R. L. Allan’s NASB1 in Crimson Highland Goatskin

Over the years, our friends at R. L. Allan have proven particularly adept at producing luxurious large-format editions of the Bible, the most obvious example being the superb KJV Long Primer. Recently, the ESV Reader's Reference Edition has hopped onto the dais, and now it is joined by a special edition of the Lockman Foundation's popular Side Column Reference NASB, dubbed the NASB1. My review copy is bound in the same crimson highland goatskin as the new crimson ESV Readers, albeit with a nicer, Long Primer-style semi-yapp edge. (For color comparison, see "Shades of Red."


By now, Allan's has the highland goatskin thing down. They deliver a consistently refined, aesthetically pleased packaging for whatever text block they set their mind to. The cover is thin, limp, and very flexible, letting the heft and bend of the paper dictate how the Bible feels in your hand. The level of fit and finish is excellent. And there are color combinations to suit a variety of tastes. Tastes vary, so it's impossible to point to one edition and declare it best, but my sense is that anyone putting together a top ten list is going to find it dominated by Allan's editions.


Crimson is a term of art for a color hovering somewhere between burgundy and red. These photos were all shot in natural light, which tends to bring out the red more. In some light, you will observe more of a purple tint. If the Alhambra Red used for the Personal Size Reference ESV is too blatant for you, here's a less brash alternative. The ribbons are thick and purplish-red (a bit darker in real life than they appear in the photos). 

Comparing this cover to the Crimson ESV Reader, I would give the NASB1 the nod. Here's why:


I happen to be a sucker for that pinched overlapping cover. Some people are just the opposite, preferring a clean, straight edge like the Reader's (see below). If you ask me, the semi-yapp edge is something Allan's does exceptionally well. When they omit this feature, I always miss it. So I'm very pleased to see the NASB1 getting the classic edge treatment.

For comparison, the photo below features the Reader (top) and the NASB1 (bottom). The cover material is the same, but that yapp edge makes a real difference in appearance, don't you think?


The two editions have comparable footprints, so much so that it's easy to mistake one for the other unless you're paying attention. The subtle details make a difference, though. The Reader has a modern feel, similar to current Cambridge bindings, whereas the NASB1 has a touch of old world reminiscent of the Long Primer. Again, the Reader (top) and NASB1 (bottom) compared:


One of the delights with a highland goatskin cover is that you can peel it back. You suddenly remember that leather is just skin, that if it started out as stiff as the covers of some genuine leather Bibles you'll find at the Christian gift shoppe, there would be a lot of awkward looking cows and goats peg-legging their way across the fields. 

The inside cover is a darker burgundy (quite attractive in its own right), with a gilt line running around the perimeter. The front cover is stamped HIGHLAND GOATSKIN and the back reads ALLAN BINDING. Just what we've come to expect. The pages have art-gilt (i.e., red under gold) edges — again, just what you'd expect. 



Another pleasure of highland goatskin: it's liquid in your hand. With a lot of use, most quality covers will develop a level of flexibility. Highland goatskin covers possess that out of the box. It's as if someone took the text block out of a standard Bible and decided to put a leather jacket around it. (If only I had a jacket made of highland goatskin to model for you.) The result, compared to most Bibles, is an almost decadent amount of flexibility. 


This degree of limpness is useful with a larger Bible. While a stiff cover would support the weight of the text block better, a limp one allows you to fold one side under, making the Bible handier — and you can do this without bending back or creasing the delicate spine.


Natural goatskin tends to have a tight, uniform grain up close, with larger striation when you zoom back. It's a more rustic finish than, say, a sleek calfskin. But I happen to like it a lot. Fans of the New American Standard Bible should be thrilled to see those words stamped on the spine of an Allan's edition. 


What about the insides? As I mentioned, this is a Foundation text block, one that has a bit of a cult following to judge by my inbox. The Side Column Reference, as the name suggests, moves references to a column alongside the text, which is set in a single column (though, like the Crossway Single Column Reference ESV, it isn't paragraphed). 

As is the case so often these days, the text block itself is printed in China. The same is true of the ESV Readers. I'm impressed with the quality delivered by Jongbloed in the Netherlands and R.R. Donnelley in the States. I'm still on the fence when it comes to the Chinese text blocks. In this case, the print impression seems uniformly dark and I don't see the broken letters or lighter print that have dogged some Chinese text blocks in the past. Some of you will do doubt get magnifying glasses out and check for yourselves — I look forward to hearing the result.


In terms of opacity, this text block looks consistent with the ESV Reader and Personal Size Reference. There is definitely ghosting. In white space, you can see the reverse print image (the words on the opposite side of the paper). And in cases where a space is white on both sides, you can see printing from the next page, too. I've taken a number of shots at different distances, all in natural light, so you can make up your own mind about the level of ghosting. I think it's acceptable.


Above, you can see that the NASB1 features a somewhat innovative design — if not by today's standards, then certainly by those of the 90s. By setting the text in a single column and giving the references room to breathe on the outer edge, the designer ends up with a very legible format. The type is 11 pt., which contributes a great deal to readability. Where many text settings seem crowded, this one is nicely proportioned, even elegant. I have some bones to pick with the details, but compared to the traditional two-column, verse-by-verse format, this is wonderful. I can understand why so many NASB readers raved about it.


Up close, there are some dodgy choices. I'm not fond of the decision to flow new books into the column without a page break (as above). And naturally, I'm not a fan of the verse-by-verse layout, which in my view tends to privilege the sentence or phrase above the paragraph, encouraging a less natural way of reading. I have an aesthetic objection, too. When you stretch verse-by-verse settings across a single column, you create quite a bit of "unintentional" white space thanks to the fact that, well, verses aren't paragraphs. Notice in the photo below how 22.1 breaks about halfway through the column, after the word "approaching," and 22.2 breaks all the way at the left margin, dangling the word "people" all alone on a blank line. This is bad form, but it's unavoidable given the decision to set verse-by-verse text in a single column.

To indicate paragraph breaks, the verse numbers are set in bold. While the chapter numbers are in the same serif typeface as the text, the verse numbers are in a more modern looking san serif type. They're big, and they're stacked on the left, which makes it very easy to find whichever sentence or phrase you're trying to look up.


Those of you who've been reading Bible Design Blog for awhile know that I was never a fan of Crossway's Single Column Reference ESV, which is more or less the same format as this. I find all the unintended white space rather ugly. (Others, perhaps the majority, viewed it as a benefit, since the SCR's margins weren't sufficiently wide for notetaking, and my unintended white space became their unintended wide margins.) 

In this case, I think the problem isn't as pronounced, perhaps because the column width isn't as great. I still don't think this is an ideal format for reading … but for reference (something the NASB translation really lends itself to anyway), there's a lot to recommend it. And if you're one of those people who has trouble losing his place in paragraphed text, the combination of verse-by-verse and 11 pt. type will be very welcome.


And when you're tired of following along during the sermon, there are some pretty, full-color maps at the back to occupy your time. (I'm always suspicious of people with a really good knowledge of Holy Land geography … what have they been up to during church?)


When the translation you use doesn't get the same market support as the rest, things can be really frustrating. (Just ask anyone who loves the NRSV.) If I had a dollar for every request I'd gotten for a high quality edition of the NASB, I could stop trying to lure you into purchasing the books listed in the column on the right. Before now, I've only been able to recommend the excellent Cambridge editions, which aren't necessarily the friendliest for aging eyes. The R. L. Allan's NASB1 is a well made, readable reference edition available in Crimson, Black, and Dark Brown. If you read the NASB, this would make an excellent companion. And if you teach from it, even more so. 

The NASB1 is available to order directly from R. L. Allan, and from EvangelicalBible.com, too. For a lot more photos of the three color options, be sure to check out the EB Facebook gallery.



68 Comments on “R. L. Allan’s NASB1 in Crimson Highland Goatskin

  1. Looks like they could have avoided the “people” on a single line problem if they used hyphenation and better text-layout rules. I’ve been playing around with InDesign CS5 and it is able to avoid some of that through hyphenation, but it also analyzes the entire paragraph to optimize spacing and when you break up the paragraph into sentences, you leave a lot less words for the text-layout tool to use. I definitely think there’s more opportunity to create a beautiful layout if you keep the verses in paragraph form.

  2. Ahhh, NASB – the bible I used before (and after) the NIV OT was published in 1978. Reasonable people could probably debate whether it is truly a translation πŸ˜‰ but it is a great bible, either alone or with a less literal translation.
    I believe the single-column reference format goes back to the original versions of the NASB? I’ve lost my first NASB (!) but I’m pretty sure it was in that format back in the early 1970s. It used the bold verse number as a paragraph flag, too. It’s not the same as true paragraph layout, but it is quite readable.
    I came back to the NASB a few years ago and was disappointed to find that the translation had been significantly revised. What I really missed was the way the original version translated (as literally as possible) the verbs in the New Testament. As a result, I am one of those who still look for the earlier version in used book stores and auctions. Judging from number of bids and prices, I am usually not the only one who feels the same way.

    • I’ve often thought about setting up “The Fellowship of 1978 NASB Bibles”.
      I’ve used the NASB since 1975. I gave away my orange hardback. My wife donated my worn slim line to an African mission seeking study Bibles. The replacement was cheaper & flawed (missing part of the study materials). It was rebound but was too hard a leather. I now use a red Moody Press Ryrie 1978 edition that set on our church coat rack shelf for six months. I really did ask if anyone knew it’s owner, but no one knew of them.

  3. @JNewell, yes the single column reference format does go back to the original NASB publication in the early 70s (maybe that’s why I have a soft spot in my heart for it).
    As one of the “NASB cultists” I am really in a quandry regarding obtaining this edition. While it is obviously a beautiful Bible, it doesn’t have the wide margins that the pre-China edition from Lockman has, so it would be difficult for notes. On the other hand, my Cambridge wide margin is excellent except that the smaller type is getting a tad more difficult to read for my 56 year old eyes, and this edition has the womderful 11 point type. So, I’m torn at the moment.

  4. I have the calfskin version of this NASB bible by Lockman and I love it. I am disappointed in the binding of the bible (which if you research it, is the number one complaint after the publisher transferred the printing job to China even though the calfskin cover is great) so I pre-ordered this Allan version in April because of their printing quality. I am waiting for it to arrive in the mail. This Allan NASB bible will be my personal bible for the rest of my life. I find that the margins are wide enough to make any notes (and I have a ton of notes transferred to my current NASB bible that I have written down over the last 25 years) and it also easier to teach Sunday school classes using this bible. My 52 year old eyes love the 11 point font and the single line format. I have tons of other bibles including the Allan ESV Reader that was released earlier this year, but the Lockman NASB single column format, font, margin space and translation cannot be beat. And it looks like Allan came through in publishing a top quality bible that will last a lifetime. I would highly recommend this version of the NASB bible, which is now being made by the best bible publisher in the world.

  5. I think it’s interesting that Mark notes such a contrast between the Reader’s smaller yapp and the NASB’s “Longprimer-style” full yapp. My black Reader has a much fuller yapp than the crimson one pictured, almost identical to the NASB’s. It’s actually fuller than the Longprimer I briefly had, from the most recent printing. Is there that much variation among a given “model”?
    Regardless, while this isn’t a Bible I’m interested in, I’m certainly happy for all the brothers and sisters who have been waiting so long for it. It looks like another wonderful Allan Bible.

  6. I hope people aren’t too disappointed by the margins. I’d say they’re about a half-inch. Like Mark said, the footprint is about the same as the reader, but the spine is a bit thicker which makes it handle a little nicer.

  7. @ JNewell – You stated, “I came back to the NASB a few years ago and was disappointed to find that the translation had been significantly revised. What I really missed was the way the original version translated (as literally as possible) the verbs in the New Testament.”
    I was wondering if you, or anyone else, could give some examples? Most of my time reading the NASB has been the updated version, although I do have an older (Cambridge) copy of the original NASB and I’d be curious to note some of these differences that disappoint you.

  8. It is nice to see the NASB getting some attention. I believe this is one of the best overlooked translations by evangelicals today. It’s reputation of being “wooden” is a very unfair characterization of this translation. It may not be the best example of English prose in some places but there is nothing difficult to read about this translation.

  9. Brian – I will dig up some representative examples, probably this weekend.
    Knight – back when the choice was more or less limited to NASB, RSV, NEB, JB and KJV, the NASB *was* the choice of evangelicals, at least all those I knew or met. I actually deleted the word “wooden” from my post above πŸ™‚ but if I had used it I would stand by it. There are lots of places in the NT where the NASB either reproduces or very closely follows the Greek word order. My Greek teachers used to hurl abuse or worse at us when we did that. πŸ™‚ My opinion (and you’re certainly entitled to disagree) is that part of what makes the NASB so useful is the degree to which it is formal, word-level equivalent. It is a great study bible but would not be my first choice for public worship.
    The following observation is off-topic, but I do wonder whether we are really better having so many choices now. Could it not be the case that sometimes there is more value in simply making a choice and absorbing the text into our daily lives, rather than worrying about exceedingly fine nuances of translation that affect a tiny percentage of the Bible…just a though.

  10. JNewell, I agree with you about the danger of too many choices. It’s hard to memorize scripture when you read a different version all the time. Of course, have multiple versions helps me in study when I can compare translations. I don’t know Greek or Hebrew…..yet. So it’s good and bad.

  11. I would agree, to really know one translation is a good idea. But it’s also good to have different translations for study and teaching etc…

  12. This will probably sound silly to most people, but one of the reasons I enjoy the ’77 NASB over the Updated version is the choice to go with the pronouns “Thee” and “Thou” when referring to God was omitted after the update. I just enjoyed the Thee’s and Thou’s, only when the reference was to God, in the original. It gave the translation a sense of majesty that I really miss in the ’95 edition.

  13. JNewel – To each their own. I agree that what makes the NASB stand out is the precision of the language but I do disagree that it is not appropriate for public reading. It may not be perfect (no translation ever is) but we have been using the NASB in our church for a long time without problems. With the selections we have today the only translation I would agree with replacing this one is the ESV.
    That said, opinions can and do vary on this issue. Personally I flip back and forth between the ESV and NASB. They are similar enough that memorizing is not much of an issue. In fact the ESV has been called “The NASB without semicolons.” – James White.

  14. Nice review Mark. While I don’t use the NASB any more I think I really like the layout on this edition with the exception of making it a paragraphed format. The column width looks ideal for a single column paragraphed setting, which I would love to see in the ESV.
    What do you think Mark?

  15. I now feel like my NASB’s are complete.
    I have a leather Thompson Chain in the original NASB edition, and now the Allan in the newer NASB version.
    To me nothing is truly lost in the updated version, but maybe that is because I also read the ESV and am used to an easier flow.
    The bible I ordered was the crimson.
    It is just as you described Mark and I find it simply a thing of beauty.
    This is my 3rd Allan’s highland goatskin, the other 2 being a KJV brevier claredon and the first edition ESV.
    All 3 goatskin covers remind me of thumbprints- each uniquely different from each other. The ribbons of the NASB are much thicker than my ESV, but as the NASB is larger than the original ESV that I have, it seems more appropriate.
    Yes Mark, I was taken back at paper made in China, but it is very wonderfully supple.
    Overall, an excellent edition for the NASB fan.

  16. Got my NASB Allan…I loved the quality and the yapp. However, the ghosting and the large font size were too much for me. I couldn’t stay focused on the words and read.

  17. Unfortunately this is a sad continuing theme with Allan Bibles, the paper! I don’t understand why this is not addressed as they are creating a premium binding and a price to match but their paper simply falls short in some versions; I have had interest in ordering this Bible but have wanted to hear more reports.
    I tried the Allan ESVR and the ghosting affected me as it did you, quite a disappointment; I did email Allan awhile back asking if the paper was the same as the ESVR and here is the response:
    The paper looks to be pretty similar. The Allan NASB paper is an improvement on the last NASB printing which Lockman did. It is more opaque, close to the ESVR quality.
    We did not specify the paper in either of these editions.

  18. Brian, is that last line also part of the Allan quote?!?!? Hard to believe they didn’t specify the paper! You only get what you negotiate.
    Here’s a snippet of the GPO’s bible paper spec, which I find interesting:
    (There’s also a 12th ed being worked on http://www.gpo.gov/customers/vol12.htm )
    Note there are quantitative measures of opacity, strength, smoothness, brightness, etc that can/should be used when printing.
    I’d love to see a quantitative comparison of old rag-based India paper and the junk we get now.

  19. Ghosting is very subjective. I’ve heard some say the Allan NASB has less ghosting than the reader, but I would say it’s the other way around. The reader doesn’t bother me. The NASB does depending on the lighting.

  20. Somthing to keep in mind is that with most non-KJV editions, Allan has no control over the paper. They receive the text block from the publisher and bind it. So the blame doesn’t really belong to Allan, but rather to the publisher.

  21. Glad I dug out this review, as well as comments. I love the Updated NASB text but had a time trying to find one really good version to keep for awhile [then messed it up]. Way back when I first became a follower of Christ I had an old SCR Lockman Foundation fattie in bonded leather, and all my early notes, tears, etc are scrawled and emblazoned on that one which I cherish. But I read on Allan’s site about this SCR and was not sure what type they borrowed for the edition, so now I know. I have here nearby [will be ebaying] the Foundation equivalent, leather bound and tried hard to love it. What What Mark criticizes re: the text layout reflects my own reasons for laying that one aside [to Ebay]. In the end I chose instead the double-column ‘thinline’ large print reference in Leather. I was already acquainted with the typeset having for several years carried as my ‘gym bagger’ a hardback Zondervan Large Print Thinline Updated NASB which is a heck of a good cheap bible. The text is highly readable so I thought it would carry over to the reference version. It does, but at the price of being ‘squeezed’ in the two columns to make room for the center references, something the original layout did not accomodate. The result is as you would expect, an inefficient layout in each column with dangling parts here and there.
    The Foundation double-column is simply more readable due to a brighter/whiter paper, favorable font, strong ink [BLACK on white], and unlike the non-reference Zondervan, the new one is black letter throughout – the Zon’s red letters are a bit pale imho. While not perfect, for now its my main go-to Bible. Horribly, while sitting in church on the first sunday of advent, listening intently to a message taken from Matthew 5 while absent-mindedly scratching my forearm, I looked down to see blood on my new bible’s Matthew 5 page 2!! The itch I had scratched was an abrasion scabbed-over. Ugh…. lots of blotting and doctoring and pressing later, its a remarkable ‘save’ but the affected pages will always be like an unwelcome wart in the midst of an otherwise decent Bible.
    Still trying to find an ESV that I really like, but that’s another column.

  22. Gotta’ disagree with you Fernando. No one held a gun to Allan’s head. They either contracted for those text blocks, or they bought them on the open market. I suspect the former, in which case they should have specified the paper to be used, although if the latter, I’d say they’re even more at fault for willingly buying something obviously sub-par.
    Unlike some of you, I believe ghosting is an objective, quantifiable measure that’s a function of known parameters. Along with the Government Procurement Office, I think quality paper CAN be specified. But even if not, Allan should have at least insisted on a sample and studied it, if only qualitatively, under various lighting conditions by various observers, before proceeding with a large, high-consequence order.
    Better paper is available, at a price, and if the premium binderies can’t learn how to specify it, or at least identify it in a sample, someone else will move in and take over that small, high-priced, specialized market. Bookbinding is not rocket science.

  23. I suppose you could measure ghosting, but you can’t measure how people see it. It’s just like font size. Some people love the Allan NASB while others return it. Some people love the Pitt Minion while others return it because the letters are too small.

  24. A quantitative ghosting scale would be nice though. That way, if you know what level of ghosting is acceptable to you, then you can make a more informed decision when buying bibles without being able to physically examine them.

  25. I certainly agree that the level of ghosting at which an individual considers a threshold has been crossed and considers the reading experience unacceptable varies from individual to individual based on their age, visual acuity, and their degree of perseverance (or desperation). As John points out, the same is true of font size, where those with less visual acuity prefer larger fonts. So just like “the market” justifies larger-font, more awkward-sized Bibles, I would expect a market to exist for LOW-PRICED bibles with higher levels of ghosting, made from cheaper paper, which makes up a considerable fraction of the raw materials in the product. What I can’t fathom is how a purveyor of HIGH-PRICED bibles can use low quality paper and expect to stay in business. And even if one’s young, patient, and have great eyesight, I’d think one would expect high-quality paper to be used if one’s paying a premium price.

  26. I missed John’s last comment when I posted before. I would heartily agree that paper opacity, at a minimum, as determined by accepted testing methods, be listed in descriptions of quality Bibles. What paper is being used would be even better. (Each folio page in a signature could bear an unobtrusive watermark.)
    The vendors are very good at specifying whether “leather” is imitation, bonded, or genuine. I’d like to think this forum could serve to motivate vendors to be just as forthright in specifying the quality of their paper.

  27. I think that is a good idea Bill as well as a good point about vendors specifying the cover type. While I am sure those of us that care are rather small, it could be helpful especially in this day when many Bibles are being purchased online and unseen in person. This could be done at least on the higher end editions. While I appreciate a quality binding and cover like those participating here, it is worth little if one has issues reading it.
    While I didn’t want to get petty with John’s comment, “Ghosting is very subjective”, I think it is better said as, The affects of ghosting is very subjective, which I suspected was his intent, which his followups seem to indicate, which I definitely agree with.
    I certainly do not know the agreements and workings at Allan, although I have swapped emails in the past where comments allude to agree to some extent with Fernando. That said, it just seems something could be done to control this issue more in a product with your name; I am guessing it would cost Allan a lot more money to call all the shots themselves, if they could/can. Here is a snippet from a conversation about the ESV, “With the ESV we are partnering with other, larger publishers who tend to call the shots,…”.

  28. Exactly, I meant that as the effects of ghosting are subjective. I can see how my earlier statement wasn’t clear. That would be comparable to say font is subjective. πŸ™‚

  29. Bill, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying someone is holding a gun to Allan’s head. But it’s my understanding that Allan’s is not a large company, they do not mass-produce, and as a result they may not have the leverage to be able to specify things like the paper used. I think Brian is probably more knowledgeable on this issue due to his direct conversations with them.
    I do agree with you, though, that it would be quite helpful if paper quality, as measured in the way you describe, were to be included in the descriptions. I certainly understand the frustrations involved in purchasing Bibles online without being able to handle them in person, so the more accurate the information in the listing, the better!
    Regardless, the fact Allan’s can charge $100-$200 for their Bibles and that distributors such as EvangelicalBibles.com are often out of stock tells me that people are buying them, and I imagine most find the ghosting at the very least tolerable. Those who aren’t satisfied can return the Bible; and I suppose that if Allan’s were to begin to see a growing number of returns due to ghosting, it might motivate them to address this issue more actively.
    At some point someone with sufficient capital may very well move in to take over the high-end market by offering better paper. The fact that no one has done so yet, however, suggests one of two things to me: either the demand just isn’t there; or, while bookbinding may not be rocket science, it may also not be as easy as it seems to be.

  30. Interested to read the discussion about ghosting on this Bible. Recently bought one as well, albeit a brown one. I agree the ghosting or bleed through appears to be the worst of the 3 Allans I own – the NIV cross ref. and the ESV Reader. I say ‘appears’, because I doubt that it is really any worse than the NIV, and maybe not the Reader either. On thing that makes the NAS appear worse than the NIV is the single column verse by verse format as opposed to the double column paragraph. There is simply much more blank paper for the type from the previous page to bleed through in a noticeable way. The difference between the Reader and the NAS also lies along this line in addition to the fact that while the paper quality of the NAS and NIV appear to be the same, the ESV Reader is definitely a more pronounced or brighter white. Is the NAS ghosting objectionable? Well I ended buying mine new off a guy on ebay and didn’t send it back. It does somewhat depend on where it is sitting on my lap or the arm of my chair. Also, at my age (57) the 11 point type tends to outweigh other consideraions. Also, this is my first SCR. The verse by verse format bothers me more than the ghosting, but again, it’s no deal breaker – just different.

  31. I agree that ghosting is a real problem with the ESV Readers’ Bible. I was very excited to purchase this larger print bible but ended-up sending it back. I haven’t seen the NASB. I’m a bit worried about the upcoming release of the Allan Oxford wide margin bible that I plan to purchase. I may be mistaken but I believe that I read somewhere that the paper that will be used with the Allan Oxford wide margin will be the same kind that Oxford and Cambridge uses. If so that will be great!

  32. Oliver, if the ghosting in the ESV Reader was unacceptable to you, you definitely won’t like the Allan NASB then. I hope they use real nice paper for the Allan/Oxford wide-margin.

  33. There is a grading system for paper quailty. I think it is measured by how much the paper weighs in a 12x12x12 square. Exsample, 20lb. 22lb. 24lb. The problem is none of the publishers will use it. Even when you inquire, they say they don’t know. Read the post above from Brian. Allen said,(The paper LOOKS to be PRETTY similer as the esvr.) It’s a shame you have to order a bible to see it’s paper quailty, when they could just tell you what lb. paper the bible is printed on.

  34. Drew is right. There IS a grading system for paper quality, but there’s lots of parameters in the system. Paper weight is only one of them. Paper density, or mass per volume, which is related to the paper weight, is correlated to opacity, so the more dense stuff (rag, titantium dioxide, etc) in a paper’s composition the more opaque it should tend to be and the less likely to have ghosting or bleedthrough. (White light transmission, on the other hand, directly measures such opacity.)
    But since all paper today is pretty much all the same pulp product, actual paper density is relatively constant and paper weight is largely just a measure of how many grams a large sheet (or how many pounds 500 moderate sheets) weigh so it’s really a measure of paper thickness rather than paper density or quality. And of course thinner sheets will be less opaque and less readable, although their use will result in a thinner volume. We’re at a point where today’s crummy paper product is being rolled out as thin as the great paper of decades ago and the result is an unacceptable reading product.
    I believe most of the complaints here of “poor paper” would go away if the printers would just use paper 30-50% thicker, which for the same design layout means the volume would be 30-50% thicker. However then the Bible wouldn’t be a “thinline” or whatever marketing term the major publishers have dreamed up. I’m not saying making paper thicker makes it higher quality. It’s the same paper product whether rolled thick or thin. Rather, think of thickness as a way to compensate for poor quality paper in the first place.
    I’m afraid most bibles sold today are used as fashion accessories for the follow-along-with-me, six-verses-once-a-week Bible user. In such a market, thinner volumes with transparent, hard to read paper will apparently still generate reasonable revenue. Isn’t it ironic that we’re sold heirloom quality bindings over paper that wouldn’t be tolerated by readers of dimestore novels? But the system seems to work because dimestore novels are actually read and Bibles apparently aren’t, at least not in any meaningful sense. And in that regard, I think we have only ourselves and our pastors, not the book publishers, to blame for the situation.
    What I think this blog needs to do is convince publishers that there’s a smaller market that actually reads these things whole chapters at a time. And we will either pay a very premium price for truly high quality paper, or at least a proportionally higher price for a thicker volume that’s readable, even if it’s made using the same basic paper formulation as today’s crummy thinline, just in thicker sheets.

  35. More to Drew’s comment, it’s appalling if publishers don’t know what weight paper they’re using. For cryin’ out loud, cut off a cover, weigh the text block in grams, divide by the number of sheets (half the number of pages) and divide by the trim size area in square meters and you’ll have the paper weight in gsm or grams per square meter per sheet.
    I wouldn’t order a dozen copies of a report from a neighborhood Kinkos without knowing what weight paper was being used! It’s unfathomable to think that this isn’t spelled out contractually in a major book order. What I think I hear Allen saying between the lines is that they’re stuck with the text blocks that Crossway or some other rights-holder contracted with the Chinese to produce and they can’t do anything about it if they want to be in the business of selling that version.
    So this is a business problem, not a technical one. Sigh. Can anyone say King James Only?

  36. Bill, you made me think of Lockmans NASB Ultrathin line. They call it ultrathin eventhough it’s probably about 1.5 inches thick. It has very nice opaque paper (even the Chinese printed version).
    Also, your comment about current paper compared to older paper is so true. I found a ~25 year old NASB thinline from Holman at a used bookstore. It is even thinner than the ESV Value Thinline, yet it has better paper with very little ghosting. The paper seems so different in my older bibles.

  37. Thanks Bill, I knew there was more to paper quailty than just the weight or thickness. I wished these publishers would get off this thinline stuff and print a bible you can read. Why does a bible have to be 3/4 of an inch or less in thickness? It seems it doesn’t matter how big the footprint is as long as it is thin. I would rather have a bible with a footprint of say, pitt minion size or slightly larger and 1 1/2 thickness any day. Wow, imagine a pitt minion with a little thicker paper, about a 9 pt.type wraped up in goatskin.

  38. The paper of yesteryear was rag content paper. I think if you google papermaking art you’ll find hobbiests who still make rag paper for their journals, art projects, and for general eccentricity’s sake!
    The urban legend is that it is so labor-intensive to make rag (“India”) paper that only cheap colonial labor in last century’s India could make it for an affordable rate; and that even Chinese labor rates today can not economically produce it. And if made by hand from small scraps of cast-off cloth that’s probably true.
    But I think rag paper is completely amenable to modern mass production methods. Today’s paper is about .4 cents/sheet for copier paper and maybe ~1 penny/sheet for today’s “premium Bible paper”. So a 2000 page Bible, has ~$10 worth of today’s paper in it. Cotton cloth is ~$100 for 40 yard bolts. The same loom that makes it in bolts should be able to make it continuously, or at least in the sort of lengths a large paper roll for mass printing comes in. That cotton cost is ~20 cents per square foot, or ~10 cents per page-sized sheet, or about 10x that of basic paper. (Since making “rag paper” in continuous fashion would probably entail a lot of pressing and stretching of the cotton cloth, that’s probably a generous overestimate.) The rest of the rag-paper-making process shouldn’t involve materials any more expensive than the pulp paper process, which we’ve said is sold for 1 cent/sheet, so mass-produced rag paper should be feasible for 11 cents per sheet. A bible thus printed would have $110 worth of “heritage paper” in it (I’m a marketing genius!) and thereby cost $100 more. And with the added benefit, I’d add, of being much gentler on the environment than pulp paper-making.
    I’ve heard that dollar bills (currency is made from rag paper for durability) cost only pennies to make, so I think that estimate is sound. One could argue that currency paper is made in quantities of billions of sheets per year (still a tiny fraction of the GDP) so currency paper can’t be compared to the specialized Bible market. But I’d counter that a modern print run is probably considered economical if it goes through a single ~10-mile long roll of wide paper, the changing of which is probably the bulk of a large offset printer’s setup time This should make ~25k octavo-sized sheets, or ~800k pages, enough for about 400 bibles. Since I suspect Allen sells ~1000 of each of their $200 editions, the question becomes: would at least half that number pay $300 for one with truly great paper?
    I commented that dimestore novels are bought to be read, but maybe not the Bible. I implied that Bibles today are bought largely to be carried to church, more as a fashion accessory than a book. (I was pleased none of you jumped down my throat for my bluntness!) The exception to this would be Bibles intended for “Bible as Lit” classes, where you flunk if you don’t read the text. Two editions come to mind: Lattimore’s New Testament and the Oxford KJV paperback Bible with Michaelangelo’s Jeremiah on the cover. Both use typical cheap modern pulp paper, but in THICK sheets so there’s no ghosting. I love ’em. They’re also well over twice as thick as their high-priced leather-bound competitors!
    I think I recall two posts total here over the years that even mentioned either of these two very readable “literary” editions. And yet how many hundreds enthusing over Allens with paper that’s–let’s be honest–is too thin??? I guess my point is that “good enough” paper bibles already exist but can’t find a market except in literature classes taught from a perspective not particularly respectful of the Christian tradition. So I’m skeptical that among true believers there’s a market for “modern India paper” bibles with a $100 price premium. As proof, I’d venture to say that Zondervan, Navpress, and Crossway have folks who’ve done the simple calcs I just did. And yet they offer neither a high-priced great paper edition that’s thin nor a low-priced, good-enough paper edition that’s thick. I suspect they know all too well the dirty little secret that we’re more a fashion market than a reader’s market.
    I’d love to be proved wrong. But I think it’s the elephant in the room here.

  39. Bill, while I appreciate all your time and estimate’s in paper making, I can’t help but think about Cambridge Bibles, where I find the paper they use to be wonderful and they have a very nice binding, maybe not as nice as Allan’s, but the cost of a Cambridge Bible, in general, isn’t $100 more than Allan’s. My point being, I don’t think it would cost an extra $100 to give the paper we desire.
    All that said, I agree where you sum up the reasoning being the market.
    If Cambridge offered the translation(s) I like in more offerings, I would own one; what they provide now has print smaller than I’d like. It has been said before, if we could have an Allan Bible (of choice) with Cambridge paper, we’d have many happy people here.
    You mention thicker paper, I have a Crossway Heirloom ESV which has thick(er) paper and I am with you, I will take the heavier paper if that is what it takes.

  40. Hi Brian. My experience is that Cambridge bibles aren’t anything like they used to be either. Did you have a particular one in mind as exceptional? If so, I’d question if it wasn’t “new old stock”, so I’d be curious about the printing date.
    The paper is absolutely horrid in my relatively new Belgium-printed Cambridge Emerald (KJ53). At a $50 street price one could argue that you get what you pay for but my French Morocco New Cambridge Paragraph certainly wasn’t a cheap Bible. Yet the NCP paper “quality” per se isn’t anything to rave about, although at 1800 pages in 1.75″ (.002″ per sheet) they at least used a relatively thick paper. Even so, I wouldn’t say ghosting isn’t troublesome in it.
    That said, the leather NCP is still overall my most treasured new Bible, so yes, Cambridge can still hit a homerun if they want. On the other hand, Mark and plenty of others here panned that 1st edition NCP as being too big and heavy so I don’t think we’ll be seeing too many more such homers in the future! Could Cambridge have used a thinner, true rag-content paper, at an additional $100 price premium, and kept a moderate-sized, readable typeface and layout in a lighter, svelte edition? I believe they could have, but I suspect the market realities I mentioned motivated them to take the route they’re actually taking, namely making a “compact” edition where the font is what I fear will be less than comfortable to read, at least for the average reader. The first edition, in cheaper bindings, will still be available for the academic market, who, as I said, actually read the Bible. But the leather-bound editions (for the church-going true believers) will sacrifice readability for fashion’s sake. Not a nice commentary, my Friends.
    The sample Compact NCP images show the compact is just a scaled-down version of the original. I’ve got to wonder if they didn’t try to get their weight down even more by using thinner paper, which, if they stuck with the same formulation as the original, I predict would then have disturbing levels of ghosting. Who knows, maybe that’s why the release date has been so delayed! If so, kudos to Kambridge for having some integrity.

  41. Hi Bill–I had a Cambridge wide margin ESV for a week or so last summer, before sending it back.

  42. Does anyone have a KJV from Local Church Bible Publishers? How does their paper compare to an Allan’s or to Cambridge?

  43. The last version I want is an NASB, and this article has been quite helpful. Although I own a couple of Allan ESV1 editions, the comments here give me pause. I called a couple of publishers and they both said their text blocks are printed in China due to economic reasons. That is almost understandable.
    Does anyone know of a good source of used NASB bibles which could be rebound by an outfit like Leonards?
    I’m not completely out of the running on the Allan NASB; the paper quality is holding me back.

  44. The paper quality is NOT that bad! It’s essentially no worse thatn my Allan NIV cross reference.

  45. I had the Lockman NASB Large Print Ultrathin Bible and it had excellent paper and calfskin binding. However, the print was so light (in my opinion) that it was very hard to read. I ended-up selling it on eBay. Their NASB wide margin more the same – great paper and calfskin binding but poor print. Has anyone else experienced too light print in their calfskin editions? (I looked at several of their calfskin bibles and they were all the same.) As you can tell, I like a bible with good, dark print. Anyone else feel the same?

  46. I received my Allan’s NASB Friday. I was so excited…until I opened it. The cover is as described, the best i’ve ever seen, top quality! But inside was a mess. The first 1000 pages or so were crinkled, or maybe a better word is “puckered”, about every inch or so from top to bottom near the spine. The puckering finally disappeared somehwere in Acts. The last 10-15 pages, including the entire map section had some type of permanent crease or indentation. The only way to describe it would be to liken it to the way your skin looks after sleeping on rumpled bedding. It appeared to be as if the paper they used must have been on the bottom of the ream and had a permanent indentation on them. This ruined it for me. I am attempting to contact Allan to get it sent back with full refund. The retail price was way too high for such substandard binding in my opinion.

  47. The folks at Evangelical Bibles could not be more gracious. I was initially concerned that there might be issues in the return process…not even the slightest! While the products offered through EB are indeed “top-shelf” and flaws are always a possibility, they appear to be the exception rather than the rule. My replacement Bible is already enroute and am expecting it within the next day or so.
    Many thanks to the fine folks at EB and for those of you who have taken your time to review these, and the other fine products mentioned in the blogs.

  48. I have been getting lost in this blog over the last week and learning a lot, but also getting somewhat overwhelmed in trying to sort out the pros, cons, and options. My “wish list”, like everyone’s, is too long and specific (NASB, wide margin, single column, reference, thumb indexed, 10+ font, and so on). I am not looking for something petite to toss in my purse, but rather something that will stick with me for years to come. This Allen version is definitely in the running. I can handle some ghosting, but am worried about my own ink bleed-through. I have Micron 005 and 010 pens, but it would be nice to know in advance of ordering an expensive Bible that they aren’t going to show through. Any advice/recommendations/experience will be appreciated. You folks are a treasure chest of knowledge!

  49. @Brooke, I can tell you that I’ve owned this particular Allan NASB for over a year now, and have used Pigma Microns for notetaking with no bleed through issues.
    To my knowledge, I’m not aware of any other NASB edition which fits your above criteria. The closest I think would be the Cambridge wide margin, but it’s double column with smaller than 10 point font.

  50. Thanks for the response, Larry. Everyone seems to be pretty smitten with Allen’s binding standards, so it’s comforting to read that the paper seems up to par as well.

  51. This is a nice color for the NASB. I have a Ryrie in split leather and a very nice Charles Stanley In Touch Edition of the NASB but in Black Calfskin. I love this Crimson Red. I was reading on the Allan’s site the other day that they are coming out with a Special Edition NASB in Jan. of 2013. I’m trying to find out more about that one before I order the Crimson.

  52. I contacted the people at Allan and they said the NASB edition is listed as “New Limited Edition” because they will only be making 500 of them. This would help explain why on evangelicalbible’s website it says that the preorder stock is low. I am looking forward to getting this bible…I just cant decided on the black or the brown edition.
    Just a note about the paper, I own a SCR edition of the NASB and the ghosting in the paper is not bad at all. It doesn’t make it difficult to read at all in my opinion.

  53. I was really excited to receive my Allan NASB1 this week, but was so disappointed with the text block that I am sending it back. Binding is beautiful, service was stellar; but the ghosting is more than I expected and just beyond what I can accept in a Bible costing this much. It was substantial enough that it made the Bible harder for me to read. I understand purchasing a text block from Lockman, but I think that “premium” Bibles need to include high end specifications for the paper. No disrespect intended to EB.com at all. The service has been top notch.

  54. Yes, Marty, it’s a shame the top-line Bibles use the same text blocks as the PVC-bound models. I’d sure love to hear from someone in the business what a press run of 500 text blocks using truly first-class paper would cost. $50k? $500k? Considering you can get a truly hand-made copy of the Arion Press Folio Bible for <$10k each, I wouldn't think it would take $5M.

  55. Hi Marty,
    I too was somewhat miffed at the text block of Allan’s single column NASB: not the ghosting so much — that was bearable — but the “cockling”, the crinkling in the gutter at the centre of a two-page spread. It can’t be easy for a small publisher like Allan to persuade the copyright owner to print a batch of text blocks on a non-standard paper, but it would be good if they could. I didn’t send my NASB back; the binding was just too much of a delight to use.
    The single column NASB has sold out, and Allan is to replace it with a double column Reader’s Edition next year.
    Hi Bill,
    I don’t think it’s just cost that limits the paper quality used. The most opaque Bible paper I’ve seen for decades is the 36 gsm Thincoat Plus of Crossway’s Legacy ESV. That’s 20% heavier than the 30 gsm paper usually used. Allan’s single column NASB weighs 41 oz. Using Thincoat Plus would add half a pound to its weight.
    Would I be willing to carry a three pound Bible to church? Would you? I certainly wouldn’t want the type size reduced by 10% to compensate!

  56. I know it is a little late to join the conversation, but I have ordered something like 13 of these bibles. I have given many to the pastors of our church and of course my wife and myself, and have 3 left for giving away. When I first saw the yap, I didn’t want it, I was willing to get the bible on the reviews (some here), but was not a fan. After receiving the bible, I can’t ever Imagine not having a Yap, and even wish they had the full yap. I like the page layout even more than I thought I would. The cover and binding is better than hoped for even after reading the reviews. I was never a fan of red, so I got a black one, my wife has a red. Now, I would have to say that I could have gone with red or even blue or brown. They are beautiful. I think I understand why some people would collect red bibles now. I love the 3 wide bookmarks, everything to do with Allan, even down to the way they printed our names on the bibles and the blank front cover. That being said, I am not a fan of the paper. I don’t mind the ghosting, I love the layout, just the paper. I would pay double the price for better paper. I can see the quality of the paper and the minor flaws. I have some pages where it is lighter or darker, some other things. While they are minor things, I would be happy to to support someone (hopefully Allan) who would make such a bible. In the mean time, I am very happy with my bible, and thankful that I was able to get one before they sold out. Thank you for reviewing bibles and your all your comments. JM Carroll

  57. I just received and email late this morning stating the new Allan NASB dbl column reference has shipped, approximate delivery date 7-10 days. According to posters at Evangelical Bible’s Facebook page, the paper is supposed to be 32gsm, I assume equivalent to Schuyler’s ESV Reference Bible.

  58. This may be one of those duh moments for me but just a personal observation on R.L. Allan’s website: It seems as though Allan may have at least (2) types of bible lines with two already in stock, NKJV Classic and NASB Readers. The scheduled upcoming releases appear to fall into one of these two categories. I’m hearing the Readers has 32gsm paper and printed at Jongbloed; the Classic apparently is printed in Korea and I’m unsure of the paper weight. I look forward to receiving the NASB to get an idea of the paper quality and hopefully if the paper is good the new 2011 NIV Bold print will fall into that same category, since it is also listed as a Readers edition. At present all has been pretty quiet on the front, hopefully time will bring NEW reviews.

  59. Also in regards to Allan’s new NKJV Reference bible: I have been wondering if Mark was waiting to review the new Schuyler single column NKJV, the R.L. Allan DBL Column Ref. and the upcoming Cambridge Clarion NKJV all in one review which would make for some interesting reading, or I could be completely wrong and believe me it wouldn’t be the first time.

  60. I am wondering if this particular NASB1 is still in print?
    I am looking for a single column original nasb in leather.

    • Trudy, Allan will be rebinding the single column NASB this summer. When you say “original NASB” are you referring to the 1977 text? The Allan will be the 1995 update.

  61. Sorry, Trudy, but — if I understand it correctly — the Allan NASB1 is no longer in print. It sold out in late 2012 and was replaced some months later by the current NASB R1 (the Reader’s Reference Edition) which has double columns.

    It might be worth your while to send an e-mail to Monique and Ian at R. L. Allan, to see whether they have any old stock in a cupboard somewhere, or have any plans for a new edition.

    Likewise, if you are in the United States, an e-mail inquiry to evangelicalbible.com might be worth while.

  62. Or put out a request asking if anyone would like to sell or trade their’s at the Bibledesignblog Facebook page or the bible exchange Facebook page.

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