Cambridge KJV Concord Wide Margin in Black Calfskin

Somebody has a birthday coming up — and no, it's not me. Next year will mark the four hundredth birthday of the King James Version. In 2009, countless dusty copies of Calvin's Institutes came off the shelf in honor of the Reformer's birthday, and I expect something similar will happen in 2011 for the most influential English translation of Scripture. As a result, I'm going to make a special effort to bring interesting KJV options to your attention. Some of you already love this majestic translation while others might be discovering it for the first time. Either way, I hope the coverage over the next few months will be illuminating.

To begin, we have an old favorite of mine, the Concord Wide Margin from Cambridge. Our friends at provided a copy for this review, and they have a limited number in stock. The price is $140. The Concord Wide Margin is the edition that inspired my classic feature on wide margin editions: "Marginal Interest: Why You Need A Wide Margin Bible." I'd be remiss if I didn't point you there first. To make a long story short, I love wide margin Bibles. I think they fill a unique role, which I've dubbed "the thinking man's Study Bible." With every other SB, somebody else does the homework and writes the marginal notes. With a wide margin, you do. Hard work? Sure. But well worth the effort.



Unlike my old standby, which came in the King's College slipcase, this copy has one of the new boxes. Can I just say how much I appreciate it when publishers enumerate a Bible's features on the outside of the box? The usual questions a reader might ask — What's the cover made of? Is the book block sewn? etc. — are answered up front. The most important note here, however, is this one: Preface. 'The Translators to the Reader' of 1611. Why? Because most editions of the KJV published today omit this valuable preface, which explains the thoughts of the translators on their work, and on translation in general. I'm sure many publishers are contemplating new editions of the KJV for 2011, and I hope they all take note. "The Translators to the Reader" serves as an antidote to so much of the misunderstanding that has cropped up about the KJV in the past four hundred years. It's worth reading.

At a time when Cambridge seems more committed than ever to offering goatskin editions, this one is a bit of a throwback. It's bound in black calfskin, just like my own copy from a decade ago. I've written before about the variability of Cambridge's calfskin, which is not the soft matte-finish product familiar from Nelson Signature and other high end editions, but tends to have a harder, old school feel. Sometimes it's structured but flexible, sometimes it's quite limp, and sometimes it's stiff as all get-out. I have a burgundy calfskin Cameo (pictured near the end of this piece) that's bound in weapons grade calf. With a whetstone and a little elbow grease, I think it really would be sharper than a two-edged sword! 


My review copy falls into the structured but flexible category. In fact, it reminds me a bit of my ESV Pitt Minion, which started out a little stiff and with use has become one of my favorite covers. Use is the key. The more you read, the more you handle, the less you coddle, the better the cover becomes. It breaks in, so to speak. 

As you can see, the black calfskin is attractively grained, the lettering stamped in gold. Colorful Bibles are my thing. I like browns and tans and reds. I even like blues and grays and greens. (Not burgundy so much.) But there's no question black is an unobjectionable, understated classic. For most people, it is the color of Bibles. Anything else smacks of irreverence. The Concord Wide Margin has that classic elegance. It's a well appointed edition, but subtle about it. Cambridge offers this edition in edge-lined goatskin and French Morocco, too. (The goatskin edition at runs $175.99, and French Morocco brings your cost down to $118.)




A couple of grace notes: the pages feature art-gilt edges, that old fashioned red-copper-gold matrix that shifts with the angle and the light. Gilding these days seems to be a lost art, and use does not improve edges the way it often does leather, so get used to them not staying pretty. Art gilt edges seem to age better than your typical gold foil, though. That's been my experience at least. 

The Concord Wide Margin comes with two black ribbons, nice and long ones. Length is essential given the side of the page. If you can't draw a ribbon from near the spine all the way to the far corner of the book, opening to the marked spot, then your ribbons are simply too short. 

Of course, the real story where wide margins are concerned starts when the cover opens:


The Concord's text impression is cheated to the inside and top, which means the bottom and outside margins are the most convenient for note taking. In an ideal world, a two column setting would have wide margins on both sides — even some extra width on the inside to allow for the gutter. But this isn't an ideal world (and if it were, wide margins would come with single column text settings, so you'd only need one big margin on the outside). I can tell you from experience that the Cambridge arrangement works. It's not perfect. You'll occasionally find yourself straining for space on the inside margin. But this is a workable compromise.

The Concord text setting is attractive and readable. The font is 8/9 pt Times Semi-Bold. I'm not a fan of the old verse-by-verse line divisions, preferring a paragraphed text for readability, but this is at least a fine example of the form. The print impression in my review copy is consistent and dark. The paper is reasonably opaque, consistent with Cambridge standards, and to my eye has a hint of creme tone that may not come through in the photos. The text block was "printed in the Netherlands and bound in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge."

When it comes to Cambridge editions, there are some with red letter text and others without. This one is black letter, as you can see from the spread below featuring the gospel of Mark (no relation). I've written before about red letter editions, which are a much more recent innovation than most people realize. I'm not a fan, mainly because I'm looking for less pious, well-meaning intrusion into the text, not more. But I understand that for many people the red letters are a nonnegotiable. If you're one of them, this edition isn't for you.


If there's one pious, well-meaning intrusion I can get behind — perhaps because it's not really an intrusion at all — it's the addition of lined notepaper in the back of a Bible. The Concord has a generous allowance just in front of the maps. Some people use them for sermon notes, outlines, things like that, but I tend to devote mine to a mix of favorite quotations and creeds/confessions, passages I want to keep handy for reference. Compared to the notepaper in the back of recent Allan's editions, the Cambridge has a fainter rule and the lines are about twice as tall, a welcome fact for those of you with big handwriting.


As I mentioned, the calfskin cover is flexible but not soft. With use, I think it would develop an attractive limpness. In the "yoga" photo below, you can see that the cover is rigid enough to support the weight of the text block, resulting in an oval shape. The Cambridge g
oatskin covers tend to collapse in the middle in this context, the spine kissing the cover to create a kind of figure eight shape. If you find such a limp cover unsupportive with a large format Bible,  the more rigid calfskin should be more to your liking. 


Having said that, the Concord isn't exactly stiff, as you can see from the photo below. Look, Mom! One hand!


Let's end with a couple of size comparisons. If you're familiar with Cambridge's line of wide margins, this one fits right in. It's big, there's no denying that. All those margins add up to a wider footprint. But the Concord is not a thick Bible. Compared to your average Study Bible they are quite sleek and manageable. 

In the first photo, the Concord is on bottom and the burgundy calfskin Cameo KJV I mentioned earlier is on top. The Cameo is super stiff in the cover department, but it photographs nicely. As you can see, the Cameo format is much handier, assuming you don't want the wide margins. They make a good one-two combination, and the Cameo is a bit more comfortable to read than its sleeker cousin the Pitt Minion.


Next, another highly sought-after KJV, the Allan's Longprimer, a revival of the classic Oxford setting. These are newly available in black and brown goatskin, and I'll be writing a piece about them shortly. The Longprimer's proportions are much closer to those of the wide margin — though that's in part thanks to the former's full yapp cover — but the Longprimer has larger text instead of wider margins.


Would the Concord make an ideal KJV reader for 2011? That depends on what you have in mind. If you're just going to be reading the text, I would probably recommend waiting for the upcoming New Paragraph KJV, a smaller edition of the original I reviewed some time ago. If your goal is to study from the KJV, though, I can't think of a better way to do it. 


40 Comments on “Cambridge KJV Concord Wide Margin in Black Calfskin

  1. The additional tribute via font is clever. Painful on the eyes. But clever.

  2. Brandon is right — fix the font!
    On a more positive side, did you see that Cambridge is releasing a new set of KJV Cameos References next month — and get this — one of them includes the Apocrypha?
    Here are the ISBNs for the new editions:
    9780521146142 (Black Calfsplit w/Apocrypha)
    9780521146128 (Black Goatskin)
    9780521146104 (Brown Vanchetta Calfskin)
    9780521146098 (Dark Grey Imitation Leather)

  3. I’m sure glad that there finally is a bible reviewed on here that I have no interest in owning. This was becoming a dangerous corner of the internet for the old bank account.

  4. I had a friend give me one of these bibles. It wasn’t really my cup of tea so I ended up giving it to one of my roomates in bible college. It’s a nice bible, don’t get me wrong; but not something you want to lug with you to church.
    Mark, I would love for you to review one of the bibles published by Local Church Bible Publishers They are a KJV only ministry, which I know you aren’t a fan of. But they make very nice editions of the KJV at a very reasonable price.

  5. Charles Smith: Their list of changes is quite off-putting. Are we supposed to believe that God inspired the spelling ‘lentiles’ and to change it to ‘lentils’ is blasphemy? How about the fact that the original editions (there was no single first edition) use spellings such as ‘hee’?
    I edited and typeset the KJV preface twice. (I did not alter the text, but used consistently modern spellings, as well as engaging in a bit of textutal criticism to find the correct wordings!) Here is the 2008 edition and the 2009 edition.

  6. I know some Independent Baptists have a problem with words being ‘Americanized’; in particular ‘Saviour’ being changed to ‘Savior’ because the orginal spelling is 7 letters (the number of God)and the newer one is 6 letters the number of man.
    The reason I posted the link is that their bibles have a very good reputation for being well bound and made out of quality leather. I only wish that they made red letter editions 🙁

  7. Then I guess it’s a travesty that the Gospel writers and the Apostles brazenly spelled Saviour/Savior with only 5 letters!

  8. Mark,
    Thanks for another outstanding review. I don’t know how I purchased Bibles before I found your site.
    I’m still waiting for your review of Cambridge’s KJV Presentation Reference Edition. I purchased it a few months ago, and it is worthy of comparison with the Long Primer. Their goatskin is every bit as supple as Allan’s, and the typeface is lovely. I can’t figure out why it isn’t more well known. It richly deserves your attention!

  9. Yes, I would also like to see a review of the incredible wide margin calfskin leather KJV from Local Church Bible Publishers (I emailed info to Mark a few months ago). The “note taker’s” model has 2.5 inch outside margins with normal top/bottom margins. I think it’s ideal for taking notes. The leather is very soft and flexible and the binding construction seems excellent. And the price of $55 puts the other publishers to shame.
    Here’s a link to the model:
    Their web site is in need of a lot of work which is one of the reasons I’d like to see a quality review with photos from this blog.
    I have no affiliation with the above publisher, I just really, *really* like the Bible I received from them.

  10. You got me so excited looking at these pics, I think I’ll take my Cambridge KJV WM to church tonight 🙂

  11. I like the font choice, but you should have gone ahead and made it verse-by-verse — sentence-by-sentence — as well. That’s how the apostles did it! 😉

  12. I look forward to your review of the new Allan’s Longprimer as I just got my copy.

  13. I Purchased this Bible a short time ago from and received it in the mail 1 week from the day I ordered it. I must say it is the best Bible I have ever owned. I did however purchases the goatskin edition which is softer and more supple than any of my other Cambridge Bibles in calfskin. It is a great Bible for any student of God’s Word. The margins are good size for notetaking and the blank, lined pages in the back are great for whatever you want to fill them with. This is the first Bible I have owned that was not a red letter edition and at first I was a little apprehensive about that. But after using it for a few weeks now I actually enjoy all black type instead. I like to use Pigma Micron pens in various colors for different Bible subjects and having all black type makes it easier to read and look at on the page that has different color pens or highlighters. The Bible is considerbly large and I do not take it to church. I primarly use it at home for personal devotions and study. Although it would be a great Bilble to teach or lecture from.
    Even though I think this Bible is the best Bible I’ve owned, it is not a perfect edition. The margins by the gutters are indeed smaller so note taking on the inside column is a bit more difficult. I also was not impressed at all with the two black ribbons. I thought for the size of the Bible they were way to skinny and they were already fraying right out of the box. So after reading others who contribute to this blog and the facebook site I learned how to replace them. So I did the brave thing and cut out the ribbons out of my brand new, $175 Bible! I replaced them with three, thicker, red ribbons that turned out absolutley awesome! I am glad I did that.
    Overall, this is a great Bible to own for any student of God’s word. Some will not purchase this Bible because it is KJV. I enjoy the KJV. For me, it causes me to dig deeper and study harder into the meaning of words into the greek and hebrew language. Most study helps books and concordances are geared to the KJV. When I look the word up I not only learn the definition of the word but the actual greek or hebrew word used in that particular verse and I will write it next to the verse along with the strongs number and definition in the wide margin of the Bible. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being for the best. I would rate this Bible at a 8 1/2.
    Yours In Christ,
    Tim Kleiner

  14. I wish more KJV versions would include the Apochrypha as the translators intended. It always strikes me as odd how some folks are so passionately pro-KJV but would recoil in horror if they accidentally bought a Bible with the full text.

  15. …Then again, I can’t seem to even spell “Apocrypha” as the translators intended, so I guess we’re even!

  16. Brian — here are a variety of KJV Bibles with Apocrypha available from US Amazon with their current prices and features, listed by ISBN. NCP = New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (edited by Norton); PO = pre-order; *=omits original textual notes.
    0521506743 $ 8.63 Cambridge hardcover (Apocrypha only)
    0141441518 $ 10.88 Penguin paperback* (NCP)
    0199535949 $ 12.89 Oxford paperback*
    1565638085 $ 16.37 Hendrickson bonded leather (1611 spelling)
    1418544175 $ 31.48 Nelson hardcover (1611 spelling, PO)
    0521843863 $ 49.99 Cambridge burgundy hardcover (NCP)
    0521762847 $ 49.99 Cambridge hardcover (NCP, personal size, PO)
    052119881X $ 96.83 Cambridge black calfskin (NCP, personal size, PO)
    0521146143 $109.61 Cambridge black calf split (Cameo reference, PO)
    0521844452 $192.00 Cambrdige hardcover (includes add’l “textual history”)
    If you want a cheap option, I recommend the Penguin paperback. If you want a nice hand-held edition, I recommend the forthcoming Cameo reference or the “personal size” calfskin NCP.

  17. Thanks, Theo, for posting the new Amazon pricing and paging info on Cambridge “personal” NCPs. Unfortunately their release has been postponed until Feb of next year.

  18. Indeed, Amazon has updated the release dates for both the new Cambridge KJV + Apocrypha releases (the Cameo Reference and Personal Size NCP). They are now scheduled to appear in February 2011.

  19. I need to check my Penquin Classics NCP at work but I think the page count of these new KJV+Aprocrypha models is the same. Which probably means the layout will be identical to the Penquin, which I think was the preferred layout in this neck of the woods. But was the page scaled in size, ie is the typeface a point or two smaller to justify the name “personal”? I suppose we’ll have to wait until dimensions are given.
    I recently found a good deal on a leftover leather Cambridge so I jumped on it. The text is only a point or so larger than my Penquin paperback but, oh, what a difference it makes. I love reading from that thing! Granted, the larger font and all the white space makes that late leather edition a pretty good-sized volume, but it’s well worth it to me. (I think that Bertrand fellow just needs to spend a little more time in the weight room.)
    So I really won’t be too impressed if these new ones are the same type size as the Penquin or smaller. But those with better eyes than mine will soon have access to what, to my mind, is the very best KJV layout available.
    But Nelson’s single-column comes out in May of this year (though it has slipped schedule too I see) so perhaps the bargain model will change my mind.

  20. I am hoping that the new “personal size” NCPs will have the original textual KJV notes. The original “big” NCP has these, but the Penguin left it out.
    On the other hand, the Penguin includes many changes over the text of the original “big” NCP — and Cambridge never released a list of errata and corrigenda for the first edition NCP.
    If the “personal size” NCP included the changes, the footnote, and a smaller high-quality format, it would be a boon to those who love the KJV text.

  21. Hey Guys. Can anybody recommend to me the best slimline/ultraslim KJV version bible with references. I have seen the T. Nelson Signature series but am curious if R.L. Allen makes a slimline or these guys:
    Thanks in advance!

  22. I’m a Local Church Publisher man, but I love the Cambridge Calfskin concord wide margin and the smaller calfskin concord

  23. really nice bible here how did you get it for free? I went to that website and it says nothing of a book review program.

  24. Thank you! Thank you for this thorough review of the Cambridge. I have the goatskin cover and absolutely love it. Now other covers seem to me to be “cheap.” (know that’s not really the case…)
    My only disappointment after paying so much for this Bible was that the inside trim was already separating from the Bible.
    The lined pages at the back are such a bonus, too.

  25. I just received a Cambridge NIV Wide Margin in Black Calfskin and it has some issues. It has what appears to be glue on the inside edges of the calfskin cover at top and bottom near the spine. Also, it has black, synthetic mesh tape on the inside of the calfskin cover running almost the entire length of the inner spine area. This tape is also present along the length of the text block and comes right up to (and almost over) the head and tail bands.
    Is this normal construction for a Cambridge WM Bible? Is this evidence of an attempted fix for a broken spine or a completely rebound Bible? The Bible will lie mostly flat but the text block will not fully release.
    Any information would be most appreciated!
    Thank you!

  26. I doubt yours is a repair or a re-bind, but you might be right that this is a new Cambridge design fix to reinforce that area and prevent so many separations and returns. In principle, I’d be pleased to see it. Still, it ought to be executed cleanly and neatly. I’d take some high quality photos of the poor workmanship (or use a flatbed scanner–gives remarkably high-resolution images!) and see what Cambridge says.

  27. Does anyone know if this Bible is printed by Jongbloed? I have an Oxford with nice thick paper for taking notes but I need the larger print. thx

  28. Hello.This site makes me feel like I’m not weird for being ‘Bible nerd”! I never knew so many other people cared about the things I care about when it comes to Bibles. I started buying my own Bibles around the 8th or 9th grade! I love how each of them has a different quality and identity but the Word still remains the same.
    My question is,which is better (as far as being very durable,able to survive life in a backpack and around a toddler!),the Concord Wide Margin or the Allen Oxford Wide Margin?
    I love the LCPB bibles and I will continue to support them,but I wanted to get one more “classic” wide margin with some of the features that the Cambridge and Allen editions offers.I’d love some hones answers.Thanks!

  29. Hello, I have noticed that my Cambridge Cameo has some letters and numbers at the bottom right below the text.It starts at Genesis chapter 1 with the letter “a” and goes through the alphabet. In Zechariah 8 on page 1099, it ends with mm-6. The New Testament starts with “1-2” in Matthew 1 and ends in Revelation 8 page 325 with “11-3”. What is the purpose for that? I was just curious about it.

  30. Sorry Brent, I don’t have a Cameo, but what you’re describing sounds like signature identifiers, to help verify the pages are in correct order before sewing, trimming, and binding, and possibly even before signature folding. If you can identify the stitchings in the middle of a signature, equidistant between stitchings would be a signature break, and that’s where you’d most expect an identifier. Are they in close to the center spine, where they’re not that noticeable?

  31. While in a tiny, dusty old bible shoppe in a forgotten little town last weekend, I told the equally tiny, old and forgotten shopkeeper that I wanted to find a special bible. I told her I wanted King James, in a readable text size, with the words of Christ in red, minimal (if any) study helps, a handy size that I can read while holding the baby, and most importantly, a very strong and durable binding. She dug around in the shelves behind her through a very impessive mess that I’m sure only she understands, and pulled out a cambridge bible from the 70’s still in it’s box. She showed me it’s original price was eighty-something dollars, but she would sell it for only $20 because it had 2 misprinted pages. I have 5 children to love and provide for, and since it didn’t have the words of christ in red, I knew I wanted it not for reading, but just for “having” it. So I passed. But I’m now convinced that I really want a cambridge bible. This old lady was a great salesman! She amply demonstated the superior quality of the paper and the binding in the cambridge bible, however she thought that this one was published in the US, and that they may be outsourcing “nowadays”. So I’ve been cyber hunting for the perfect cambridge bible. Where can I find I leather paragraph kjv with the words of christ in red and no apocrypha?

  32. Good luck HAB. Those old bibles are from before ISBN numbers so there’s not a good way to catalogue them or cyber search for them. An old bookstore like you discovered is probably your best bet. I’ve been very disappointed in many of the old bibles I’ve purchased on-line…they’re seldom as described.
    Why not reconsider that killer deal on the Cambridge the lady offered you? I think you might find, as many of us have, that black-letter versions are easier to read. And if you’re really reading it, you’ll have no trouble discerning the words of Christ anyway. The originals weren’t red-letter versions!

  33. Mr. Bertrand,
    Just to let you know, I purchased one of these Bibles in September 2013. It appears this new addition has fixed the margins in the gutter. On my copy, the margins at the gutter and at the outside edge appear to be the same size. Just thought it would be helpful to know for those that might be looking into purchasing this Bible. If you would like, I could also e-mail you a picture.

  34. Hello,

    Can somebody answer Terrance’s question from April 2012? I too would like to know which of of better quality: A goatskin Cambridge Concord wide-margin or an R.L. Allan Oxford wide-margin. Also, can anyone confirm where the Concord wide-margin is printed and bound? I’ve read reviews stating that if they are not printed and bound by Jongbloed the quality is not as good. Thanks.

  35. I’ve been suing my Cambridge Wide Margin King James Version for 6 years now as my birthday gift, and loved using it since. Great goatskin leather cover….

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