.
    Third, though not so important I guess, is a sense that the end papers are somewhat lopsided where they are attached to the lining. This just gives the inner lining an odd look. I know that these are hand finished and I’m not a total perfectionist but I don’t like it.
    Fourth, the leather cover appears to have the nasty habit of catching the corners of the text block and creasing them every time I open or close the thing.
    Fifth, (and now I’m really being pedantic) though I will probably still get a replacement copy as a single column format is what I’m after, is that the text isnt as ‘black’ as I had hoped. However I will probably learn to live with this.
    Just one of those things I guess.

  27. I think you must have been unlucky. I have just received all three colours and they are all wonderful…I can’t see any of the the flaws you mentioned. I love the fact the red has a very different smell to the other two and it feels really nice in the hand too. I hope you get a replacement and enjoy it as much as I’m enjoying mine!

  28. Alan: Its quite possible that you are correct, its not a problem, I’m sure it will resolve soon enough with a replacement from the lovely folk at Allan’s.. in the meantime I can still console myself with my ESV1T that my son has given me, so it’s all good!

  29. My ESV Personal Reference edition arrived on Monday. I live in the UK, so they are on the way for those in the States. I went for the brown: I would have preferred the red, but not with the blue ribbons and lining.
    To answer a few questions:
    The text is slightly darker than in my tru-tone Trail edition. The difference is minimal, but the improvement is worthwhile.
    There are, as we expected, no maps.
    The paper seems the same as in the Crossway editions, and the bleedthrough is the same (and a little too noticeable for my liking).
    The Yapp is wider than I expected, a full 10 mm, and just right for the size Bible.
    The ribbons are 7mm, which I made 9/32 of on inch.
    The headbands are white; gold might have been a better choice
    Overall, the Bible is superb and will for sure become my everyday Bible

  30. I’m in the United States, and I just got mine today; I ordered direct from Allan. I must say, the red cover is beautiful. Computers seem to have a hard time reproducing red, so I was a little apprehensive about what it would actually look like. I’m not at all disappointed. The leather feels a bit different from my tan ESV1. It’s a bit thinner, harder, and drier (the only word I can think of). To my mind highland goatskin feels a bit richer in the hand, but I’m not complaining. It’s every bit as nice to handle as you would expect.
    However, I have some of the problems Gary mentions. I also have the pink stains in the gutter in a number of places. It looks like glue from the spine oozed through to the page, and the pages are stuck together at that spot. I have to pull them apart, and I’m left with a blob of pink glue on the page.
    The back end pages are also attached weirdly. I can’t really say how, other than that they look a little sloppy. I wouldn’t mention it if it weren’t for the other issues.
    The think that bugs me a the most though, is that through most of the book, the pages are crinkled and puckered near the gutter, because the pages are sewn too tightly. You can hear the pages crackle when you open the book or turn the pages. I’ve seen this in too many other books, and it annoys me to no end. Have others seen this issue? I hope not every copy has this problem.
    All in all, I’m quite pleased and excited, though it’s a pain to have to deal with a return and exchange.

  31. Matt – It’s a really hard choice…I love the red and I am finding that I am using that one the most but the brown is superb, the smell and the thickness of the leather are to behold and the edition I have has a smooth texture to the front which becomes grainier at the back which is wonderful. The black leather seems thinner and more languid…so I suppose it’s a case of what you are looking for. If I was only able to have one though…it would be the brown…or maybe the red…ummm wait a second…

  32. Thought I would update my earlier comments by saying that I received my replacement red ESVP bible today from Allans, and I’m much happier with this one, it is not perfect, but it is quality. Thanks to all the good folks at Allans for a speedy turnround. Just wondering about the brown though….

  33. I just got my Allan esv psr. You all should know that the ribbons are NOT twice as thick as the samples. They are the exact same size as in all the online pictures. This was quite disappointing as I was looking forward to the thick ribbons. Not sure if I want to keep it now as it is not what I was expecting. In my opinion, a $150 bible should not have glue pouring out where the ribbons were glued to the spine, and the end-papers should be the exact same size as the text block(they’re not). No attention to detail was given to this VERY expensive bible. Thinking about going with a cambridge instead…

  34. I’m concerned and I really hope other readers of this blog can help me out.
    First, I love the Bible … I mean, God’s Word, the Bible. Thank you, our God, for giving us your Word. Please forgive me if there is any ungratefulness in me. Your Word is good and I will spend more time reading it and than I will worrying about it’s binding.

  35. Mindpotter…..I couldn’t have said it better. I am also very sad to say this PSR is not what I was expecting. I’ll go even further and say that the Crossway $20 PSR is much easier on the eyes with the paper being whiter and the print is darker….the only thing going for this Allan’s PSR is that it opens flat. When I noticed the blotchy print in the Allan’s PSR, I almost cried….what a shame. With Allan’s reputation for quality, this little PSR is a huge blunder.
    I hate to send mine back, but it’s a consideration.

  36. Thank you Barbara. I just emailed Allan to ask them if these quality concerns are uniform in all the bindings of this edition. If so, I have to be honest and say that everyone should simply return them. I am so thankful for Allan because they are among the few in the world that take the time to bind the most important book in the world so that it will last a lifetime, but that isn’t what they did this time. I would be willing to pay double just to support Allan if they would get it right in a next run.

  37. Mindspotter: I too had some problems with the first red PSR I was sent (see comments above) But I’m much happier with the replacement. Allan’s were very good about replacing mine. Having had this one for about a week now I’m starting to get used to it.
    I think that one issue is that for its footprint it is about as thick a block as I can stand. When opened it does lay flat but there is some ‘bounce’ for want of a better word in the signatures. I’m sure this will wear in with use. Can’t say I’ve noticed any blotching, and as far as the text goes its not quite as black as others but it is only a matter of degree and is perfectly legible.
    I too love my pitt minions, ESV and NASB, and still think that the Pitt Minion format is the ultimate in portable bibles despite it being dual column.
    If you’re not happy return it and see what the replacement is like.

  38. It is good to hear that your replacement was of a better quality. I’m curious … did you order direct from Allan or did you go through evangelicalbible.com? If evangelicalbible.com, did you do your return through them or through Allan directly?
    Thanks for the feedback.

  39. No worries, I ordered directly from Allan so all I did was email them with the faults as I saw them and sent it back. I received my replacement in about a week or less.

  40. After reading these reviews I think it is important to keep a few things in mind.
    1. Mark’s Review of the text block was that it was as dark or darker than previous Crossway PSR bookblocks.
    2. The Allan PSR is bound by Allan full stop. The book block was purchased from Crossway, as Mark has stated on several occasions. These are no better and no worse….they are Crossway PSR bookblocks.
    3. I have both a Crossway bound PSR and Allan PSR-and the book block is virtually identical. The binding is what differentiates these 2 Bibles. Remember that most Allan Bibles have non Allan Book blocks.

  41. I’m having the same sorts of problems that others are having…and quite frankly, I’m disappointed in the quality of the finished product. First, the cover and binding job on mine was superlative except for a small tear in the lining where the text block meets the cover, so in my case, Allan gets a reprieve. However, the text block is what I’d call awful. A blotchy print job throughout, hard to read text (even when it is all there) because of the fuzzy gray imprint, just not a well-executed printing by Crossway. I was really expecting to get something of the quality of my ESV Study Bible (paper and typeface) as the innards of this Bible, but alas, this is no where near that quality. And of course, that is Crossway’s fault.
    And quite frankly, since we buy our Bibles because of what lies underneath the covers rather than the covers themselves, I can say that my goatskin ESV Pitt Minion blows this Bible away – there really is no comparison. The PM has fine paper, an easily readable black print (for my eyes), and still has a lot of the quality features of the PSR (though the cover and lining is no where as nice, obviously). But am I the only one that feels that in terms of binding the ESV, Allan is forced to put an unbelievably good binding and cover on inferior text blocks? The ghosting of my tan ESV1 keeps me from using it regularly and relegates it to the role of me picking it up, holding it, thinking “wow, this is nice”, then opening it and wondering why I kept it after seeing the inside. I know Allan is the best Bible binder in the world, but if what you’re binding is not top-notch, then the nicest goatskin doesn’t make up for the real “meat” of the Bible being flawed. It really is my opinion that when comparing the total product between companies, that Cambridge is far in the lead in binding the ESV (WM and PM) over Allan’s current selections simply because of the higher quality of what lies inside the Cambridge Bibles, which is what really matters in the end.

  42. League – I agree you have to look at the overall package not just the binding. This is why I had to get rid of the ESV1 I purchased because the text block was inferior and not worthy of the price paid for the Bible. Obviously, others do not agree…
    In Alan’s defense they are binding someone elses’s text block. They are not a printer so they do not have the ability to change what is inside. This was the case for the ESV1 and 3 and the PSR. The question is, with the final cost of the product being the highest in the market, does the quality of the binding make up for the text block that is no better than cheaper bindings? In my opinion it does not, especially when you have a competitive product like Cambridge. (Granted, I have not personally seen the Allan PSR) The only trouble with Cambridge is that they seem to be fearful of larger font sizes…
    The upcoming Allan Reader’s Edition has been promised to finally have a text block worthy of the quality of binding. However, at the price being quoted for it does it still make sense? (Granted the exchage rate in the US is lousy right now.) That is a question that each person will have to answer for themselves. For my part, and my experience with Allan thus far I will wait to see the finished product before making a decision. Even then the price might move me closer to Cambridge or Crossway.

  43. I think in general this site does a good job of describing bindings, especially when Mark posts pictures of colors, yoga, etc! And even the details of collecting up the signatures, whether saddle-stitched or side-stitched, and the resulting pliability of the volume, gets discussed and photo-documented here. But we don’t seem to do so well in describing the actual paper and printing of the text block. I think we need to be educated a bit here. Any printers out there that can lend a hand? I fear some publishers would prefer to keep us in the dark but that isn’t in the best interests of quality vendors. Instead, let us know what sets you apart. We are willing to pay for true quality here.
    I’ve got to believe that there are actual, quantitative measures of page opacity that printers commonly use. Certainly the blackness of print and the whiteness of paper can be determined from TIFF data of an image from a decent, calibrated scanner with at least 12 bits of grayscale resolution. And from that same scan you could objectively, quantitatively state the degree of ghosting from the back-side image. And I seem to recall that Bible paper used to be described in terms of its linen content, which you sure don’t hear much about any more, but was probably a fair indicator of the “feel” of the paper.
    For starters, we could start posting the results of measuring the thickness of 1000 pages of text, in inches, and then doubling that to give the thickness, in mils, per sheet (which is 2 pages). Such a sheet thickness measure is at least a rough predictor of ghosting. Unfortunately, when vendors give thickness, you never know if they’re describing the text block, the volume thickness with covers, or the thickness of the box the product comes in! So even if you know the page count (which can be a good indicator or type size and readability!) you really can’t say anything about the actual paper thickness, which is at least of some practical importance.
    I’m quite sensitized to these issues, having recently bought a HarperOne (Collins) Standard Text NRSV as a result of this site, receiving a volume that was totally unreadable due to ghosting, and which was then lost in the mail when I returned it for refund. That bad-boy had a sheet thickness of 1.3-1.5 mils, which should have sent up red flags, being so much less than 2mils, which appears to me to be about as thin as one should fear to go.

  44. I returned my PSR to Evangelical Bible. I also spoke with a member of their staff. I greatly appreciated his input. I highly recommend evangelicalbible.com to anyone here.
    After receiving the replacement I discovered that the text block was just as poorly printed. I know that Allan doesn’t do their own printing, but I didn’t just buy a binding, I bought a Bible. And the most important thing about a binding is that it protects a well-printed text. I heard this quote from band 2nd Chapter of Acts about the way they choose to sing the hymns and spiritual songs, “We don’t want the frame to be bigger than the picture.” In the case of this Bible we’ve got a a beautiful frame (among the best in in the world) around a poor reproduction of the most precious of pictures.
    I’m linking to two images here of examples of the missing bits of characters that run throughout the whole of the text. I own over 20 Bibles (including five Crossway editions) and this is the ONLY one of them that has this poor of a printing. Which is ironic because it is the best (and most expensive) binding that I own.
    Scan #1
    Scan #2
    I’m interested to hear if others have noticed the same blotchy characters. Has anyone received a copy that does not have the blotchy characters?

  45. When you go to the pictures from my post above click on “All Sizes” above the picture to zoom in and see the blotches in better detail.

  46. Mindpotter -
    I have the same issues with mine…and I am guessing it is the same for everyone. Personally, the printing only aesthetically annoys me, but the print is slightly darker than the other PSRs I own and can read it without hindrance as the shape of the characters are not affected to the point I cannot tell an “f” is an “f” when reading slow or fast.
    On a more opinionated level, I think half the battle in reading is the format, and a lot of rythym and flow is lost in funny one-liners and other shoddy design aspects in double columns (even if the print is bigger and cleaner). Pick up ANY number of popular novels and you will notice huge similarities in design. No modern publishers would risk putting a book like Harry Potter in a format/design similiar to the bible, because they want people to actually read harry potter and enjoy it! Alot of this is the mentality in reading the bible these days…when you sent down to read your favorite novel you will often cruise through 20 pages or more. People sit down and maybe read one page of the bible! A bible designed in a double column is designed to be sampled like a dictionary, not consumed like a novel.
    But again it is just an opinion and the most important part is not design but that it is prayerfully read.

  47. Mindpotter-
    I think I could live with the blotchy text, but you have to make up your own mind. If that was the only problem my copy presented I believe I would have kept it.
    On Nov 10th Wilfried commented, “The thing that bugs me the most though, is that through most of the book, the pages are crinkled and puckered near the gutter, because the pages are sewn too tightly. You can hear the pages crackle when you open the book or turn the pages. I’ve seen this in too many other books, and it annoys me to no end.”
    My copy was very “crackly,” so that it sounded to me like the pages were distressed to be turned. The headbands were a little mis-cut and one slightly off center. I’m ok with the narrow ribbons — seems appropriate for this size bible. The cover was excellent, but the text block ruined it for me. If it would have had the Belgian text block of my tru-tone, would’ve been great. I’ve looked at some other Crossway ESV PSRs (Mahogany Trellis at Barnes & Noble and the Forest/Tan Trail at Family Christian) and the text block is noticeably worse and tighter even than the block provided to Allan. The crackly text block in stores right now (that I’ve seen) is a quality train wreck in my opinion.
    I lay blame on the text block supplier, but shouldn’t Crossway have had a hand in protecting against this? Evalgelicalbible.com took my return without problem, but it wasn’t Allan at fault.

  48. It’s just a theory, but I wonder if the wrinkling at the gutter of brand-new Bibles that has been mentioned several times on this blog could be due to the changing ways that Bibles are distributed these days. Instead of staying in temperature- and humidity-controlled “brick and mortar” buildings waiting to be sold directly, most are sold via Internet and then delivered to your doorstep where they sit in a hot black mailbox, exposed to the summer sun, or sit on the cold damp winter concrete, for hours until we come home from work to open our treasures.
    Heat is bad for bindings and moisture bad for paper. I wonder if it’s possible to request a shipment be held at a local post office until we can come to claim them and move them directly to our homes?

  49. Man I’m grateful I stuck with Cambridge and my Pitt Minion after reading these comments. After all the inside counts too! And, can you beat the quality of print and paper in the cambridge bibles?
    Cambridge ESV–Printed and bound in the Netherlands or UK
    ESV Study Bible–printed and bound in the good ol’ USA (and an excellent binding, print and paper in my humble estimation)
    ESV regular book block–printed in China and it shows….

  50. Mark,
    I delayed at buying this Bible for over a year. I had the Forest Tan/Trail Tru-tone and loved the layout, however, didn’t want to throw down the $150 for the highland goatskin.
    But…I took the plunge and boy oh boy were you spot on with your review Mark! It’s an absolutely incredible Bible, something that will last me for a lifetime. Straight out of the Allan’s box, it was soft and smelled oh so good. The overcast stitching to re-enforce the binding on pages 8 & 9 in the front and pages 1368 & 1369 in the back give it such a very durable feel.
    Below are 100 pictures of my fabulous Allan PSRB in black highland goatskin for those pondering on whether or not to pull the trigger on this fine crafted Bible. My humble word of advice…JUST DO IT, you will NOT be disappointed. ;)
    http://kowalker.com/2010/01/20/100-pictures-of-my-allan-esv-personal-size-reference-bible/

  51. Hi Mark,
    I received my Alahambra Red PSR from Allan’s yesterday, what a masterpiece it is !! The feel and look of the bible is fantastic and the somewhat darker print (or lighter paper?) does indeed improve reading. I’m sure this one is going to be in my hands a lot !
    Riek Koman

  52. @Erik K, Thanks for the pictures!
    Other than nicer gilded edges, is the paper or clarity of print any better on the Allan PSR? I think it’s been reported often here that Allen’s PSR text blocks come direct from Crossways. Do they appear identical to you, seeing as you also have a run-of-the-mill “Trail” to compare it to?

  53. In the last week I have gone a little crazy buying Bibles. I have been spending my Christmas money but it does seem excessive. I have bought a leather NIV Life Application Study Bible to replace the hardback version that is falling apart. a Cambridge NIV Single Column, a Brown Allan ESV PSR and a Brown ESV Pitt Minion. Plus, I have the Allan ESV Readers Edition and Leather ESV Study Bible on order. Yes, I have gone crazy.
    The Brown Allan PSR right from the start feels exquisite. Very supple and rich feeling. It feels like a step up in the overall quality from other Bibles. I like the three different colored ribbon markers. I personally haven’t found the ghosting to be any better or worse than on most Bibles. The single column format is nice but the font is too small to make the Bible truly enjoyable to read. If the font was a 9 or 10 pt. it would make this Bible almost perfect for me. I am trying to use this Bible as my daily reader but may have to resort to it being the traveling Bible. Its small print was the real impetus for me to order the Reader’s edition.
    The weirdest thing about this Bible to me is the inside covers. They are leather lined but then they meld into a brown paper that doesn’t match in color and seems a little thin. It would seem better to me to use a paper like what is on the Pitt Minion to make this type of transition. Also, some have complained that the paper in general is a little crinkly, I would have to agree with that but I believe it is because of the overall thickness of this Bible relative to its page size.
    Overall, I like this Bible but would love for it to have a larger font. I appreciate Mark’s reviews and how he has helped to educate me regarding quality Bibles. Now, I just have to quit spending money.

  54. @ Bill (comment 1/20/10)
    The paper difference is certainly evident. It seems to me the font on the Allan’s edition is a bit darker than the Crossway edition Tru-tone, which makes it easier on the eyes. The single column format is fantastic for reading and compared to the Pitt Minion, the spacing between the letters and words is greater in the PSR, which again, makes for more enjoyable reading…especially in the poetry sections.
    I am absolutely thrilled with this investment and can’t walk by the highland goatskin without putting my paws on it. ;) Melts like butter in your hand.

  55. Erik, just to clarify, since you also bring up the Pitt Minion in your comment, you have personally compared a Crossway PSR with an Allan PSR and you are affirming the text blocks are NOT the same in terms of both paper and ink/impression quality?

  56. I know you’ve mentioned before that you don’t like hand-modeling, but it would really, really help with the pictures and a sense of the scale. Hands don’t need to be pretty anyway, just functional (I’m a massage therapist with ever thickening fingers/hands that get less pretty as they get more functional).

  57. I’ve received two PSRs, both with text blotches that make reading difficult.
    Example
    The photo isn’t the best quality (mobile phone pic) but it adequately demonstrates the problem.
    I’d stay away from the PSR until Crossway can get the print corrected.

  58. S Protsman – It was an unfortunate error with this most recent printing. If you happen to have purchased the RL Allans ed…I have spoken with them and they assured me that the next printings coming out in a few months will have a sharper and darker text.

  59. After reading your review and researching all of the available ESVs out there, I took the plunge and bought the ESV Brown Allan PSR. I’ve always been a fan of single-column, but this is the first single-column paragraph format Bible I’ve ever owned, and it makes reading so much easier and more natural. I wish the font were a bit bigger and darker, but it’s still ok. The binding/leather are superb, having 3 ribbons is a nice plus, and it fits perfectly in the hand. All of these things are just the packaging, no doubt, but they make it quite enjoyable to sit down and get into the Word, something I have been finding myself irresistably doing ever since the PSR arrived 10 days ago!
    Pastor Brad Hunter, Vienna Austria

  60. I got the Crossway TrueTone PSR when it first came out, more on principle than anything. I wanted to show support for a Single Column edition. But I agree with Mark’s initial review of the PSR: a great idea, but the execution was not what it could’ve been. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps the primary flaw was that Crossway tried to combine two features–portability and single-column layout–that, though not necessarily mutually exclusive, nevertheless don’t complement each other very well. If you want to make a portable Bible, it is best to do so with a double-column layout because that will give you more words per page. If you want to make a single-column Bible, it is best to do so with a large enough font that will not only give you the ideal number of words per line, but will also reduce eye-strain when reading for extended periods of time, which is what a single-column Bible is ultimately for: reading.
    But by trying to combine both features in one Bible, they ended up with the worst of both worlds. It’s not as portable as the slimmer double-column Pitt Minion, and it’s not as readable as the the larger font double-column Allan Reader’s. Crossway has given us an SC, paragraphed reference Bible with a small font; and in the SCR, they’ve given us an SC, verse-by-verse reference Bible with a larger font. Why can’t they give us an SC, PARAGRAPHED reference Bible with a larger font??!!
    I have a simple solution: Start off with the ESV Study Bible, remove the study notes and extended book introductions, and you end up with a winner. Although the solution is simple in theory, I realize that in the publishing world, the process might be a little more complicated. But surely it can be done!! Mark, do you think this is a workable idea? And if so, do you think you could use your influence at Crossway to lobby for it? :)

  61. Just a word of warning on the PSR paper: I used a Fisher Space Pen in a few notes in Romans. I was using the black ink with a fine point. After a few days, the black ink bled through to the other side of the paper, and fairly noticeably. The bleed-through was not black, but a cobalt blue color. Note that not everything I wrote bled-through. It may have had something to do with writing pressure, or ink flow, but it is enough of a problem that I won’t be using the Fisher ink again on it – pretty much ruined Romans 9 (Quiet! all you Arminians). I have never had problems with the Fisher ink before, but there must be something about the paper in this particular Bible.

  62. I love Fisher Space Pens. I wish they came in more than just ballpoints.

  63. Fernando:
    I’m thinking a PSR that uses the NASB Compact Reference Bible’s font!

  64. Thanks, H Jim! Nice catch on that Facebook page. But what exactly is India paper? Does it have a precise definition? I think back in the day of the sun not setting on the English Empire it referred to labor-intensive, high-rag content paper from the low-wage India colony. But I think rag paper is a thing of the past, “india paper” is some imprecise term vaguely meaning “nice thin paper”, and the grandchildren of Indian paper-makers are answering difficult phone questions about complex software packages for hopefully a decent wage. But I’d love to hear from someone who knows for sure.
    I’ve said it before, but definition, quality standards, and price/performance tradeoffs of paper are the elephant in the room of this blog. It’s so important to a quality volume, but it appears we have so little choice in the matter. Knowledge is power and we simply don’t have much knowledge here.

  65. JMB:
    How well does this Bible lay open on a flat surface if your reading very close to either the front or back of the Bible? For example, Genesis or Revelation. Does the heavier end tend to pull the lighter end shut? Or does it lay nicely open? I’m just wondering for the sake of teaching/preaching. If I have my Bible open and am preaching out of Revelation 20 or Genesis 5, I want it to lay open on the podium so I don’t lose my place. How does the Allen’s PSR stack up?

  66. I’ve gone back and forth on getting one of these but I think the font is just too small and gray to accomplish what this format is meant to accomplish: extended reading time….
    I have the trutone PSR from Crossway and its more eye-straining than the double column pitt minion because of the quality of font.
    I agree with Fernando, who mentioned above about taking the text of the ESV study bible and making a reference bible from that. If Crossway did that and bound it in their cordovan calfskin cover, I would be the first one in line to order one.
    The perfect solution would be that particular paragraphed, single column setting bound by Allan in their highland goatskin. You would then have the perfect reference ESV bible.

  67. I decided that I wasn’t going to buy the Allan PSR because of my experience with my gray text Crossway PSR. I read somewhere (perhaps here) that the belgium text blocks, like my Crossway PSR, are lighter than the ones printed in China (like the Allan). I ran across a sweet deal on a red allan PSR and went for it. I love it. It would be nice if it used a thicker font though.

  68. Well, Crossway has a large SCR and there’s a small PSR. I’d think the next logical step would be a large (or at least highly-readable-font) single-column, text-only reader’s edition. And if they’d leave out the versification, or at least move it into the gutter margin, then they’d have what I’d be first in line for. How many reference Bibles do we need? Not only do the actual references use up space, but the reference subscripts within the text chop it up and are distracting. “Text-only” bibles are cleaner, easier to read, and one is long overdue from Crossway in a single-column format. This is where Mark’s “short and stout” design suggestion is really valuable.

  69. Alright, the curiosity of what one of these Allan PSR’s looked like got to me and I ordered one. I know most everybody probably has one that wants one, but just for the sake of one more voice to help those who are trying to decide:
    It’s not of the quality of one of the Reader’s Editions….the pages are a bit more wavy than you see with the perfect pages and gilting on the Reader….but this is still a beautiful little bible. (I would love to see this with a full yapp and thicker ribbons) It’s kind of a smaller, more portable ESV1 in a single column setting.
    The text is, in fact, darker and larger than the Crossway PSR that I have had for a while, just like everybody else said. I looked at a bunch of different pages and that seems to be the case on every page.
    My final verdict is that if you want a single column, portable bible this is the one to get. I still like the portability of the Pitt, but this Allan PSR is better than I thought it would be….RL Allan really does produce functional works of art.

  70. @Bill — You might look into the Literary Study Bible, if you haven’t already. As several people in the community have pointed out it’s a really good single-column layout with minimal notes (book and occasional chapter intros, mostly). My local LifeWay is selling the hardcover for $10 right now; I don’t know if that’s a nationwide deal or not, but if so it might be worth your while to check it out.

  71. @Dale, I’m glad you like it. I was pleasantly surprised when I ordered my Allan PSR.

  72. Thanks, Chris, the ESV-LSB suggestion. My recollection from page samples was that the typeface was a nice size, but it was extremely light. And I didn’t really want the literary notes. But at $10, how could I resist? I’m looking forward to getting one in my hands. Can you verify that the textblock, or at least the paper, is the same in both the hardcover and brown TruTone editions? Otherwise, I’ll probably always wish I held out for the better binding.

  73. Bill, I haven’t seen a TruTone, so I can’t help you there. The type seems dark enough to me, though the text font is a little … fancier than I expected. I’m not sure how else to describe it; it’s a perfectly good serif font, but it’s a little more distinctive than most Bible fonts. I’m sure that former typesetter with the beard that hangs around here every now and then could describe it better.
    As for the notes, I like what I’ve read so far, but I’m also impressed by how easy it is to ignore them. The vast majority of the book is plain, paragraphed text, without references or any other extras besides the standard ESV translators’ notes. The paper is the only thing I might change, given the opportunity; it’s a nice parchmentlike cream color, but a little thin for note-taking. Which is a shame, with the nice wide margins.
    And the binding on the HC is sewn and seems very solid. With the money you save not buying the TruTone, you might be able to get a nice leather rebind. Overall, I’m very impressed with the quality of the volume, especially for the price. Hope that helps!

  74. Got my $10 LitSB already! The feature that immediately impressed me is the small verse numbers. They really don’t distract much during reading but are still there for those that insist on exact addresses. (Get to know the neighborhood, I say.) Certainly this is the best ESV in that regard, especially compared to ‘reference’ editions that throw in scores of obtrusive letter subscripts per page as well.
    On the negative side, there’s too much tan in the cream-colored pages, especially for the relative “lightness” of the typeface. (The early Peterson Messages are the only Bibles that can do the cream paper well; all the others are too brown.) But in breaking this one in, I couldn’t help noticing that the golden thread used in sewing the signatures sure looks gorgeous against the paper. When’s the last time you saw anything but white thread? Crossway has really set the standard for fine binding in cheaper bibles.
    Back to design/readability, like Chris mentioned, the notes are easy to ignore, just wish I could have had even just a half-point larger font in their place, or even just a darker font. I was also disappointed that the cover looks like a dust jacket; too bad it couldn’t be a simple cloth buckram instead, though I suppose this is free advertising for Crossway. Otherwise the binding is nicely saddle-sewn and flexible, extremely important in a hardcover. Did you notice the page between page 1862 & 1863? Appears they took what should have been final folio pages 1925-1926, glued it in there at the end of the previous signature, and then trimmed it down to just 3/16″ above the spine to anchor the last signature in a little better. Not as strong as overcasting, but a lot cheaper to implement. They then brought in binding tape between pages 38-39 to get a similar effect in the front of the book. Since my previous two “sewn Bibles” turned out to just be side-stitched, I really appreciate these details.

  75. I just received the Allan PSR today and after one look it is being returned to eveangelicalbible for a refund. The text block was totally unacceptable as previous commentators have mentioned. The broken type was particularly noticeable in the Psalms in this edition. This wasn’t even worthy of a $10 bible.
    China isn’t exactly known for quality control but I have an Allan ESV3 which was printed in China and it’s fine.
    Too bad to because the binding was Allan’s typical outstanding quality.

  76. Problem and question. I am a pending buyer of a Pitt Minion, printed out a sample page, and am not sure I can hack the small type (7 Pt). I know the font on the psr is only .5 bigger but does the format lend itself to less strain. I’m going to be preaching out of it (due to a lack of space in the pulpit), so I don’t want to be distracted. The other question is, does anyone have any idea when these are going to be available again? Thanks to you Mark for the immense amount of help, and to all the comments that also help. It is much appreciated.

  77. I have heard that the Allan PSR will be available again by the end of the year.

  78. John–My PSR is not the Allan’s edition, but, fwiw, I find my Pitt Minion to be easier to read than my PSR. My early-run Crossway PSR seems to be printed on a thinner paper (Belgium edition) than the Allan’s run (China editions), but can’t see it making so much of a difference that the Allan’s PSR’s would be easier to read than the Pitt Minion.

  79. I think it’s a toss up for readability between the Pitt and the PSR. My Allan PSR is printed darker than my Crossway PSR (Belgium). Rumor is that the 2nd run of the Allan PSR will have a better printing.
    If I were preaching from a pulpit, I would think that the ESV Thinline would be nice for that. It’s small and light with a nice sized font.

  80. Thanks for the help. Like a dunce, I finally realized I should check crossway’s site to see if I could print a sample of the PSR. Came to the same conclusion. Bigger print, but the Pitt’s semi bold made it easier I thought to read. Thought I had it all figured out, by now I’m not sure if Allan’s are already darker than crossway and may be better yet. I could get both, but then I’d have to find a new wife ;) She’s not exactly seeing this as an investment. Thanks for the tip about the Thinline.

  81. I think you’re right about the bolder font on the pitt. For me, boldness of the type is probably a little more important that the size. If a real thin font is used, like the PSR, it doesn’t contrast as well with the paper. The hard part for me, is that you can’t buy bibles where I live except at Wal-Mart and they only have a few. I have to buy all my bibles sight-unseen.

  82. I’m in the same pickle. I live just outside Little Rock Arkansas and even with all these big Baptist bible bookstores, their top of the line will usually be Nelson’s signatures. Then will have only only one basically for display purposes. Selling bonded leather to the masses has left me out in the cold. Have to buy sight unseen. That is the primary reason I am so happy to have found this site (Just in the past few weeks). Good to actually know there are people that care about quality out there. Thanks again for your help.

  83. @John-If you are just finding out about BDB, be sure and check out the facebook page as well as evangelicalbible’s facebook page for more information and possible pics of both bibles you’ve had questions about.

  84. Ordered today Pitt Minion brown goatskin and wide margin black goatskin. Can’t thank you guys enough for your help. I’ve noticed when a lot of the folks on here get new bibles they take pictures of them like Christmas presents. I don’t have that good of a camera or that good of an eye :) Mark’s the man in that department, as thanks go to him for putting this all together to start with. I’ll just enjoy two bibles that will last decades. HOWEVER, if Allan’s ever gets the idea of doing a nkjv (what I’m used to and what most folks where I go use), I will be first in line with credit card ready! Just don’t tell my wife. A dispute over a bible seems like a horrible reason to get a divorce.

  85. EvangelicalBible and Bibles-Direct are currently out of stock, so I went ahead and pre-ordered a black ESV PSR. Does anyone know if they plan to fix some of the printing/binding problems in the next run? Thanks!

  86. I just received one in the brown highland goatskin. No problems at all and this is by far the nicest bible that I own. I have an ESV Study Bible in black calfskin also. In my opnion, the highland goatskin on the ESV Personal Reference Edition is even nicer than the black calfskin on the ESV Study Bible. I love this bible. It is the perfect size to carry around and I really prefer a reference bible over a study bible anyway.

  87. I received my brown highland goatskin ESV PSR from evangelicalbibles.com earlier this week and I’m happy to report it does not have any of the major problems some have described. There is a bit of “crinkle” in the pages at the gutter, but it’s not that big of a deal for me and I think it will loosen up with time and use. There’s no excess glue or red splotches anywhere. The printing is nice and clear – no blotchiness to it. The goatskin itself is incredible and I love the three different colored ribbons, even though they’re not real thick. The typeface is very readable even to my 55 year old eyes as long as there’s halfway decent lighting. When I ordered, I intended this to be my everyday Bible for most purposes and I see no reason why it won’t be!

  88. I just received my red Allen PSR. I was nervous when I ordered it. I didn’t know if I’d like the brightness of the red. This Bible seems much darker than the ones pictured above. Maybe they changed the leather? It’s Highland Goatskin. It’s not dark enough to be burgundy or anything like that, just less bright than the pictures above seem to indicate. I LOVE it! They’ve also switched to red ribbons, which I like better than the blue pictured above. It also has near-matched red lining (instead of black as above).

  89. I just got my black Allan PSR from bibles-direct. This is my first Allan Bible and I couldn’t be happier. The paper quality seems better than what I’m used to, and the print size isn’t to small for me. Of course Highland Goatskin is amazing. Thanks Mark for the great blog!

  90. Alas… this PSR will be returned. For those of you inquiring the latest batch of Allan’s PSRs, the quality is frankly subpar… 3 red fingerprints on the pages… the ink is well, grey. The red/gold has bled into the page… During lunchtime, I checked out a Crossway ESV study bible and the study bible beats out the Allans in every conceivable way if you were to judge purely by the print quality alone.
    I wish Allan’s did a better QC job at least checking out the book blocks before spending the effort binding it.

  91. My wife and I just received our black and brown PSRs. We both agree, they are the nicest Bibles we’ve ever owned or even seen. There’s no hint of any of the problems mentioned above. These will be our everyday readers, and they’re perfect size for carrying around (not too small, not too large). Thanks Allan for such great workmanship with God’s word!

  92. After reviewing this blog, I ordered my first RL Allan bible. I purchased the Personal Size Reference Black Highland Goatskin. This bible is beautiful, inside and out! I can find no flaws with print or in the binding or cover. The craftsmanship is incredible. Without a doubt, worth every dollar I paid for it at evangelicalbible.com.

  93. I had a black goatskin PSR and could not help ordering the red. That is how much I love this Bible. The red is gorgeous!!

  94. Kevin, I’m thinking of doing the same (and am pretty excited about it…) I’m curious, did your PSR come with the red ribbons and interior, or the blue (I’m partial to the red/blue combo myself.) Thanks.

  95. Richard, the current red PSR is highland goatskin with red ribbons. The blue ribbons were on the old version with the red alhambra goatskin…..just in case you didn’t know. I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed if you order and didn’t realize that.

  96. John, thanks for your response! The PSR is a beautiful looking work with the red on red combination as well. I went ahead and contacted their website and they gave me the same report, but had mentioned the interior was a dark blue (which I’m happy with.) I’m anxiously awaiting its arrival under the Christmas Tree!

  97. The Bible has the best quality materials for me, in terms of paper and book binder materials. It was made from pure leather to protect the paper inside from crumpling. The one with a red cover and gold lettering would be my pick, as my mother uses this one at home. Having another one wouldn’t hurt.

  98. Has anyone recently purchased an Allan PSR that can attest to the quality, or lack there of, regarding the issues mentioned above? I am curious.

  99. It all comes down to where a binder gets their text blocks. I’d prefer good paper in a cloth-over-boards hardback than yellowed, transparent paper (with that correspondingly awful “feel”) in an exquisite water buffalo.

  100. JMB,
    I was wondering if it’s ever bothered you that the ribbons on the ESVPSR aren’t evenly placed? Comparing it to the ESV1, where the ribbons seem to be strategically and rightly sown, the ribbons on the PSR seem to be put on with less regards to symmetry (am I being too picky?). I’ve handled several PSRs since it’s initial release and I’ve always been a bit confused as to why they are like this. This may not be the case for all the PSRs, but every PSR I’ve handled has had this issue. Thoughts? Thanks for your time and effort.

  101. I am curious if there are still printing issues with this Bible? I have an Old Scofield KJV Study Bible of the highest quality (I can’t get over just how amazing the paper is, almost NO bleed through, a truly beautiful thing to look at), ESV Study (my first Bible I bought after becoming a Christian), and I wanted a travel NASB but the Zondervan paper is so horrendous it was bothering my eyes before I even sat down to look it over in Lifeway…
    I’m prepared to make a big investment on an ESV, preferably single column, side (hopefully inner) column reference, and was leaning toward this one…but I don’t want to get an amazing cover with awful text block. The words ought to be kind of the main focus here…

  102. I’d really like this bible, but I can’t find it anywhere. Apparently Allan doesn’t sell to retail stores. Could someone please direct me to where I could purchase this bible?

    • Matthew,
      evangelicalbible.com is the best place to purchase Allan bibles (or any bibles) that I know of. I think Allan stopped making this edition a while ago and as far as I know Crossway no longer produces the PSR having replaced it with the Personal Reference Bible. I would like to see Allan offer an edition of that bible though.

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