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. 

This leads me to think that the Brevier does not requite "break in." Instead, it simply handles differently than a Bible with a thinner, limper overall cover. 


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). 


17 Comments on “R. L. Allan Brevier Clarendon (KJV) in Black and Brown Vachetta Calfskin

  1. My Cambridge Cameo in brown vachetta calfskin picks up dings pretty easily.

  2. Thank you Mark for this post, the pictures, your time and energy. It’s very much appreciated! We all love you brother.

  3. And you’ll pay a fistful of dollars. All of which brings us back to your common $5-$12 KJV Bible, printed in America during the early and middle half of last century, and which can be found at most used book stores and eBay—all with the added benefit of india paper and art-gilt edges.
    Paper is king. Most of these newer Bibles have good bindings, a lot of bad paper and always an ugly price. My advice is to get yourself a 50-year old KJV Bible. For a few dollars more, have it rebound in whatever leather you want. You’ll own a Bible with much better paper, pay far less,and you can still wrap it all in a calf leather that you can turn any which way you can.

  4. I understand what you’re saying Todd, but in my experience Jonbloed paper is great.

  5. I have a brown goatskin 6C that I ordered in 2010 and the lining is brown. While I agree with Todd about the quality of paper in older bibles (my grandmother’s battered Scofield has wonderfully white, opaque paper), I have been pleased with the paper in the Allan Longprimer and Clarendon. The Clarendon paper is quite thin, but the thickness and squatness of the text makes it stand out so that it is still easy to read. The cyclopedic concordance is good about including definitions for archaic words or usages. I find that particularly useful for a KJV.

  6. what is the print size of the allan clarendon #5 compared to the allan ruby #100 (text only)?

  7. also do you think the #5 would endure for approximately 20 years?

    I am Catholic, but discovered I enjoy reading the AV better. my old bible is 20+ years (read at least a chapter a day) but paper back, so I’m wondering if it’s worth $150 compared to the $8 I spent on the #100 ruby text.

  8. The wide margin Clarendon I bought from Christadelphian Library in California from a guy named Tom has terrible print quality. It looks awful compared to my wife’s Cambridge Cameo. I tried calling and left a message telling him it is flawed, but he didn’t reply yet. Too bad. I spent 165 dollars on it. I wish the reviews I read about it would have been thorough enough to analyze the print quality. It seems like these reviews capitalize so much on the oohhs and aahhhs of the luxurious feel of the leather and have very little to say about the quality of the text itself. The copy I have has letters that are partially faded in too many places to number. I can probably pick out ten or more defects in one page over and over. It is a big distraction when reading since I was expecting the text to be awesome for 165 dollars!

    • I have the same issue with my version that was purchased straight from Allan in the UK. I do not mind the small defects in a letter here and there but I don’t like the ones in which I need to finish the letter off with pencil so I can make it out.

      Very disappointing for this price.

      In contrast the Cambridge Concord wide-margin I have is flawless.

      • I really appreciate this reply. Thank you for taking the time to share that. Now I don’t feel too bad since I am not the only one. I bought a very fine (o1/ .25mm tip) Micron pen for not taking and I will probably use that to correct some of the errors.

        Take care.

    • Just wanted to say that Tom did reply to me. He told me basically that this was just the way the Bibles are. I also communicated my regrets to Allan and the person who replied to me via e-mail told me the quality has degraded from what was even originally an older type of typesetting since they are not even original prints of it, but copies. They are actually going to meet with Cambridge soon and ask them how they were able to do such a good job with the typesetting of their also old reprinting of the Cameo since it is such a good quality of typesetting. I hope they can improve on it and reprint the Allan with a wide margin again.

      • Allan just got in brand new stock of the Clarendon 5, 5C and 6 all in highland goatskin leather… I just ordered the 5 today, can’t wait for it to arrive!

  9. One of the things I really appreciate about both the Brevier Clarendon and its cousin the Blackface is that their cyclopedic concordances are theologically conservative. I returned a new Pitt Minion a year ago as the combined dictionary/concordance at the back kept referring to the JEDP theory of the composition of the Pentateuch, pseudonymous authorship of some NT books, and second-century authorship of the same. Something to consider when selecting a high-end Bible…

  10. From what I understand, Allan order Bibles directly from Jonbloed, Holland, but are not involved in production on any level. They simple decided what they want, advice the printers and the printers do the rest, including the binding.

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