Critics divide an artist's lifetime of work into eras or periods. If I were to do the same thing for the R. L. Allan Reader's Edition ESV, I'd have to say this comes from a later, mature period, in which a variety of earlier experiments have come together to create a superlative and very refined edition. The ESV1 in its various iterations, the ESV3, the recent PSR ... all that labor has now culminated in a work of art.
These days, things often fail to live up to the hype. I'll be honest, the idea of a bigger Allan's ESV didn't get me too excited. I like small. So my expectations weren't as high as some. Then I opened the box and saw the Reader's Edition for the first time. My expectations reset.
It's not a question of innovation. We've seen most of the details before. The genius here is the execution. Everything is better than before. Allan's took the now-defunct Heirloom setting of the ESV -- essentially an enlarged Classic Reference -- and commissioned a special printing by Collins, adding extra space at the margins and selecting a higher quality paper than what we've seen on previous Collins-printed text blocks. The margins change the footprint. This isn't just a bigger ESV1. It's taller and also wider, which means it takes full advantage of the liquid flexibility of the highland goatskin covers. For the first time, Allan's has delivered an ESV that rivals the KJV Long Primer for look and feel.
The color options are consistent with the ESV1 range: tan with copper/tan ribbons; brown with copper/tan, green, and purple ribbons; and black with dark blue ribbons. As with all naturally grained covers, you'll see variation from skin to skin. Of the three pictured here, the black has the most pronounced, most rustic grain, the brown is the most smooth and refined, and the tan lies somewhere in between.
They're beautiful, of course. My wife is accustomed to a superfluity of Bibles around the house, and as a result they all look the same to her. Not these. She seized one (the dark brown) and started explaining to me everything she liked about it. Needless to say, that one's hers.
While there's variation in the grain, color is very consistent. The new Allan's Pocket Journals match their big brothers perfectly. The paper in the journals is the same as what's bound in the back of each Reader's Edition. Seeing them together reinforces the maturity I mentioned earlier. This is a range of editions now, not just a handful of unrelated options.