“17th Century County Parson” Style Rebind by Leonard’s

Ever since running the Poor Man's Geneva Bible piece, I've been interested in seeing historically-inspired rebinding projects. After all, long before I started writing about Bible design and binding, antiquarian books and their beautiful bindings were an obsession of mine. Returning from my honeymoon, I lugged a suitcase full of old books back from Scotland. One of the highlights of a later trip to London was finding one of those decorator warehouses that sells old books by the foot to interior designers. Down in the basement, they let me hand-pick my foot of antiquarian titles. It was all the same to them, and I was in heaven. 

So when I heard that Leonard's Book Restoration planned to introduce a line of bindings inspired by different epochs in Bible history, I was intrigued. Margie sent me this one to review, a sample of the softcover 17th Century Country Parson Style:


Here's the description from the Leonard's site:

"This unique Bible features dark brown hand-dyed spindled rustic goatskin, wrap-around, thick raised ribs on the spine, with blind-stamped double border tooling and tapered spine rib tooling. It is a softcover and is especially appealing to people who want a Bible that is very strong and durable. This is not wimpy-soft leather but is not stiff, either. The end pages are standard leatherette for strength when flexing."

For purists, there is also a more historically-correct hardcover version of the same binding. The cost of the work varies, depending on the size of the Bible you want to have rebound. In softcover, a Small Compact edition under 7" x 5" will run $92, a Medium Personal Size edition is $127, and a Large Study edition above 9" x 6" costs $142. If you opt for the hardcover, the prices are $112, $147, and $162, respectively. 


The color variation in the hand-dyed brown leather is quite attractive, varying in intensity depending on the light. As the grain flows, there's a dapple of dark trenches and lighter ridges, beautiful to the eye. When you handle the volume, the raised bands add to the tactile pleasure. 


While I tend to be something of a minimalist, I find the blind-stamped decoration on the edge of the cover extremely attractive. This is one instance where more is more. The grain, the color variation, and the ornamentation come off not as fancy but rugged. I'm put in mind not of lace and ruffs but clay pipes and fowling pieces. 


The softccover option, a concession to our contemporary love of limp bindings, is executed well, as you'd expect from Eric Haley, whose love of books shines through in his handiwork. Frankly, if I were you, I'd opt for the hardcover. The fact you have a choice illustrates one of the things I appreciate about the Leonard's approach.

For a long time, my experience with rebinding operations was that they weren't very responsive to what their clientele really wanted. They used stiff boards under the covers, didn't offer many options, and seemed perturbed that you'd expect your rebound Bible to be limp and lovely. I got tired of dealing with it, and just started issuing a blanket "buyer beware" when it came to rebinding results. 

Then Leonard's comes along — or I should say, I found out about them; they'd been around for awhile — and proves to be responsive, prompt, professional, and as much in love with the process (even more so) than we are. I can see them discussing the historical series of bindings now, knowing that no 17th century country parson was doing woodcuts of his new Bible with its covers curled up to share on his Bible design broadsheet, and that really, this ought to be a hardback. But we moderns are who we are … so we have a choice.


The natural goatskin is thick and soft. In keeping with the age-marbled appearance of the brown leather, the cover has a comfortable, worn-in flex to it — not limp, but not at all rigid. There are three thick ribbons — dark brown, mid-brown, and ivory — that add to the functionality. The color choices underscore how tastefully everything goes together in this binding. 




Dappled brown covers like this always seem to photograph amazingly. Since this binding shows off Eric's traditional bookbinding chops, it wasn't long before I stuck it on the shelf to see how it would look among other nicely bound books. Pretty eye-catching, huh?



Seeing the range of work coming out of the Leonard's workshop the past couple of years, I've found myself thinking more and more outside the box when it comes to what my ideal rebinding project would look like. As I've examined this binding in particular, some interesting thoughts have crystalized. You know what I'd find really nice? One of the upcoming Cambridge Clarion ESVs bound in mottled British Racing Green calf or goat, with nice raised bands like this, in hardcover. 

The beauty of a pre-selected line of bindings like this is that, for the undecided, it's simple to say, "I want that!" At the same time, seeing options you might not ordinarily go for (or even be aware of) also tends to inspire creativity. For those overwhelmed by the possibilities of custom binding, these choices provide some simplicity; for those who want to color way outside the lines, they offer inspiration.






In addition to the 16th Century Country Parson look, you can also try the 19th Century Circuit Rider, which offers a very period-looking tab closure, or the 20th Century Sunday School Teacher in black natural morocco with semi-yapp edges and silk moire end pages. All the options and ordering information is online here: Leonard's Historical Bible Series.

What do you think?



42 Comments on ““17th Century County Parson” Style Rebind by Leonard’s

  1. I want this. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. I just dont know what edition to use. My a pocket companion NKJV or KJV.

    • KJV = Gods Word. All other “versions” = man’s word. Just take a look at the copyright page. You can’t copyright something that doesn’t belong to you. You can print off the King James Bible, cover to cover, and distribute it to everyone you know without risk of being sued due to violation of copyright law. Try to do the same with any other “bible”, notice the lower case b, and you could face legal action from the publisher. Why? Because it’s their word, not God’s. The King James Bible is God’s Word preserved for the English speaking people. It’s been here for over 400 years and it ain’t broke, so no replacement is needed!

      • Your KJVO position is out of place. Just to let you know, the KJV is not error-free. If you want an error-free Bible, be prepared to learn Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

        The KJV is like all other versions, man’s translation of the original. It’s nothing more than that.

        • Well sir I completely and whole heartedly disagree. I’d lay down my life in defense of God’s perfect Word in the English language. I just believe God when He said in Psalms 12 “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”

          You just keep believing what some liberal professor or pastor keeps telling you and I’ll keep on believing my God.

          • You can believe what you want… Do you know Greek? If you did, then you would recognize that there are at least seven major errors in the KJV NT.

            It’s easy put blinders on and believe what you are told to believe. Correct exegesis of the Bible requires more than that. A Bible scholar is willing to make the effort to learn the truth. Erasmus did the faith a great disservice when he did what he was told to do.

          • Do your own homework. There is no way I can have an intelligent discussion with someone who has limited knowledge and refuses to learn.

          • Lol that’s what I thought. The easy way out of this discussion. I’ve never had one Bible denier actually tell me of these errors that they so angrily profess to be present in God’s Word.

          • Well, did you do your homework? If not, I’m sure this article will provide some good information if you’re willing to read it with an open mind. http://www.dbts.edu/journals/1999/Combs.pdf

            You said, “Please point out one mistake you claim God made in His preserved Word in the English language.”

            I never said that God made an error; you did.. A translation is the work of man. The errors in the KJV are man-made.

          • But sir you say there are errors, God says He preserved His Word for every generation. I believe God, period. I’m done with this foolishness. Believe what you will.

          • I understand that you don’t want to confront the reality that translations are fallible. If you’re comfortable in your delusions, then go and enjoy. Bye.

          • Show just one error “man” made. You show me. I don’t care about an article. You made the claim now you show me an error.

          • You don’t have to show me all of the errors, contradictions, etc…just one. Please point out one mistake you claim God made in His preserved Word in the English language.

          • Also, are you saying that there is really know way to know for sure how to be forgiven of our sins? Because, after all, the books were written by man…

          • Bearded Baptist,

            God preserved His word for all generations…after 1611. Seriously? Where was the Word preserved perfectly, in one form, prior to the KJV? Latin Vulgate? Specific Byzantine manuscript? When, where, and how did the perfectly inspired edition of the Bible that existed prior to the KJV become lost (or no longer inspired)? Which edition of the KJV was perfectly inspired? The 1611 edition? The 1769 Blayney Revision? Do you use the Oxford or the Cambridge edition? Hint: They are different. So which one is perfectly inspired, and did God really allow His word to go un-preserved until it was “re-inspired” in 1611?

            Are you familiar with Erasmus? Do you know how he “translated” the last six verses of Revelation? Are you familiar with how the comma johanneum made its way into the Textus Receptus (which served as the Greek base for the KJV translation committee)? You accuse us of “believing what a liberal professor says” while you “believe God.” The truth is that I want to know what the original writers of the NT said, not what a scribe 200 years later thought he should have said. I want to know what John actually wrote in the last six verses of Revelation, not what Erasmus thought he would have written based off a Latin translation.

            The truth is that you can’t provide a meaningful answer to any of these questions, and if your church holds to a KJVO position, they are not equipping their young people with the answers to the liberal critics they will face in college and university. I can only pray they will find the answers to these questions on their own rather than abandon their faith.

            God has preserved His word, but He DID NOT wait 1611 years to do it!

            If you are honest and you sincearly care about truth, take some time to listen to this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz4xN96XFds

          • This guy is a Will Kinney clone – arrogant, ignorant, and blind. The KJO crowd is pretty disgusting. They worship their idol and spread heresy wherever they troll.

        • Very well put James. The bearded baptist would be wise to study the matter a little further.

  2. What do I think? I think it is time for you to get back to book writing and allowing this blog to fall silent for a while. Since your torrent of updates, I have pre-purchased an ESV Clarion in goatskin and am now selecting which Bible to send to Leonard for this binding. Fortunately, I already have the title of your next book: “Death of a Bible Salesman.”

  3. I’m trying to divide my blogging between here and crimegenre.com, so you’re only getting half as much pressure to buy as you would otherwise be receiving. Don’t worry, though, I have a looming deadline. I’m just trying to get my affairs in order before diving back in!

  4. A Bible like this makes me want to move to the English countryside and live as a 21st century version of George Herbert.

  5. I have a number of bible binding experiences. My favorite combination is a goat skin cover that is leather lined. I have a Cambridge pocket NIV rebound by Ed Stansell. Overall very happy with the results. I have an old Zondervan NIV single column new testament that was rebound by Allan many years ago. Both of these are goatskin/leather lined. I also own a number of Allen bibles. All Goatskin/leather lined. To my hands, there is no other feel in regards to how this combination works. Butter in the hands, so to speak. I have one bible that has been rebound by Leonard. The results are very well done. My only concern and the reason I would not use them again is Eric’s refusal to leather line a bible. He insists it is not as durable as the lining he uses. His lining is fine (a synthetic of some kind)and I am sure it is durable, but it is stiffer than leather. Be aware of that. Otherwise I have nothing but the utmost respect for the work he does and can heartily recommend his services.

  6. Yes, it is — But remember, this is a rebind, so the quality of binding, paper, etc. is dependent on the edition you choose for rebinding.

  7. Steve, I’d love to see photos of that rebind, if you have any. I haven’t seen any of Ed Stansell’s work in person, but the photos on the site are certainly impressive.

  8. I think you’ve convinced me to order one of these with some kind of an ESV reference bible to be named later but I’m curious to get an answer to Mark’s question – does it open flat? Would that depend on which Bible I choose?
    Also – I just found tis blog about a week ago and I absolutely love it. Thanks for the work that you put into it.

  9. Good question. I can only speak for this particular example. A different Bible might show different characteristics.
    The sample here is a Oxford Scofield KJV (you can imagine the 17th Century parson’s shock while perusing the notes). It will stay open on a table from about 1 Samuel to 2 Corinthians. If you imagine the spine flat on the table, the cover arches on either side, then curves back to the table, so viewed straight on it looks more like a gull in flight than a straight line (if that makes sense). Because of that arching, when you’re open at the front or back of the book, there’s not enough paper weight to hold the cover down and it wants to close. I’m guessing that once the cover is broken in, this arch will be less pronounced.
    As I said, though, your mileage may vary. I would communicate directly with Leonard’s about the edition you want to rebind and ask about opening flat. The NIV they rebound for me (written about a while back) opens ridiculously flat out of the box, so I’m not sure if the difference is in the text block, the type of leather, or something else.

    • Hello Mark! I’m really curious here. One thing I’ve always noticed about the photos on Leonard’s is that their bibles *seem* to be of absolutely ideal proportions to me. Do you know of the dimensions on the bible they gave you, and if so, do you know of any bible in similar proportions in an ESV? I have a Schuyler ESV with creeds and confessions, which as you know is a 6.25 x 9.125.However, I like thick books. I am interested in soon getting the ESV Quentel because of how perfect the dimensions sound. My question is, because most high end bibles are art-gilt these days, or at the bar minimum, gilded, how do we get the old fashioned country parson look? I simply can’t imagine an old Geneva or Revival styled look having red-under-gold art gilt. Do you have any information about this?

      • Leonard’s is doing one for me right now in 17th Century Country Parsons dark brown medium flex goatskin. I am doing the CEPHER which I really like…KJV but errors corrected and original Hebrew names used. http://www.cepher.net
        It is 7 x 10 x 2.75 and it will cost around $160

  10. Mark, the leather we use in this particular style isn’t the buttery soft kind, but there are actually some people who don’t like that! For the buttery soft one, there’s the Sunday School Teachers Bible. I thought you’d like to see the Country Parson Bible for a little variety in your life. 🙂
    Steve, we also do repairs besides rebinds and we see some problems with leather-lined Bibles that maybe you’ve never seen. It is very difficult to repair them without disturbing the leather lining. And the overlap bulk in the front and back can be annoying. We’re not against leather linings philosophically, but they don’t fit into the way we do things, at least not now. If that changes, we want to do it well.

  11. Mark, that Hendrickson’s 1611 KJV facsimile edition referenced in your Sept. 6th post would sure photograph nicely with this binding in softcover….

  12. My dad use to have a lot of Bible before. I always like the way it binded. Thanks for sharing

  13. Can anyone tell me why the font size listed for Bibles sometimes has two numbers? For instance, my Pitt Minion has 6.75/7 and the wide-margin I just ordered has 8/8. I don’t understand…?

  14. The first number is font size, the second is leading (i.e., line spacing).

  15. Mark, are you sure about that? Leading is the space BETWEEN lines (corresponding to the lead metal that got stuffed between the letter type in old presses.) Otherwise that’s an awful lot of leading (nearly 100%–it would look like it was double-spaced) for the Pitt Minion examples Todd gives.
    I’d previously guessed it was giving font size in points using two different measurement systems, with the first probably being the modern 72 points/inch definition. More on the differing definitions of a point at
    Alternately, it might be that the 2nd number (always the same or slightly larger) could be the line height itself (equal to the sum of font size + leading) so the PM examples just show that the lines are pretty tight in a Pitt.
    I’m not really sure, but I’m pretty certain the 2nd number isn’t leading. Any typographers want to weigh in?

  16. Yes, I’m sure. Try setting 6.75 pt. type with 7 pt. leading in InDesign. The result is fairly close spacing between lines, not even close to double spacing. Here’s an example in which the convention is spelled out:
    While I’ve been typesetting since 1987, I set my first lead type this week (18 pt. Goudy Modern roman).

  17. I spotted a Foundation NASB Topical Reference Bible (Bonded Leather) at a local store that was marked 50% off. reason for this is an error on the name embossing so the store is clearancing it. I am thinking about picking it up and making it into a rebind project. This idea is appealing…
    I have always liked Foundation’s book blocks. They are frequently sewn and almost always of excellent paper quality. Their choice of leather is less than ideal so this may be the best of both worlds.

  18. Concerning the above argument about the KJV. I would like to chime in. Let me just say that I love the scriptures, and I love the KJV.

    But I think 90% of Christians apply their own “Meaning” to the following words (Bible, The Word, and The Scriptures).

    Usually people combine those 3 into one word, considering that they mean the same thing, and the bible declares that they DO NOT. So there is a difference between, “The Word of God” and “The Bible”.

    The NT address all 3 words (The Word of God, The Scriptures / The Bible), For example 2nd Timothy addresses the scriptures, while Hebrews 4:12 does not, but instead addresses The Word.

    Jesus is addressed in the book of Revelation, and on His thigh, is the name given to Him, (The Word of God), which John tells us began in Genesis, and in John CH 1 it “BECAME” flesh. (The 6 letter “Became” is past tense, meaning it wasn’t flesh before, John CH 1).

    Possibly you disagree, can I ask you to ponder the following:

    IF the bible is our answer for our spiritual life we have to then consider, what the scriptures say about the bible.

    Who had the bible, and who did not have the bible.

    Then we must ask which of those persons had life, true life, the kind that Jesus promises.

    I submit our life and truth comes from somewhere else, the scriptures are a road map, a plumb line…

    IF that is not the case God failed a huge group who never had access to God’s word (that is IF the bible is your definition of the word of God).

    1). Did any of the masses have access to the bible (scriptures) in the Old Testament? NO!

    2). Did any of the masses in the New Testament have access to the bible? NO!

    *Could the masses read the bible if they had one? NO!

    3). How many after the Resurrection, thru the dark ages had access to the bible and could read it? ZERO!

    4). How many countries had “LIMITED” access to copies of the O.T. bible, in their own language? Only Israel!

    5). When did, the bible become available in English, the language of the masses? The mid 1550’s! How many people were literate? Hardly none!

    6). When was the printing press created? 1440!

    * SO basically, the masses (those that could read) have had a bible available to them for the last 500 yrs…

    * Man, has a history that spans approx. 6000 years minus 500 years…

    *So, for 5500 years’ man was without the word of god…IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE TELLING ME?

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