My Carte Blanche Daydream

Q. C. S. Lewis once said that nobody had written some of the books that he wanted to read so he had to write them himself. Have you ever wished you ran a publishing company so that you could publish the Bibles that should have been published, but haven't been?

Constantly. It's embarrassing to admit, but I have a fairly elaborate daydream in which a publishing exec or wealthy benefactor descends on a fluffy cloud granting me carte blanche to assemble a dream-team of artisans to create my ideal line of Bibles, controlling everything from the layout to the paper to the binding options and packaging. I have another daydream in which the citizens of the Earth unite to offer me a luxury exile package on a remote Scottish isle without internet access, giving me stewardship of the highland goats and the production of nature's perfect fabric, tweed. I'm not sure which is more likely to come to pass, so I try to stay mentally ready for both eventualities. 


Above: This could be me if Daydream Two comes to pass.

In all seriousness, I have to admit that, yes, I'd love to be in a position to see my own vision translated into ink, paper, and leather. And I'd like to think that if it did happen, a couple of you might support the enterprise by snapping up some copies. 

There's an ancient/modern aspect to my vision, as regular readers will probably have noticed. Where covers and binder are concerned, I want to hit rewind, and on the inside I'm anxious to fast forward. Bibles that are built to last on the one hand, and built to be read on the other. (And frankly, the first goal is much less important to me than the second.) So my ideal, if implemented, would involve a quality spectrum from low to high … yes, I'd be putting out cheap, glued paperbacks in addition to finely bound goatskin heirlooms. It's a broad plan, just so you know, not a narrow focus on must one edition.

So if any risk-taking publishing execs or wealthy benefactors are listening, you are encouraged to get in touch. In the meantime, I'll keep doing what I do and hoping to have a subtle influence on the way things take shape. 


16 Comments on “My Carte Blanche Daydream

  1. Are there any Bibles bound in tweed, maybe quarter bound in leather with tweed front and back?

  2. I have a similar fantasy! To your first one, that is. In my case, however, it has less to do with the paper and the binding, and more to do with the content. Why are bilingual (Hebrew/English) Bibles only available with JPS, or Artscroll, or some random pre-mid-20th century translation? I would love to see an NRSV or Jerusalem Bible bilingual edition.

  3. Speaking of ancient/modern, and people that love their bibles, I just found this site which bible lovers might appreciate –
    It’s a celebration of the 1611 version, nearly the four hundredth anniversary.

  4. Mark,
    I believe it is safe to say that all who read your blog are pulling for you with regard to dream #1! Perhaps Nicholas Gray will commission you to do this very thing. In all seriousness, I’ll bet there are many readers here who would gladly pre-purchase The Bertrand Readers’ Edition. My own personal daydream is that it would be NRSV, but would certainly settle for ESV or NIV. I would also like to see this readers edition come with a top quality pair of readers (preferably half-frames) and similarly bound FiloFax!! (I cannot find a new FiloFax that even approaches the quality of your tan calfskin). I can supply my own pens.
    With regard to your book “Beguiled”, I am sorry to say that I don’t do romance novels and my wife watches the Lifetime network. However, I have always been a believer in the necessity of providing support for all the “free reading” I get to do here. Consequently, I am purchasing two additional copies of Rethinking Worldview to use in my teen class at church. Incidentally, for those interested, the binding on Rethinking Worldview is FAR superior to that of Beguiled (I saw a copy of Beguiled at the Lifeway over the weekend). Mark, I have said it before and I’ll continue to say it: Thanks for all you do on this blog. Your “subtle influence” is having a great impact upon the production of quality Bibles.

  5. Surely there would be three sizes of the ESV in a textual format of the NEB (or the numbered Message edition). And if it has cross references they would be on the inside of the text. The three sizes- one large with wide margins, one medium that is about 5.25 x 7.25 x 1.75, and one pocket size without cross references to maximize font size. Covers would range from paperbacks through leatherettes to calfs and highland goats. My guess would be that one of these medium bibles in a tan highland goatskin hand bound and sewn with 2-3 markers would be the Special Limited Edition personally signed by Mark on a special presentation page. These editions would be numbered with a limited run of 500. They would come in a special case covered in tweed.

  6. I just stumbled across your blog because I’ve been looking for a new ESV Bible and as a graphic designer I have a hard time buying something that I’ll use everyday but wish was designed better. So I too share this dream of designing my own Bible! This is only the second of your entries I’ve read, but I’ll definitely be reading more!

  7. I stop by here every 2-6 months to get caught up on the latest bible binding news, drool, and pout about this very topic! (#1 that is, but honestly, I would gladly take exile in the Scottish Highlands, it’s about as close to paradise as I have ever stepped foot).
    I’ve already got my perfect bible designed in my head. Margins laid out, page headers, numbering systems. I even mocked up a dozen pages and then used that to run some rough calculations in the hopes that the bible wouldn’t be too thick.
    Only one problem…. NO PRINTER!!!
    SERIOUSLY, I would be crazy enough to try and make this dream a reality…. IF I could only find a printer to print it (on top grade bible paper of course, as opaque as possible). If anyone knows of one…. do let me know!

  8. Francis, you can check but I think Kinko’s types of places charges about 6-10 cents/page to print. Depending on formatting, a Bible is approx 1200 pages (600 sheets). You probably won’t like the feel of standard paper. 100% cotton “resume” paper is about 12 cents/sheet so your cost thus far would be $120+72=~$200. Such paper usually only comes in 24# or heavier weight so 600 sheets is about 3″ thick. But those are loose sheets, suitable for a 3-ring notebook. Most specialty bookbinders will side-stitch it for you and offer a nice leather cover for ~$150, but it won’t open nicely like a Smyth-sewn Bible, which is based on sewn-in signatures of 16-32 pages. If you’re not deterred, go for it; we’d love to see the results.

  9. Hi Bill, thanks for the info!
    I’m not deterred at all, at anything less than $500 I would probably try to move forward on the project. There’s only one catch – Smyth-sewn is the only way I want to go, which means finding a printer willing to do a short run print on signatures sing premium ultra thin bible paper.
    The bible itself has to be more than cool and usable, it has to be durable and portable. (yes, I want my cake, I want to eat it too, and I want the cherry on top!)
    The bible itself is a rather unique one, and probably wouldn’t appeal to many, except maybe traveling missionaries. I am spending more and more time down in South America. My Spanish is getting better, but it’s not great. Packing light is the name of the game, I need one bible to cover all my bases. I want a KJV and RVR (spanish) parallel wide margin. The Spanish would occupy the inside column on both sides with no room for notes (I don’t expect to have many Spanish notes). I will have detailed research notes for the KJV side. By cutting out the inside wide margins, I save very precious space, which is the only reason the parallel WM part won’t make it a monstrosity. Likewise, the spanish font will be a point or two smaller, further saving space. Finally, I can print any notes I have right now directly onto the wide margins, saving more space for future notes (tiny typeface).
    CLEARLY a unique bible that probably would not be desired by many… but I would love it. That bible would become my do-it-all traveling companion, encompassing study and teaching in both english and spanish, and no matter where I was in the world, the bulk of my notes would be with me. (which is important for me because I have a penchant for forgetting details like where the darned verse is, even though I can nearly quote it to you).

  10. Francis, one approach is to look for “short-run” printers that do off-set printing and sewn bindings. I’m sort of guessing but I think that price is about 100 volumes for about $100 each, which I think just covers the setup expense. In other words, it’s about $10000 min, even if you only wanted a single volume. (That’s assuming you do all the computer-based formatting and can provide it in a format they recognize.) But even then, you’re just getting their standard roll paper. Again I’m basically guessing, but true Bible-quality paper for offset machines probably can’t be obtained in rolls smaller than about a half meter diameter. Since roll paper is about a meter wide, that’s about a quarter ton of paper. Standard paper is ~$1000/ton and Bible paper may be 3-10 times that amount, so you’re looking at a few $1000 just for the paper, of which you’ll have a huge excess. In other words, offset printing really isn’t feasible for single copies. (I’d love to be proved wrong however)
    An alternate approach might be to just do folio (single-fold) printing on ledger-sized paper, again in a Kinko’s type environment. If you fold and gather up the signatures (taking care with pagination) a custom bindery may be able to sew them together (in ~32-sheet signatures) trim the edges, and “case” the cover in just a couple days of labor so you could almost make your $500 budget.
    Now for something completely different, have you considered IBS’s $10 bilingual Bible?
    Note it gets great reviews.
    Unless your Spanish is awfully good, I think you’ll find the NVI much easier to comprehend than the RVR. Maybe start with this and let your bigger plans simmer for a while?

  11. Bill, as always your insight has been very helpful! Even if your guesstimation numbers are only 20% correct, that’s STILL well over $2000! Off to alternate options indeed!!!
    The good news is that I can definitely deliver a formatted and print ready manuscript (career in computers and photography) to whatever printing source I use, and I can even play some very fancy games with pagination if need be for the signatures.
    That’s a very interesting idea with printing on ledger paper and folding it over into signatures… the page sizing would just about be right, I could easily engineer it to fit within those dimensions with a little room to spare… That could definitely work!
    BUT the paper comes back to haunt me – The only way a 1200 page bible can ever be remotely portable is if its printed on bible paper… and given the wide margin note taking aspect of the project, decent quality (opaque) paper as well. Have you ever seen bible quality paper sold in normal sized sheets? Or even something that a binder could trim down into printer sized sheets? (Come to think of it… I wonder if most Kinkos level machines can feed ultra thin paper?)
    I figure no matter which way I go, I’m going to have to find a super nice custom bindery. (If only RL Allan did custom work!!!) My thinking is basically “this is a work horse bible that I will use extensively for the next 10-20 years, so really, what’s another $100 or $200 to give it the most functional and durable binding available.”
    A short digression from the topic at hand:
    For me, an example of the holy grail of wide margin bible size is my father’s 1970’s era Oxford wide margin. VERY NICE and thin India paper, it’s very roomy, lots of space for notes and a big, pulpit readable typeface (Brevier Clarendon, 9pt I believe). Even a hair bigger, and it would be too big to carry. Any smaller, and there’s not enough room for notes, or the typeface is no longer easily readable from the pulpit. I also own a 90’s era Oxford WM in Clarendon Minion 8pt, and the difference in reading the smaller font is VERY noticeable over long periods of study…. not to mention by the time the 90’s rolled around, paper quality had taken a major downhill plunge 🙁 …. but for an example of what I’m trying to avoid, look no further than that MONSTROSITY that Oxford called a bible in recent years, before discontinuing it in 2004. As my memory serves, it was the same Brevier Clarendon font and layout as the 70’s era bible… BUT it was printed on really opaque, durable paper suitable for writing… and it was THICK. That extra paper thickness made that bible suitable for little more than a desk volume, forget ever lugging it out of the study!

    I actually have an NVI/NIV bible, and you’re absolutely right, the NVI is considerably easier for me to understand clearly versus the RVR! (my Spanish is NOT very good, but improving). Unfortunately, most of places that I go down there are reading primarily from the RVR, which makes following along very difficult! I figure with an RVR/KJV, I can always fall back on the KJV to understand a questionable word or phrase in the RVR, as they do tend to follow along pretty closely.

  12. @Francis, Most printers contain some way of adjusting the feed rollers for slick or thin paper so you can probably feed Bible paper, providing you get it. Yes, it comes in sheets, although probably large sizes that you’ll need a paper cutter, such as is used with pen plotters, to get it down to ledger size. (Again, Kinkos can provide.) Here’s a UK vendor:—40gsm/
    and here’s a nice list of North American paper companies:
    I’d start with Mohawk and Strathmore; I think they’re the biggest.
    Note the Offenbach paper is “only” about $.30 in quantity (before shipping) for the equivalent of 2 ledger sheets, or 8 pages of your finished Bible. So 2000 pages would only be ~$75 in paper–far cheaper than the quarter-ton roll option! However it’s still not cheap so this explains why publishers trying to produce under-$50 bibles try to cut corners on paper!
    Alternately, you could contact some local printing shops. They’re likely to have larger printers than Kinkos and probably more insight than us on getting specialty papers.
    Incidentally, here’s a link to the Govt Publishing Office’s spec for Bible paper. It’s quite useful for learning paper properties and the quantitative standards of judging it:
    (I’ve actually been looking for something like this since I’ve started reading this blog.)
    Thanks for explaining your need for Reina Valera. has both RVR and NVI as well as plenty of English translations. They offer the ability to display parallel translations side-by-side. If you only have limited text samples that you need for your group settings, could you just try just printing those selections out from biblegateway?
    Holman has some nice RVR/KJV options that aren’t quite wide-margin, but are still a lot easier to obtain than the do-it-yourself approach:
    Here’s an ESV/RVR option:
    And I thought I knew all the Crossway ESV’s!

  13. Bill, I do believe you just gave me the info needed to push this project from fantasy into reality! It will take me a bit to format everything, so I’m figuring at least 6 months before pulling the trigger…. but I’m super excited now! Awesome info Bill, thanks! PS: esr/rvr, now thats interesting!!!

  14. Start small, Think big!
    As many people commenting here, and Mark of course, I am also interested in getting a Bible of my own design produced. I however, am more interested in the cover at this point. Does anyone have info on where I could get just the interior (anyone know the technical term for the interior content?) in a classic printing of say NIV or other options? I am hoping to purchase them wholesale and have them covered both Leather bound and paper back. If anyone has any suggestions please let me know. Thanks

  15. Hello Francis!
    If you come up with a RVR/KJV wide margin Bible, please send me an email, or even if you make it yourself, I’ll buy it from you, and I’m pretty sure a lot of other people would as well helping you make up for your invested money on this project,

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