Cambridge’s KJV Transetto Edition

I'm no fan of novelty Bibles, and it would be easy at first glance to dismiss the Transetto as precisely that: a new edition based on a gimmick, adding nothing to our ability to use and appreciate the text. But there is a fundamental difference between the Transetto, Cambridge's tiny new Bible format, and the plethora of flashy niche editions cranked out every year to catch the retail customer's eye. The Transetto's "gimmick," if you want to call it that, is really good. It's a sleight of hand that opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities.


Before we open this thing up, let's take a moment for the exterior. In terms of size, the Transetto, available in three color permutations, is somewhere in the bar-of-soap, deck-of-cards region. To try and illustrate the scale, I stacked a few traditionally-bound examples on top of each other for comparison:



From bottom to top, that's an Allan's Reader's Edition ESV in tan, a Cambridge Pitt Minion ESV in brown, a Cambridge Crystal KJV in black, and the blue Transetto at the peak. Both the Pitt Minion and the Crystal are compact editions, but they dwarf the Transetto easily. When you stack the Crystal upright next to the Transetto, the difference is striking:

More striking, however, is what happens when you open the two editions side by side. The Transetto may be much smaller, but the reading experience is quite comparable. In fact, the Transetto edges out the Crystal in terms of page size once opened, as you can see:

That's where the aforementioned "gimmick" comes in. The page spread inside the Transetto is turned on its ear. You flip through top to bottom instead of side to side. In effect, the two-page spread becomes a single page, doubling the amount of space available for layout. This allows for a very compact book size that offers a comparatively large perceived page size. Very clever!

The idea, of course, is familiar to Bible Design Blog readers. I noted it in my piece about the 2Krogh + Jongbloed Design Bible. Not long after I raved about the concept (dubbed a Dwarsligger® by the creators at 2Krogh), Cambridge announced their own version … the Transetto. Not surprisingly, the Transetto is designed by 2Krogh and printed by Jongbloed in the Netherlands, making for a fine quality edition.

Naturally, once I started making comparisons, I couldn't stop. I set aside the Crystal and grabbed an Allan's Personal Size Reference ESV in red goatskin. Not surprisingly, the PSR looks huge in comparison to the Transetto. Open the Transetto, though, and the difference isn't all the pronounced.



And consider this: the PSR is set in 7.4 point type while the Transetto is set in slightly smaller 7 point type. That's the ingenious thing about the Transetto: the specs are roughly comparable to much larger edition. This little Bible punches above its weight.

The thing the Transetto reminds me of most is not a Bible at all, but a little nineteenth century service book my wife gave me years ago, one of those tiny little things the vicar is always clutching in historical dramas, with metal edges and a little clasp. Only when I dug mine out for a comparison, I found to my surprise that the Transetto is in fact a little smaller than the service book. Smaller, but infinitely more readable.


Another factor essential to the Transetto's format is the unique binding. The pages are sewn, but the spine is not secured to the cover, which instead floats freely. This allows the Transetto to open flatter than it ordinarily would, making one-handed reading quite simple. It doesn't take a lot of pressure to keep the Transetto open. Instead, the two pages become essentially one as the book block flattens out.


So when you read the Transetto, you feel like you're holding half a book in your hand. The weight is all on your fingers, no balancing required. At first the reorientation takes some getting used to. Realizing this, the designers have placed the pagination and book titles in the usual configuration, which lets you flip through the pages to find a particular passage the way you would in any other Bible, then rotate the page for actual reading.


Will the Transetto format replace the traditional binding? Not likely. But the size benefits and the unique reading experience lift it above the realm of mere novelty in my view. Even though I don't plan to chuck my Pitt Minion, I wouldn't think twice about slipping a Transetto in my pack when I'm traveling light, or giving one as a gift — particularly since the novelty might inspire someone to actually read what's inside.

Thanks to the 400th Anniversary and all, the first Transettos are KJVs. To accommodate the entire text instead of the portion illustrated in the Design Bible (the Psalms set in a single column), the Transetto features a double column layout, though the text is paragraphed rather than broken up verse-by-verse. Hopefully we'll see Transettos in other translations (and portions) roll out in the future.



I love the fact (illustrated above) that all the specs related to type and paper are disclosed. The Transetto is printed on 27 GSM Indolux paper in the Netherlands by Jongbloed, which has a patent pending on the concept. The book is set in 7/8 pt. Karmina Sans. It's a black letter edition, which frees the designers at 2Krogh to use color attractively on the page, as you can see in several of the photos.

In my book, the Transetto is a great little edition. As I said, I hope to see more. What I'd also like to see is the same format using a single column text setting. After all, one of the challenges when it comes to setting the Bible in one column is the ratio of type size to column width. If the type is small, the column can only be so wide … but if the type isn't small, the text block gets prohibitively thick. Glancing over a couple of examples in the KJV Transetto, you can get an idea how a single column version might look.

Good …

Great …

Of course, if you printed the entire Bible in type as large as what's pictured above, the Transetto would be a very small, very thick brick. Solution: How about a New Testament?

When I first wrote about this concept, never having seen it in real life, here's what I had to say:

My first thought, looking at this, is: I'd buy one. My second thought is, wouldn't this make a much better "outreach" edition than most of what's out there under that title? Instead of a volume clearly manufactured to be cheap and disposable, an innovative format like this would get passed around and appreciated. It would make a very different kind of statement.

After spending some time with the Transetto, I feel the same way!


34 Comments on “Cambridge’s KJV Transetto Edition

  1. I’ll definitely be looking for these in the store; the execution seems much better than I’d originally thought when you first mentioned it way back when. Shame they couldn’t do it in single-column, but if they did it looks like it would essentially be a 2000-page cube. I’m always glad to see publishers try something new, and this is no exception. Thanks for the review and pics, as always.

  2. Actually, I just checked the Amazon page for this, and its ALREADY a (roughly) 2000-page brick. 😉

  3. It reminds me quite a bit of reading biblical text on the iPhone in landscape.

  4. This is awesome. I will definitely buy an ESV or NASB (both?) if/when they are made available.

  5. I must say this is a remarkable little book. I’ll be picking one up the next time I order from Amazon

  6. Here’s more on the paper:
    27 GSM (grams per square meter sheet) is consistent (10% less dense than water) with 30um thick sheets which are only .0012″ thick. In the old days of rag-based India paper, you could get great paper that thin but I worry about it today.
    Unfortunately the 2 specs above don’t agree on opacity. 80% (ISO) is lousy while 87% is quite good by today’s bibles standards. So Mark, how does the paper compare in real life in terms of ghosting in comparison to the ESV study bible, or other “standards”?

  7. I will definitely buy a copy for a friend if this ports into the NIV, a copy for myself in the ESV if it ports, still would if only had NIV, and maybe a KJV for my friend with the old soul. None of that new NIV 2011 business though.
    I really hope they decide to do other versions and in single column.

  8. Cambridge is sure to be congratulated for coming out with something this original, while being this “readable”. What a great way to put the Good Book in a New Light.
    I find the comparison with the ESV PSR interesting. Yes, for larger type, and for ~12 words-per-line layouts, I’d prefer a single-column layout. But when compared with the PSR’s ~17 word-per-line single-column layout, I find the 2-column Transetto is much easier to read, particularly in small font.
    Guess what I really want is a PSR-sized conventional volume, but with ~10.5 pt type, which would come in at a comfortable 12 words-per-line like a conventional 8vo book, albeit two times thicker than the current PSR. Yes, short and stout.

  9. I didn’t realize this at the time, but it turns out the paper used in the Transetto is the same as what’s used for the Pitt Minion. So I guess it would be safe to say the opacity is comparable to that of the Pitt Minion.

  10. The exposed stitching on the spine gives the Transetto a sort of Pompidou Center aesthetic that I like.

  11. So I’m curious. Since it doesn’t appear that it’s attached to the cover except for one “plane” on the “back” cover, how hard would it be for a rebinding shop to wrap this thing in some dead animal skin?
    A little yapp for cramming it in a pocket, perhaps a little stiffer backing than an Allan’s highland goatskin for holding the “top” side up when reading, and I think you’d have a winner so long as the leather was thin enough and the yapp small enough to keep the diminutive proportions intact.
    Oh, and glad to see you back Mark.

  12. Cambridge asked me to review one of these for the Baptist Times in the UK. I found myself more impreed by the reality than by the idea. In other words it seems to work and work well. However, there seems to be a mismatch between a modern presentation and a tradition Bible version. At least in the UK, where the KJV is less popular excpet among older and/or more conservative readers, I doubt if this will catch on. Match it to the NIV or NLT, then Cambridge would have a winner.

  13. Mark, it appears from your Image0007 that each signature as its own set of black inner cover papers to it. Is that the case? How are they handled for the inner signatures? Just cut down short well within the cutter so as not to be visible? Does that mean it feels thicker at the spine than for the bulk of the text block? Just curious.

  14. There aren’t separate covers; it’s just that the binding is sewn, so each signature “indents” the backing. Usually this part is hidden by the binding, but with the Transetto cover, the backing is exposed. Occasionally you’ll see the same thing with sewn journals.

  15. I know a lot of people assume there is something incongruous about a seventeenth century translation in a “modern” format … I’m just not one of them. We don’t print other works of the period in nostalgia formats (at least not exclusively). If you studied Milton in college, you probably weren’t forced to read him in an antiquated layout because he was old. So there!

  16. Interestingly, I had a friend make the same sort of remark about an nlt pitt i used to carry. he said it was weird to have such an “new hip translation in that classic old school binding.”

  17. I’ve had one for several months (since I live overseas and ordered it from England). Intriguing design; I’m waiting for the psalms in this format, like the Dutch apparently already have.

  18. I ordered mine about 10 days ago from Amazon. They have yet to ship.

  19. I just received the Purple KJV Transetto Edition Bible. It is a beautiful and well designed production. It is quite readable, in spite of the small font size and the thinness of the paper. There is some visual “bleed through,” but it is not excessive. There appear to be nineteen signatures, but the way that they are sewn makes the thread virtually invisible. Given the way that the book titles are printed, at 90 degrees to the rest of the text, it is easy to find the appropriate text. Coloring the chapter numbers in green, makes them stand out.
    Given the humongous size of many of today’s novels, i.e., Tom Clancy’s Dead or Alive is 950 pages, I hope that other publishers adopt this format. One could once again carry a printed novel in his pocket.
    With a total cost of only $20.48 for this edition, I highly recommend its purchase.

  20. Hi All,
    So I got in contact with the Baker Publishing Group about their plans to publish the Transetto in different translations and this is what they said, short and sweet:
    I am sorry but at this time we do not have plans on coming out with new editions of those translations.
    I think that this is due to a *perceived* lack of interest. Readers! I need your help! We need to demonstrate interest in additional translations in this format!
    I personally would love an ESV though if both an ESV and an NIV turned up I’d be sorely tempted to get both (Oh, indecisiveness).

  21. I’m really enjoy reading this bible. It’s great. I would definitely enjoy reading other books in this format.

  22. I agree that we need other translations in this format! My suggestion is Good News Bible, or possibly Contemporary English Version (though this was designed primarily for reading aloud), or… dare I say it… the 2011 NIV 🙂

  23. I love the unique format, and at only £15.99 I’ll definitely be getting this some time in the near future!

  24. I have a copy of the Transetto Bible which I love reading…. there’s no beating the KJV!! But back to the format, the text size is remarkably clear, and the compact style is great. However a few improvements are needed in my estimation…
    • The back is very poor…. In fact I carefully covered mine in clear sticky backed plastic, but I still feel it’s very fragile, especially if placed in my bag.
    • A leather backing that had a small lip to protect the page edges would be great
    • It’s quite difficult to flick through the pages to find a reference, partly due to the fragile paper but also due to the fact that the book names and chapters are only typed on one outer edge of the paper.
    Cambridge has come up with a great edition of God’s Word, but I would like my copy to have a long life and I doubt if my present copy will. 🙂

  25. This looks awesome! I just ordered one.
    I’m kinda disturbed by so many comments of people wanting Alexandrian-based translations though. People need to look up their bible translations and see where they came from. Most people have no idea that there are different manuscript families and that over 90% of modern day translations don’t use the traditional manuscripts. The documentary ”A Lamp In The Dark – The Untold History of the Bible” spells everything out quite nicely, as does Chuck Missler’s How We Got Our Bible (Session 2), both of which can be found on youtube. Never stop looking for the truth. I don’t believe the KJV is perfect, but I do know it was based on the right texts, and the manuscripts it was based on are definitely in agreement with each other and at odds with the Alexandrian manuscripts, which seem to omit things at will. In fact, a few manuscript fragments were found in Alexandria that showed markings above certain words which, for the people of the time, meant “omit this”; a rather disturbing find for someone who thinks Alexandria is the place to get a good bible.
    I just found this too.
    “Can someone get saved if you are using a bible other than the King James? Yes
    Generally, the facts surrounding the gospel of Jesus Christ and the simplicity of salvation are found intact even in the grossest perversions of Scripture.
    It must be remembered though that the Bible is a weapon in the hand of the Christian. See Hebrews 4:12, Job 40:19 and II Timothy 3:16.
    It is also food that a new Christian might grow properly. See I Peter 2:2.
    It is in these areas that new bibles are weakened. In fact, the very verses given above are altered in many new versions, thus weakening Scripture.
    It is therefore possible to get saved through other versions, but you will never be a threat to the devil by growing.” – Dr. Samuel C. Gipp, Th.D.
    For all you believers, NEVER stop searching for the truth.

  26. Two columns that stretch over two pages; it seems to me that it kind of defeats the point of a flipback if you’re just going to cut the extra width you get in half that way.

  27. Not trying to be sacrilegious, but I wonder if the signatures can be removed? I think it’ll be great for following bible in a year plan, without having to lug an entire bible around. I already have the KJV in my phone and I like printed books, but frequently suffer from backache, so the less I carry, the better for me.

  28. Rufus, I think with the aid of an X-acto or razor blade you could cut through the stitching holding the signatures together and separate them quite easily. But unless you re-stitched them, there’d be nothing to hold the sheets within a signature together after that. It would just be like a bunch of loose pages folded together.
    Plus the signature breaks wouldn’t necessarily occur at convenient places, like the end of books, etc.
    I think your plan is best applied to a glued or so-called “perfect bind” bible, not a quality sewn bible like a Cambridge. (You can find lots of used samples out there for not much money.) Just find where you’d like to make a convenient break, successively fold the binding hard open and fully closed until it separates, like a scratch pad, at that point. A razor blade would hasten the job along. You could even save the original covers and with a little clear packing tape and glue possibly re-use them on each of your selections.
    Let us know how it goes if you give it a try.

  29. Bill, sorry I don’t have the link, but one enterprising soul has already done what you suggest with Penguin’s mammoth perfect-bound 2,000+ page version of David Norton’s New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, which at eleven dollars a copy makes for no-tears experiments in the dark arts of radical book surgery. I believe he divvied up his copy into seven comparably sized portions. The beauty of the Penguin’s single column layout is the ample margin space for annotation which is much easier to take advantage of once the beast is cut down to size. I plan to cut one up myself. I like Penguin’s cover art. I’ll make copies of it to use on the svelte little biblets.

  30. Oh, and I absolutely think Janet above makes some good points about the Transetto. I don’t think it would be too hard to rig up some sort of stiff backing with a slight yapp to protect the binding and the page edges.

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