R. L. Allan’s KJV Long Primer in Atlantic Blue Calfskin

Thanks to the 400th Anniversary of the King James Version, the venerable classic is getting an unaccustomed amount of media attention, spearheaded by a selection of new histories recounting the origin story of the translation. All this has inspired readers who wouldn't ordinarily consider ploughing through the thees and thous to take a second look. The KJV gets a bad rap on two counts: the archaic language and the out-of-date scholarship. In both cases, the difficulties are exaggerated. If you're reasonably literate and not prone to basing wild interpretative assumptions on unfamiliar English usage, you should do just fine.

The question is, which KJV to read? We are truly spoiled for choices. Since the KJV was the standard translation until relatively recently, it is available in an extraordinary variety of editions, including vintage ones printed on paper rather nicer than what is typically available today. For that reason, there is no one recommendation to make. I've written about many KJVs in the past, and I'll be highlighting more this year. 

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Above: The KJV Long Primer in Atlantic Blue Calfskin (color accurate).

One of my personal favorites is the KJV Long Primer from R. L. Allan, which is now available with a limited edition Atlantic Blue calfskin cover. I first wrote about the Long Primer back in May of 2008, when the only color option was black, and mentioned it again after the latest printing, which introduced some aesthetic refinements and added a brown goatskin cover option. The blue calfskin edition has been produced in a limited quantity of 400 in honor of the KJV's anniversary. 

When I heard about the plan to offer a blue Long Primer, I was intrigued. I have a soft spot for colors other than basic black. For some people, I realize, the Bible ought to be as black as a puritan's doublet on a particularly dark night. They subscribe to the Henry Ford school of consumer choice: any color you want, so long as it's black. If you don't happen to agree, then the recent revival of color in Bible binding recently is a wonderful thing. The alternatives I'm particularly partial to are browns, tans, and reds. But I've written in the past about blue Bibles, too

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Above: Like other Long Primers, this one comes with three thick ribbons
and gilt lines around the inside edge of the cover. 

The question in my mind was, "How blue is Atlantic Blue going to be?" Instead of the deep, dark, saturated blue I imagined, it is actually a lighter slate blue, a very calm and refined shade. The calfskin displays plenty of grain, and compares favorably to Allan's goatskin covers in terms of limpness. All the styling cues are consistent with the black and brown Long Primers: three ribbons, gilt lines running around the inside edge of the cover, and art-gilt page edges (though with a difference, as we shall see).

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In the photograph above, you can observe the "difference" I mentioned. Instead of red-under-gold page edges, the Atlantic Blue Long Primer comes with blue-under-gold page edges. From some angles they appear very gold, from others there's a powdery blue tint. When the Bible is open and the page edges settle, the edges appear bright blue, as below:

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From the outside, the slate blue cover gives off a serene vibe. Opened flat, with the bright red ribbons and the bright blue page edges, this edition makes a loud statement. It reminds me of a sober business suit with a flashy lining underneath. Here are two more views to illustrate the variations:

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Like the other Long Primers, this one is printed in the Netherlands by Jongbloed on acid free paper, and includes the licence granted to R. L. Allan & Son to print the KJV, signed by the Lord Advocate. This detail makes the Long Primer particularly apt for those wanting an anniversary KJV for nostalgic purposes. This one is authorized indeed.

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One of the things I have always appreciated about the Long Primer is how limp and flexible the covers are, which contributes to the book's ability to open flat, even at the beginning. There's nothing stiff or uncooperative about this edition. It doesn't need to be "broken in." From the start, it feels like an old friend in the hand, ready to be read at length.

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Above: A well-made, flexible edition.

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Above: The Long Primer (bottom) compared to a Cambridge Pitt Minion (middle)
and an REB vest pocket New Testament (top). 

If there is any drawback to the KJV's aura of tradition, it's the straightjacket this perception tends to put on page layout. While there are exceptions, most settings of the translation are very old fashioned in appearance: double columns, every verse starting on a fresh line as if it were a paragraph all on its own, apparatus cluttering the text. Often font choices are archaic, the assumption being that people reading an old version want it to look old. I won't belabor the point. If you've read much of this blog, you know where my sympathies are.

Having said that, some old fashioned layouts are better than others. I find the Long Primer to be one of the most readable. I don't know if it's the font choice or size, the overall proportions, or what, but the columns are relatively uncluttered. If you want to have the "classic" KJV reading experience, the Long Primer offers that — with one exception. The translators had the idea that each English word in the text would stand for its equivalent in the original, and that any additional words that needed to be added to flesh out the sense in English would be rendered in italics. The Long Primer doesn't follow this convention.

The purist in me is confounded by that decision, but I have to admit it probably contributes to the Long Primer's harmonious flow. I'm no linguist, so I'm not going to get into the implications of italicizing the "supplied" words, except to make two observations. First, having grown up with the KJV, it was not uncommon for people in church to mistakenly believe that the non-italicized words were the inspired ones, and the others were second-tier. I remember people who tried skipping over the italicized bits in an effort to get the unmediated "pure" Word. The absurdity of this, from a common sense standpoint, is hopefully apparent. Second, no one translating a book from one language to another would follow this convention now. In other words, I'm not going to get bent out of shape about the absence of the italics, but I can understand why you would prefer them. 

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Above: If the sermon runs too long, there are pretty maps to study in the back.
There is lined notepaper, too. 

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Above: The blue Long Primer (second from bottom) compared to tan ESV Reader's Edition (bottom)
NIV single column rebound by Leonard's (second from top),
and crimson ESV Personal Size Reference (top). 

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Above: An updated stack of blue editions! From the top: marbled indigo Cambridge Cameo KJV,
aquamarine water buffalo calf Cambridge NEB, Oxford/Cambridge NEB New Testament,
Atlantic Blue calfskin Long Primer, and Oxford NRSV hardback. 

If you like what you see and want to pick up one of these Long Primers, they're available from R. L. Allan & Son in Glasgow via their website at Bibles-Direct.co.uk, and from the good folks at Evangelical-Bible.com, too.

37 Comments on “R. L. Allan’s KJV Long Primer in Atlantic Blue Calfskin

  1. I purchased the KJV Long Primer in atalantic blue a few weeks ago, and I am very happy with it. I wasn’t sure I was going to like the blue, but it’s great. To me, the cover is actually a little darker than it appears in photos. That’s a good thing.
    The text is big and bold. The paper has almost no bleed-through.
    I’ve shown it to a few people, and their immediate reaction was, “I want one.” I highly recommend it.

  2. The first picture that is labeled color accurate matches my copy (and my wife’s copy) pretty well. This bible is just about perfect. I love the unique color and the calfskin is different than most calfskin I run across. It’s not as floppy as the calfskin that you’ll get from Crossway or Holman.
    The text block is amazing. It is probably the best I have run across in terms of paper quality and printing.
    I find myself reading the KJV much more than I usually do. I ended up ordering one for my wife because she wanted mine.

  3. By custom and habit, I am not a KJV reader (though it is the translation of my youth). To celebrate the 400th anniversary this year, however, I have been reading from the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible in the mornings and the Atlantic Blue Long Primer in the evenings.
    In a relatively short time, I’ve grown quite fond of the Long Primer. Partly it’s a design issue. The blue under gold provides a calm frame to the text block in a way that red under gold doesn’t. I find I can read for a long time before eye fatigue takes over.
    And I’ll second what John S said about about the paper quality and printing. Nothing else I own compares.

  4. I’ve just received a 53BR Long Primer, and it is amazing. Even though I also subscribe to the single column philosophy (the HCSB get’s it largely right), there’s something ‘correct’ about the LP. The proportions are right, margins as well as leading, the ‘depth’ of the font is excellent, and the dating in the center column is excellent.
    The Long Primer KJV and the ESVR1 are now my main goto bibles.
    And the paper….. the best I’ve seen in a modern block.

  5. I received my Atl blue a few weeks ago. I will say this. It is as limp as the highland goatskin, but it is not as soft. I am afraid the other Allan’s have ruined me :) I prefer the grainier texture, and I should have known the calfskin would be smoother. I decided to send it back and get the brown longprimer. My wife couldn’t believe it and asked if I would only be happy if my next bible was bound in certified virgin human flesh. She was agitated needless to say. I have the brown now. I do not regret it. It is absolutely, positively, wonderfully bound.

  6. This blue longprimer is absolutely beautiful, a real pleasure to hold, read and use. I’ve never seen calfskin so soft, but I’m sure it’s largely helped by the soft interior leather lining!

  7. I just purchased a Black Longprimer and love it, not only the binding and goatskin (not my first Allan, but according to my wife my last! lol) but I actually like the translation as well. It’s the first I’ve picked up a KJV in 30+ years. I agree the paper is marvelous, second only to the ESV reader, and the print and font size are wonderful for my aging eyes. While the NAS Allan v by v is a little annoying, the Longprimer is just fine. There are only two minor criticisms of the Longprimer: 1, the center column referenes are a little small, and 2, there are enough missing parts of letters scattered throughout to be a little disappointing. While I’ve not noticed that in the NAS China printed text, it is interesting that it is found in the ‘superior’ Jongbloed text.
    But all in all perhaps the best Allan, neck in neck overall with the ESV reader!

  8. I almost did not buy this Bible, which would have been a HUGE mistake! I had already purchased a tan ESV Reader (because I like the translation and can’t resist the tan) and most recently a crimson NASB SCR (because every Bible should be red). I had a hard time justifying a third purchase, but eventually convinced myself because I didn’t think I’d be around to celebrate the KJV’s 500th anniversary. Some of the very reasons that made me reluctant to buy one now turn out to be the very reasons for loving this Bible. The Atlantic blue is perfect–understated, not gawdy. The blue-under-gold makes the edges look almost silver at some angles or under certain lighting (which I love–my first blue Bible was a thinline NASB with silver edges). The double gilt lines on the inside covers add a touch of class. The red ribbon markers (which made the most nervous) provide a bold contrast with the white pages and blue cover and edges. I think it works because the blue is a soft slate hue and not bright and the white (and they are WHITE) pages are covered with that wonderfully dark, thick font. As much as I love the highland goatskin, I’m glad they went with the calfskin cover and leather-lined interior. It’s every bit as flexible, and I enjoy the different look and feel. It adds to this edition’s uniqueness. Above all, this is one of the most (if not the most) legible Bibles ever. It’s been great getting back into reading the Bible I grew up with. I thought that if I wasn’t too impressed with it that at least I’ll have something of a collector’s item. I’ve been reading the Longprimer almost exclusively since a got it two weeks ago and am reading and preaching from it, too. Never anticipated that it would be giving my ESV or NASB a well-deserved rest.

  9. Can’t say enough good things about the Atlantic Blue Longprimer. The color the feel the readability, and oh yes, it’s a Limited Edition! The blue page edges add something to the overall readability in my opinion. I bought two so if I do end up wearing this one out I’ll have a brand new one in the box waiting still wrapped in the paper.

  10. Dude,
    Love your blog, even though it’s difficult to decide whether thousands of words devoted to the appreciation of Bibles bound in the supple skins of dead goats and calves is more like gluttony or lust, or if it casts a category of death-rooted irony as a 21st-century-alternate 8th Deadly Sin. Did you ever love a dog?
    Anyway, when I click on one of your photos and the pop-up — which, as I have my browser so configured, appears instead as a new tab — re-sizes my entire browser, I want to take all your Bibles and feed them to goats. Maybe there are user-friendly alternatives to resizing pop-ups?
    Admittedly, this isn’t a very important comment. But it’s a comment.
    Keep rockin’ the book-love, Bible-man.
    – G.

  11. This great looking edition of the KJV Bible doesn’t happen to include the Apocrypha, does it? I would purchase it if it did.

  12. I’m not sure McClure will be back, but I wonder if he meant this particular post or some other? I’ll admit some of Mark’s earliest posts could do funny things with both text and graphic sizing but lately the site seems very well behaved indeed. In fact, the enlarging of these blue Longprimer graphics on pop-up is a very nice improvement–the site just keeps getting better. Thanks Mark!

  13. McClure’s BACK! I’m always trollin’ ’round here, looking for the latest review on skinbound copies of the Word. As to PopupGate, I’m talkin’ ’bout this post in particular, but others, too.
    That pop-ups are let-downs is one thing, but whatever. Some folks, inexplicably so in this age of the modal dialog, still think pop-ups are bebiddlyboobopalicious. I don’t despise pop-ups, per se, EXCEPT when they insist on resizing the window, which blows hot, milksour chunks when one’s got the browser to open pop-ups as new tabs, because the entire browser is resized.
    Of course, other internauts have pop-ups disabled altogether, because many spam-ads depend on ‘em, which means one has to agree to site exceptions. Bah. BAH!
    Just use modals. Why not? They’re better for users, don’t compete with pop-up or ad blockers, allow the user to riffle through the images in the post, and don’t futz with browser settings in any way. Bloggers who use modal dialogs have lower blood pressure, more friends, they eat better food, and their kids love them more. Modals put the ‘winky’ in ‘winky dinky doo’.

  14. I wish I wasn’t a student, and had some disposable income. I. Want. That. Badly. :(

  15. O.K. I have to ask, Mark – when WILL we see the Longprimer bound in Allan’s unique crimson Highland goatskin?

  16. Hey Derek Jones, how many Bible do you own? Is not just one good KJV good enough? Do you work overtime to buy all of the Bibles you buy? I am of the school to buy One good leather bound KJV, and then, here is a thought, use that one! Are you being a steward with God’s money, or is your love for the leather and if the Bible is collectible or not? Come on man give more in tithe or to a missionary, I know one that gets $25 dollars a month from a church…….Be a better steward, hos many Bible do you need?

  17. very nice! I have a vintage Scofield reference Bible in hand grained Morocco that looks similar to this Bible.

  18. This is the 1st top tier Bible I’ve ever owned, it’s worth all the money I paid, and more. I noticed a huge difference in how much I enjoyed reading this Bible for longer sittings, whereas before my eyes got tired because of gutter or small font issues. For sure a keeper, and best suited for private study times. I’m excited to pick up a wide-margin edition of the KJV to mark up and devote more in-depth studying and carrying around to. Thank you so much for your noble efforts to bring us the most high quality Bible reviews ever.

  19. This looks like a real beaut.
    Given that this Atlantic Blue version is a special 400th anniversary version, do they happen to include the “From the Translators” preface, or any other particular anniversary features?
    Thanks for all the information you provide your readers… it is an invaluable service.

  20. Todd, “From the Translators” is not included. There is nothing apart from the label on the box that indicates that this is a special 400th anniversary edition.

  21. Alas…..
    Nevertheless, I’m now looking forward to receiving one as a very generous gift from a friend, and will no doubt consider the lack of that introductory letter only a minor fault in what I’m sure will become my ‘go to’ Bible…

  22. I still can’t believe it, but I have one of these bibles on order from Allan’s at the moment- I can’t wait to receive it. I’m sure I have read somewhere that it has a ‘family records section’ – can anyone confirm/deny this?

  23. Sarah, it does have a family records section. There are spots for husband, wife,children, marriages, grandchildren, and deaths. There are 7 pages for recording info. It doesn’t have a family tree though. You’re going to love this bible. I am amazing by the paper and printing everytime I open it.

  24. Oh thank you for your reply John! I don’t mind about the family tree (I don’t have much on my side anyway and always ends up looking very empty!) I am excited beyond belief to be getting one of these bibles.. I plan to have it forever and pass on to my children one day [in 60 years- that's if I dont wear it out!]

  25. The new batch of KJV Long Primers (Blue) apparently arrived in Glasgow (UK) this morning; I spoke with Nicholas earlier and placed my order. I am hoping to receive it tomorrow.
    I would like to thank Mark and everybody else who have, through their blog comments, helped me decide on this purchase. This has been a very useful resource.
    Many thanks.

  26. Is it true that only 400 copies exist? Does the new batch increase the quantity produced?
    I enjoy the quality of my copy and it is good to see they are once again available.
    Many thanks.

  27. Stephen D [posted on May 12 at 9:02am]
    The Allan’s website still says that they don’t have stock..Have you received yours yet??
    I have emailed Allan’s but haven’t heard back yet. I am very impatient to finally get my hands on my order! :-(

  28. Sarah – apologises for my late reply. I have now had my Blue Long Prima for some time and really enjoy it. I checked Allan’s web site prior to this post and they are currently in stock. Did you get yours?
    George Y – if I remember correctly Allans are only producing 400 of this Blue Long Prima. The last batch to arrive at Allan’s I believe was the final 150 that are being produced.

  29. I finally got my paws on one of these (thank you, firm at which I’m employed, for all the extra work hours, allowing for some OT pay). It is a beaut…even my wife, who is used to my Bible obsession, commented that it was very pretty. For her, that’s saying something.
    Everyone’s covered all the superlatives quite nicely, so I’ll skip that. Suffice it to say I’m very happy with it.

  30. I just got this in the mail for evangelicalbible.com and WOW!! This is my first Allan Bible ever!! I wish I had never spent money on any other Bible in life!! It is SO beautiful! I’m eying a goatskin Brevier next! These are truly the best Bibles on the planet!

  31. Sounds like both R.L Allan’s are sold out as are Evangelicalbible.com. Looks like that’s all 400….

  32. Any chance if we riot, Allan will do another run? A six month sellout is unheard of for high end bibles.

  33. They must have done another run because I just received this Bible, but with Highland goatskin rather than calfskin. I have to confess that at first I was really put off by the old fashioned font and page design; I’ve become so used to modern fonts and paragraph layouts. I persevered, however, and in truth this longprimer is very easy to read and I’m really growing to love it, correction, I do love it. I’m currently analysing why I had a knee-jerk reaction to the archaic look of the text. I’m wondering if it’s rooted in my previously long association with the kind of churches who eschew anything between about 100AD and 1980!
    This Bible is so fantastic it’s like handling a sculpture every time you pick it up! I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    • For the moment, they are awaiting a rebind at the end of January. You can order them from evangelicalbible.com or direct from RL Allan at bibles bibles-direct.com once another batch is available.

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