R. L. Allan Brevier Clarendon (KJV) in Black and Brown Vachetta Calfskin
We have already looked at the wide margin edition of the Brevier Clarendon setting from R. L. Allan, and now it's time to consider its hand-sized cousin.
When I first wrote about the Brevier Clarendon in 2008, I much preferred this classic setting to the Brevier Blackface, which in comparison takes all its quirks just a step too far for my taste: the blackface test is too dark, the self-pronouncing text is too diced up, and so on. Four years later, I'm of the same opinion. The Brevier Clarendon is clearly an old school text setting — double column with references tucked in between, verse-by-verse line breaks, running heads up top rather than in the text. If that's what you're looking for, this is a beautifully produced example.
Because of the Brevier Clarendon's popularity, they are not only back in print but available in a variety of binding styles: naturally-grain Highland goatskin, goatskin, Vachetta calfskin, and French Morocco. One of the French Morocco editions even comes with thumb indexing for a truly old school experience. You can order from R. L. Allan directly and also from EvangelicalBible.com.
The review copies here are both bound in Vachetta calfskin. Like the wide margin, these Bibles are both printed and bound by Jongbloed in the Netherlands. As a result, the bindings and ribbons have a somewhat Cambridgey look to them. They're nicely printed and well put together, and the calfskin is a welcome addition to the range. Unlike the split calf used in the wide margin, these covers are soft to the touch, with a semi-matte sheen, not stiff exactly but certainly firm.
The paper in the hand-sized Brevier doesn't appear to be the same as the excellent sheets used in the wide margin. (I haven't taken the liberty of marking these up with a fountain pen, either.) Subjectively speaking, the opacity seems a bit less to me. Having said that, they are better than average, comparable to what you'd find in a Cambridge Pitt Minion, I'd guesstimate. The brown edition comes with two ribbons, a dark coppery brown and a gold. The black edition's two ribbons are blue and bright red.
As I mentioned in the original 2008 article, one of the interesting vintage features of the Brevier Clarendon is something called a Cyclopedic Concordance. As the name suggests, it's a sort of encyclopia + concordance, including all sorts of Bible handbook-style information that would ordinarily be excluded from a portable volume. I've mentioned before how essential maps in the back of the Bible were to relieving the tedium of over-long sermons during my youth. The Cyclopedic Concordance would have made the time fly.
Vachetta calfskin feels smooth to the touch, with a tight grain. The covers are thick, sturdily pasted down in the traditional style. The finish isn't "hard" in the way that classic Cambridge Cameos in calfskin were, neither is it shiny. There's a dull gleam to the leather. In the video, I suggest that the cover should "break in" with use, but I'd like to revise that sentiment somewhat. Unlike, say, my brown Pitt Minion, which started off stiff and softened up over time, these Breviers don't feel like they have a stiff board under the leather. Rather, the thickness of the cover (leather, board, lining) gives the Brevier some heft. When I roll the cover in my hand, though, I don't feel resistance from the board underneath.
Given my predilection for color, it's not surprising that I've gravitated toward the brown. Somehow I picked up a couple of light-colored dings on the front, whcih are visible in the photograph above. This leads me to wonder what kind of patina might develop with use.
Compared to the usual thick, long Allan ribbons, these are are on the thin, short side, similar to the ribbons in a Pitt Minion. I don't mind, though I do prefer the thicker ribbons.
One thing I do mind is that the brown cover comes with a black lining. Whenever I see this, I'm always disappointed. The combination of black and brown simply doesn't look right. I would have preferred a lining chosen to compliment the color of the cover. Is this enough to push me toward the black cover? Not really. But it does bug me enough to justify the mention.
The art gilt edges and rounded spines look good.
As I mentioned in the wide margin review, the new Brevier re-release means you can now enjoy the same text setting in a portable carry Bible and a larger notetaking edition, and the page numbers and placement of text on the page will match up. One of my ideals is a three-size "system" of editions — pocket-sized, hand-sized, wide margin — all using the same text setting so that you can switch back and forth without taxing your brain's muscle memory (or whatever it's called). Like the Pitt Minion + Wide Margin combos from Cambridge, this gets you two-thirds of the way there.
There are certain text settings which develop a cult following over time. The Brevier Clarendon is certainly one of them. Oxford has let this and other classic KJV settings fall by the wayside, so it's nice to see R. L. Allan resurrecting them for old fans (and new).