NIV Giant Print Compact Bible in Natural Goatskin by Leonard’s

The holidays are coming. What do you get for the Bible design blogger who has everything? That's easy: Something that doesn't exist. How about a Bible that doesn't come with the kind of binding such a connoisseur would appreciate? A rebind, that's the answer. It started like this:

And here's how it turned out:


Here's the story. Awhile back, I got an e-mail from Margie at Leonard's Book Restoration. They're the folks who rebound my Deluxe Compact ESV in tan pigskin. Turns out they'd been experimenting with a new natural goatskin and wondered if I'd be interested in having something rebound. Naturally, I was—I just couldn't think of what. My first idea was to have a bonded leather Cambridge rebound. That was my second idea, too. Then I got an e-mail from Matt Morales, asking if I'd seen Zondervan's NIV Giant Print Compact Bible. He was having one rebound by Leonard's, and after checking it out I decided to do likewise. 

The Giant Print Compact Bible measures 7.75 x 5.25, but it's a whopping 2 inches thick. That's because it's a single column text setting—and did I mention the Giant Print? 


A little too giant, if you ask me. Plus the margins are tight and the inside gutter sucks the text in like a big black hole. And yet, the more time I spent with it, the more fun I had. Like most single column settings, this one falls into the "mostly right but significantly wrong" category. Unlike most, it's problems can be easily fixed with a little more spacing. More realistically, they can be ignored. A thick, single column volume with giant type … sounds like a good reader. And it is.

The text block is nothing special. Printed in China, with enough ghosting to qualify as mildly haunted. But despite this (and despite the tight inner gutter) the Giant Print Compact Bible is actually quite readable. It just needed a new binding.


Leonard's rebound it in "medium brown genuine soft-tanned premium goatskin, extending the edges to about 3/8" past the page edges," with raised ribs on the spine. They also added three 3/8" ribbon markers in a variety of colors. (If I were styling this one, I'd go with gold ribbons, imitating that classic tan/gold combination I've seen Oxford and Cambridge do). The result isn't mostly right. It's entirely right. I'm impressed with the transformation.


When the subject of rebinding comes up, I always counsel realistic expectations. I know how it feels to pack off a bonded leather tragedy dreaming of a handcrafted masterpiece by return post, only to get a workmanlike craft project. Tearing off a cover and pasting on a new one isn't rocket science. Creating an aesthetically pleasing match with comparable fit and finish to a high end "production" edition requires something more. So I advise people to be reasonable. Your $20 glue-job isn't going to come back looking like a million bucks. 

Maybe it's time to revise my patter. This $20 edition came back looking fantastic:


The attention to detail is excellent. Nice, thick ribbons …


A spine that appears to be strongly reinforced …


And incredible flexibility!


The photo above illustrates more than a limp cover—but let's take a moment to appreciate the limpness anyway. What you're looking at is the cover being peeled back from the text block. It's liquid. Another gripe BDB readers have had about rebinding is that the covers are stiffer than Cambridge or Allan's covers. This one isn't. Not even remotely. 

Look at that corner, though. That's what really impressed me. Oftentimes you can spot a rebind by the inconsistency of the finishing. They tend to look like they were done by hand (though not in a good way). Here, the lines are clean and consistent. That's true of the entire cover, as you can see:


The dream of rebinding is that you end up with the text block of your choice and a clean, professional binding of your choice. Based on this and other examples I'm seeing, Leonard's is delivering. The natural goatskin they're using is really great. Yoga, anyone:


Thick and grainy, and the color is very rich. Combined with the raised bands, this edition is as beautiful as it is unrecognizable. How many people in the world can boast of having a beautifully bound, single column, large print, hand-sized Bible? (Other than Matt and now me.) This level of quality, and it's one of a kind. 


Let's talk style. Since it's a limp, natural goatskin, the obvious comparison to make would be between this and R. L. Allan's highland goatskin. We'll get there, don't worry. The raised bands and the leather finish actually remind me of something else, though: the Abba bindings from the Nelson Signature glory days. Below, I've stacked an Abba binding (top), a Cambridge (middle) and the Leonard's (bottom). While the Cambridge has a little gloss and is more of the traditional Allan's style, you can see the Leonard's has some affinities with the Abba … only it's executed (way) better. 


I'm no expert on leather, but when I compare the natural goatskin here to highland goatskin (pictured below on the ESV Reader's Reference), the biggest difference seems to be the finish. They're about equally limp, but the highland has a bit of shine to it, suggesting some kind of finish, whereas the natural feels very porous. Highland has refinement, while natural has softness. 


On the inside, the Allan's backing looks more upscale, and the gilt imprinting has a certain something. What impresses me most here, though, is to see how clean and finished the Leonard's cover looks, even next to the Allan's. This is superb work. What it suggests to me is that you can take a text block from pretty much anywhere and have it rebound to exacting standards—and isn't that the whole point of rebinding in the first place?


I suppose the only downside is putting a binding so nice on a text block so modest. Some people shudder at the thought of such a thing. Only I'm not one of them. In this case, Leonard's has transformed a text block I could admire but not really use into something that's a delight to read. You can always start with a more upscale text block if you like (though I'm not sure there's anything currently on the market as readable as this Giant Print Compact Bible, despite its flaws). 

If you've been holding onto a treasured text, uncertain where to have it rebound, I think Leonard's is a great option. Based on this result, I'd feel confident in sending them anything.

According to Margie, the current turnaround time is about three weeks, so if you're looking to have something done for the holidays, act quickly. The cost for a rebind like this one would be in the $95-$105 range, depending on the options you select. Check the price list for color options, which include black, red, deep red, medium brown (pictured here), pearl, dark brown, and rustic chocolate. An NIV Giant Print Compact Bible, should you chose to go that route, will set you back about $16 from Amazon. Enjoy.

33 Comments on “NIV Giant Print Compact Bible in Natural Goatskin by Leonard’s

  1. Oh I mentioned this Bible several months ago on the auction thread but nobody responded to me! :-((
    Oh well. My rebind of my Zondervan NIV large print reference bible should be coming in today. I had Leonards to that as well. Almost to the same specifications. Only black goatskin, and I asked them to blind stamp Holy Bible on the spine instead of using the gold lettering. Not sure how well that is going to work on black leather, but I wanted to give it a try.

  2. I had Leonard’s re-bind a NASB Classic Companion, to date the only single column paragraph-formatted NASB I can find. I chose blue lambskin, and the work is as you describe, superb. Same issue with text in the gutter, but manageable with the flexibility of the reinforced binding. I think I spent $20 for the bible (new, but out of print) on Alibris, and then sent it to Leonard’s unopened. My glued binding is now sewn-reinforced with a long-lasting cover, and my kids will enjoy it someday as well. Often you can even find bibles for sale which were accidentally bound with text upside down, or a nicely damaged cover making the text block cheaper to purchase.

  3. Nice mark. I am enjoying mine in the red calfskin.
    The leather quality and finish is excellent and so far better than any other rebind I have seen in person. I originally was not fond of the ribbons, but they have grown on me. I would say, after getting another ed of the Sierra/Black (to compare with the limpness before/after) that the spine and gutter seem tighter after the rebind in my opinion. Flexibility in the spine is something we are used to in cambridge/allan but may not be as sturdy as Leonards. I would love to hear Leonards thoughts on this…
    A note to buyers: Get the sierra/black edition as others may not have the gold edging and some other details. Plus the Sierra/Black comes with a sewn binding (no overcast stitching).

  4. Thank you, Mark! We are very pleased that you’re pleased! 🙂
    Rebinding does tend to tighten things up just a tad. It may be because we add a bit of roundness to the spine to counteract “spine curl” — a condition sometimes acquired by too much Bible yoga! LOL!
    The natural tightening is a really good thing for a used Bible the owner can’t bear to part with (the other reason a person would want to have a rebind). Often a Bible with some threads showing between the pages will cause alarm, but as long as the sewing is not actually broken, a simple re-casing in the same cover will tighten things up to a good, comfortable level.
    As Matt pointed out, this text block was already sewn, so we didn’t need to make adjustments to the spine. He’s right–that’s the best choice for a rebinding project. We can also repair and reinforce the spine on a glued Bible, as Chris described, or on one that is used with the pages falling out. But if you’re concerned about the inner margins, you may want to look for a text block that was produced with plenty of space there, which is good anyway, when you want to make notations on that side of the text.

  5. Thanks for dropping by, Margie! If you get a chance, I’d love for you to share more about the color options. Those of you who haven’t already checked out the new Leonard’s site should—lots of nice photos. I’m especially impressed with the sort of “marbly” color some of those deerskin bindings have.

  6. I recently had Leonard’s rebind an ESV Deluxe Thinline in brown deerskin. I have to say, they do *excellent* work. They communicate with you throughout every detail of the process, and their craftsmanship is immediately evident when your Bible arrives. I was very impressed with the outcome, and now reach for this Bible first every time. Highly recommended.

  7. I agree with Steve that the communication is very good and the leathers are excellent… As WE are a picky breed 🙂
    @Margie – If you get a moment could you expound on this comment you made:
    “Rebinding does tend to tighten things up just a tad. It may be because we add a bit of roundness to the spine to counteract “spine curl”
    I was curious if “spine curl” is when the spine inverts (towards the reader) and so when you are reading you can sometimes see the stitching. This picture is what I am thinking of
    thanks for all your hard work!

  8. Actually, Matt, this is spine curl. Looks ouchy, doesn’t it? Needs a good chiropractor! Rounding the spine a bit may help prevent this malady.
    This is why we binders may wince at “Bible yoga” — or the custom of placing the front and back cover of a Bible into the interior pockets of a Bible case. But well, … at least the Bible is being read! 🙂
    Will get back with you on the colors, Mark!

  9. Note that the Zondervan website confirms the $16 “leatherlook” NIV GP Compact does NOT have gilded edges, as Matt warns above. But I’m considering the $25 black bonded model, which has silvered edges. Does anyone know if it has a saddle-stitched binding as Matt reports for the $30 DuoTone?
    I’m considering it as a “beater” substitute for a Cambridge NIV Single-column text bible and am not averse to a nice bonded leather, however the rubbery DuoTones leave me cold. So I could quite possibly be satisfied with the $25 model right out of the box, saving not just $5 but the cost of a re-bind as well, which I’d consider a necessity with the DuoTone.
    On the other hand, if the bonded leather model is glued or side-stitched I’ll re-think this plan since I’m never quite happy with a Bible that won’t open up flat, particularly with small margins, which this edition definitely suffers from. Anyone seen the black bonded one?

  10. what a charmed life you lead, mark! i have to call the rebinders up — they don’t call me. 🙂 seriously, though, that looks like a winner all around. i’ve been looking for a less expensive single column niv…this looks like it fits the bill.

  11. Kurt, if you really want “less expensive” Walmart has this $15 exclusive:
    As I commented in the Cambridge NIV single-column thread, it’s actually a very nice single-column “beater” Bible! And it’s considerably more compact than the one reviewed here. (The dimensions given on the Wally World Website must be of the plastic box it comes in; it’s actually a tad smaller than the Cambridge.)

  12. About colors, Mark, yes, we have several colors noted on the order form for goatskin. These things change a lot over time but at present, we have the medium brown / carmel color of your Bible, plus a deep red (a.k.a. “oxblood”), and a very nice black. These are the three main colors.
    But we have a few more. There’s a “pearl” which is a very very light shade of gray — okay, it’s an off-white. That’s good for a confirmation Bible or maybe a wedding, but most people don’t wield white Bibles. And there’s a dark brown, a more lightweight leather, which we recommend for a smaller Bible.
    Finally, there are the chocolates. These are thicker and firmer, and make great covers for those very large, overweight study Bibles some people need — the ones that are large print but not compact. When blind-stamped, these chocolates look seriously tasty!

  13. I wasn’t impressed with Leonard’s Restoration’s rebinding as the edges on my Bible were off by over an 1/8 of an inch, slightly crooked, and the “yapp” edges were wrinkled, like the waves of an ocean. They responded to my emails in a snide unchristian way. On the other hand, I had Mechling Bindery rebind a Bible without any issues. I would recommend Mechling for superior rebinding over Leonard’s any day.

  14. I have been nothing but delighted with Leonard’s work, and their customer service. i highly recommend them and go to them for most of my needs. I had one Bible done by ACE and liked it, but I keep coming back to Leonard’s. I cannot speak to the experience of others, but for me they have been nothing short of excellent in product and in interaction.
    Thanks Eric and Margie!

  15. I have had two bibles rebound by Leonard’s and have been very happy with their work. I like that they have so many different kinds and colors of leather to choose from. Margie is a pleasure to work with. I will go with Leonard’s next time as well.

  16. Yes, there are many different types of leather and some work better than others with an extended edge or semi-yapp, which is why we can’t guarantee that each one will perform exactly the way ya’ll want it to. (“Ya’ll” is a helpful word, by the way, since we’ve moved away from the King James “ye.”) Jonathan, you may want to see the difference using a different leather. We haven’t had much trouble with this goatskin.

  17. I’ve had five bibles rebound by Lonard’s. My six is at their shop as I write this. Eric and Margie have done a wonderful job on every bible I’ve sent them. For me, what sets them apart from other book binder’s is their excellent customer service. Margie is wonderful to work with and so accessible. I have had bible’s rebound by others (2 by Mechling another by a binder who may not be in business anymore),and I have considered other bindery’s but I keep coming back to Leonard’s every time!

  18. That’s “Leonard’s,” posting without my eye glasses again. As Margie and Eric have probably noticed, every bible I send them is large or giant print!

  19. I have had one Bible re-bound by Mechling and three done by Leonard’s (and just sent another to Leonard’s last week). Clearly, Mechling does quality work. In my opinion, Leonard’s work is the same quality with more choices of leathers and, in my opinion, superior customer service (not to say that Mechling does not have good customer service — Just that I have loved working with Marge). I do not think you will be disappointed with either — but my experience has led me to continue using Leonard’s. My only request is that Leonards start using leather lining and sewing in the same fashion as the ABBA Bibles!!!

  20. Thanks for this review Mark. I ordered this Bible for my husband for Christmas because of your review. Unfortunately not with the beautiful rebind. He has been wanting a large print, single column, easy to handle Bible in a modern translation for a reading Bible and this looks perfect.
    I really like your blog. Though I feel bad now that when my dad died I gave away about 20 Bibles in almost as many as 20 versions. Including a lovely leather KJV with apocrypha. At the time I thought, we already have a bunch of Bibles. Why do we need 20 or so more? Someone else will surely appreciate them. Now that I’ve been reading this blog I feel like I should have at least taken pictures and written reviews before giving them away. I have no regrets at giving them away though.

  21. I have wondered, with all the dozens (hundreds?)of Bibles you have in your collection what your favorites are. I bet I’m not the only one. Maybe some day you could write about it. What your favorites are for reading, for studying, for teaching, for traveling, for sheer beauty, for sentimental reasons, for whatever other uses you put a Bible to. I can’t think of any but there probably are some.

  22. Well Kathy, you can always buy back copies of the ones you miss. I just bought on eBay what I think is an exact copy of my VERY first bible, correct down to the very cross pull on the zipper. I got rid of it when I got my first, big, thick “study” bible, thinking it was a mere children’s bible. Now I rather treasure the text-only bibles.

  23. I bought an ESV Personal Size Reference Bible because I loved the dark purple cover with silver edging. The cover also had an embossed vine design. It was so purty I bought it even though the text was sooo small. I liked the single column with paragraphing. Alas, the cover was sooo stiff (unlike any of my other tru-tones). On your recommendation, I sent it to Leonard’s. It was rebound with dark red natural goat skin with 3 matching ribbon markers and “Holy Bible” blindstamped at the top of the spine. It is gorgeous!! They took a purty Bible and made it absolutely beautiful!! Worth every penny ‘cuz, hey, it’s God’s Word!! Thanks for the heads-up about Leonard’s, Mark!

  24. Steve, you should post pictures in a picasa web album and provide a link. I’d love to see how that turned out.

  25. Hi, again! We just got another one of these exact same Bibles in and I thought I’d take a moment to check out the Narrow Inner Margin Problem. In comparing the original to your pics, it looks like this particular edition actually didn’t really change from “before” to “after.” It started out having the problem … and after rebinding, it still had it.
    Everyone should remember to weigh all factors before sending in a Bible for rebinding. Though the effect is compounded if it starts out with a glued spine instead of a sewn one, if one starts with a less-than-perfect text block like this one did, rebinding can’t cure it.

  26. I purchased this Bible (standard black bonded leather.) I debated long and hard, as I have never been a fan of single column, but I really liked the size of the Bible (and type), so I took the plunge. WOW!! I guess you are correct about single column after all. I LOVE this Bible. As you mentioned, the gutter is a little tight, but not a huge issue. Even the binding seems very flexible for bonded leather. After much searching, and lots of “not quite what I thought,” I think I may have found my everyday “go to” Bible. When the cover wears out, I can see having this one recovered, especially since Zondervan is not going to continue printing ’84 NIV. I hope to keep this one with me until I go to meet the Lord.

  27. Thanks, jb, for your comments. I assume you have ISBN 978-0310949800? Can you confirm your edition has a “lay-flat” sewn binding (threads visible down deep in the gutter approximately every 32 pages)? How about gilded edges? Rounded corners? Ribbon bookmark?
    I note there’s a very-soon-to-be-released NIV11 edition (ISBN 9780310435297) of this very same binding. Based on this Giant Print Compact setting, Zondervan appears, for now, to be sliding the 2011 edition into their product lines with nothing other than “deluxe edition” added in the description, as if no one will notice. Given the current firestorm over the gender business, I doubt that’s going to be a winning business plan for them.
    We shall see. I suspect the 84NIV could outlive all of us.

  28. Bill,
    That is the ISBN. No tabs, rounded corners, gilded edges, and a single ribbon marker. The spine has a little curve to it, and so on the edges you can faintly see the individual signatures break. I am almost certain that it is a sewn binding even though there was no indication of that on the box. It was a good bit more expensive than the one advertised at the bottom of the post, probably for that reason.
    I guess I am odd, but I tucked the ribbon down in the binding behind the spine and just uses small individual pieces of cut ribbon. I find that to be much handier. When/if I ever have a rebind done I will probably request no ribbons. I am sure I am in the minority among this blog following, at least in terms of attached ribbons 🙂 I like them in principle, just not in practice.
    I accidentally purchased an ‘ll NIV for my youngest son. NIV Adventure Bible ISBN 9870310721970. I should have checked the copyright date, but I was letting him pick, and shopping with a small child can be challenging. He needed a new one to carry. I had hoped it would also be one he could use during family prayers so we would all have the same version for the reading. I guess he will use an older one for family prayers. I was tempted to return it, but he is joining a Bible Quiz program through our church, and they are planning to switch to NIV ‘ll for memorization, so I decided to keep it.

  29. Thanks, jb. I just found a reasonably-priced one from an Amazon reseller. It is indeed a gorgeous layout, smyth-sewn bound, with covers that become buttery-like in no time. I’m sure the bonded leather will eventually chip off at the stress points but I’m not going to consider rebinding it until then.
    And I stand by my comments of 3 months back: the NIV11 is truly being slipped into everyone’s product line with nary a whisper. Alas, “let us make mankind in our image” just doesn’t cut it for me.

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