R. L. Allan Brevier Clarendon Wide Margin Edition (KJV)

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The Brevier Clarendon is back and more interesting than ever. R. L. Allan's earlier edition of this classic Oxford KJV text setting (reviewed here) sold out some time ago, but it's been resurrected both in its original form factor and as a beautiful wide margin edition. In this post, we'll look at the wide margin, which is available in two bindings, both of them black. The softbound 5WM – Highland Goatskin will set you back a little more than the 7WM – Italian split calfskin, but adds some nice touches in return. These Bibles are available direct from R. L. Allan and from EvangelicalBible.com

Here's something new. A quick silent movie to give you an idea of the handling experience of the highland goatskin edition:

Enjoy it? I hope so … Here's the same thing again, this time with the split calf edition:

(Note: I've already written about the excellent paper quality in this edition: "'Opaque, Lightweight and Writeable?': Putting an Allan Brevier to the Test." Since the whole point of a wide margin edition is to write in the margin, paper is a big concern. I'll say a little bit more about the paper below, but to see how it holds up to fountain pen ink, follow the link.) 

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In addition to being printed in the Netherlands by Jongbloed, the new Brevier Clarendons (both standard and wide margin editions) were bound there, too. The split calf binding bears a strong resemblance to the recent split calf editions from Cambridge, also bound by Jongbloeds, but the upscale goatskin edition has upgraded specs like an attractive blue leather lining. This is what the Brevier wide margin looks like compared to the Allan ESV Reader's Edition:

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The biggest difference between the two is the way the cover of the Brevier projects straight out instead of curving over the page edges. This gives the Brevier an exaggerated footprint. 

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To match the pretty navy ribbons, the goatskin-bound Brever has a blue leather lining. The cover boasts the same limp feeling as the UK-bound Allan editions in highland goatskin, though the imprinting inside is different. 

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In the photo below, you can see how the cover is attached to the text block. Instead of pasted-down endpapers to hold it in place (which is how hardback books and many Bibles are bound), the blue tab is pasted under the endpaper attached to the text block:

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Inside, the goatskin and split calf editions are identical. The margins are generous, even on the inside, which means you can write notes next to either column of text — a big advantage compared to double-column wide margins that only give you space next to the outer column. The goatskin edition has three navy ribbons and the split calf comes with three red ones.

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In both editions, lined notepaper is bound in back. This is a handy place to keep notes or outlines you refer to frequently. For example, I have a Bible whose lined paper I've used to copy outlines of how the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ were developed biblically — essentially a digest of the "argument" in each case. In another, I've copied various quotations from theological sources. You can also use these pages for regular note-taking … but since they're bound into the Bible, I tend to think through what I want to write before making it permanent.

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The goatskin cover is very limp and flexible, as you'd expect. While I'd prefer to see the edges curved over, in every other respect, the cover is excellent. 

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The Italian split calfskin cover — also called Dollaro split calfskin — is stiffer, with a deep, printed grain. This is the go-to edition for those of you who prefer more structure in a cover. I love limp bindings, but as I've mentioned before, I can appreciate the desire for more rigidity. When I first started using my goatskin Pitt Minion, I was really disappointed by how stiff the cover was, and now it's pretty much perfect. Some of us want to break a Bible in.

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I'm also happy about these covers (both the Allan version and the ones from Cambridge) because it's nice seeing calfskin making a comeback. A decade and a half ago, goatskin bindings were pretty rare. Most of the luxury editions were bound in calfskin. Over the last ten years, the pendulum swung and finding a calfsking-bound Bible became pretty hard. There are so many wonderful leathers available to bookbinders, so it's refreshing to see some variety.

As you can see below, the split calf edition is bound in the more traditional way, with the endpaper pasted down, overlapping the folded edge of the leather cover. 

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As I mentioned in my paper test post, I was fortunate enough to be provided with an unbound, untrimmed text block from the Brevier wide margin print run. This gives me the opportunity to say a few things about the way fine books are made. When you hold the stack of unbound signatures in your hand, it's rather hard to imagine their finished form. They appear quite humble really:

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When the sheets are printed, the black boxes you can see in the photo below include numbers to ensure that the individual signatures are arranged in order. Although these booklets are unsewn, the perforations have been made in the spine for needle and thread to follow. Once sewn, the page edges would be trimmed evenly before gilding. 

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Here's an individual signature:

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As you can see, it's a slender booklet. Every folded sheet contains four pages. In this bundle, there are eighteen sheets, a total of 72 pages. Looking at the unbound sheets, you'd think the margins are especially vast — but as I mentioned, some of that white space will be trimmed away during the binding process.

I'm not as big a fan of maps in Bibles as I was during my often-bored childhood, when they helped releive the tedium of an over-long sermon. (Though I found myself daydreaming just as often about the conquests of Alexander as the missionary journeys of Paul.) Having the untrimmed maps from the Brevier is a real delight. The bars on the side help pressmen check that the color is correct.

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On modern editions, this is what I like to see. The Jongbloed name always reassures me. They do consistently great work. 

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Thanks to Allan's decision to produce both standard and wide margin editions of the Brevier Clarendon setting, readers can enjoy the benefits of a one-two combination. Use the smaller one for reading and carrying, the larger for study and teaching. The location of passages remains consistent between the two, facilitating an easy transition back and forth. Cambridge has been doing the same thing with their Pitt Minions and Wide Margins, and I love it.

(Note to Cambridge: A Clarion wide margin to go with the standard Clarion would make my day. In the immortal words of King Claudius: "Do it, England.")

The Breviers are thus aimed at the many readers who continue to use the KJV and prefer a classic Oxford two-column setting. They're nicely appointed and beautifully printed on good quality India paper. If you're a dedicated fan of the Authorized Version and you can't get on board with my love for single column settings, a brace of Breviers would suit you nicely!

24 Comments on “R. L. Allan Brevier Clarendon Wide Margin Edition (KJV)

  1. Cool videos. It does add an extra dimension to your excellent book reviews. Thanks much.

  2. The video is certainly a nice addition to the Bible reviews.
    If possible, I was wondering if you could do another quick review of your Pitt Minion to show what it looks and feels like now. I’m not sure how different your photos would be compared to your past Pitt Minion reviews, but I for one would like to see what some use has done to your Pitt Minion.

  3. I’m glad the video is appreciated. I imagine there will be more in the future. The most recent photos of my Pitt Minion, Bo, are posted in the Clarion KJV review and a piece called “Open Flat,” both from last year:
    http://www.bibledesignblog.com/2011/10/cambridge-kjv-clarion-revisited-three-binding-options.html
    http://www.bibledesignblog.com/2011/09/open-flat.html
    Since I promised to do a comparison of the Pitt Minion and the Allan Compact Text ESV, I’ll make sure my well-worn PM gets into those shots, too (along with the newer brown split calf edition, which I like quite a bit).

  4. Great Bible. I bought one at Christmas. I only wish I had bought the goatskin due to the stiffness of the calf.

  5. Has the cover softened up at all? My assumption, based on what happened with my Pitt Minion cited above, is that with use the board under the leather will break in, making the cover more supple. But I haven’t put this to the test with the split calf, so I’d love to hear what others have experienced.

  6. Your comment of a wide margin Clarion made my heart skip a beat. My dad and I designed a “perfect” wide margin a few years back (we both settled on the Cambridge NASB wide margin in goatskin, both covers are quite different) and it was basically the Clarion layout with a wide margin. I love the look of the calfskin in the video, and I really hope that my Clarion is similar when it finally gets here. Once again, a very nice review.

  7. Mark,
    I’ve used it quite a bit, but it’s not softened up enough to be noticeably different.
    I’m honestly somewhat disappointed in that, but realize that it will probably last for ages and don’t want to diminish my pleasure in the overall quality.
    I think that I’m also very spoiled by the limp style binding that is characteristic of LCBP Bibles, which I have used for almost ten years.
    Jason

  8. The only hitch with a Clarion Wide Margin would be that to get the paper thickness up enough for serious note taking, it seems like you’d have a pretty thick edition. Consider the thickness differences between a Pitt Minion, and the corresponding Wide margin. Something like a 50% premium for the thicker paper.
    I’m not saying it’s not feasable (See the NRSV Note-Taker’s) but it’d be a desk-only proposition for most, which wouldn’t be too bad with a “standard” Clarion for carrying around.

  9. Mark,
    Back again on the stiffness.
    I had used another Bible to preach out of for a couple of weeks and my memory was faulty.
    I have broken this in somewhat. It is still stiffer than I would wish, but not so much as to say that there is no noticeable difference. It is beginning to have that nice way of laying over my hand and being a little limp.
    What has to break in a little more is the sewn part so that it will lay open a little better. That will only come with time and use, though.
    My apologies for being so forgetful.
    I have a few of the LCBP Bibles and they are amazingly limp right out of the box. I enjoy that, but I also know that this particular Bible has the advantage where it is connected to the cover, as you have shown above.

  10. Hi Mark
    I have been reading your blog for the last 4 or 5 years. I ran across this in a book I am reading and wondered if you have ever seen anything like this. I enjoy your blog and am subscribed in Google Reader. Here it is, a silver bound edition of the Gospels:
    When duties and responsibilities are great and I am very tired when I retire at night, then I have my wife or my son read one Gospel to me and in this way I am faithful to my promise. Out of gratitude and for the glory of God I had this Gospel bound in silver and I carry it on my breast faithfully.”
    (2009-08-05). The Way of a Pilgrim (pp. 22-23). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

  11. Hi i just ordered the Allen wide margin and was wondering is the paper as good as the oxford produced wide margin? I saw the review you have done and ws wondering if the paper will hold up to like maybe a bic roller pen or even a mechanical pencil? Thank you for having such a wonderful bible blog, your video addition is excellent, because of the video i was persuaded to purchase on of the wide margin bibles, thank you , God bless.
    Pastor Erick D. Marquez……….HERE IS OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL FEEL FREE TO DROP BY….
    http://www.youtube.com/user/PastorErickDMarquez?feature=mhee

  12. I returned my Allan wide margin goatskin. The company misrepresented their product on their website and refused to deal ethically with the problem. I recommend you only buy one of their Bibles if you can personally SEE it first. Definitely don’t go by the info they provide on their website!

  13. John,
    Where did you purchase the Allan wide margin goatskin from? Directly from Bibles-direct or from Evangelical Bible?
    If you don’t mind elaborating some I would be interested in hearing more about your dealings with the company. What was misrepresented and how did they deal unethically with you?

  14. I bought directly from R.L. Allan in Scotland and dealt with Nicholas. The problems were several:
    1. The Bible dimensions were misleading (it was about 20-25% thicker than they state on their website.
    Their response? They don’t include the covers, etc. when they give the BULK (thickness) measurement? Who buys a Bible without covers?
    2.The site stated it was printed on India paper.
    His response? Quote: “It was made in Japan for a French paper company who are making the finest Bible papers used today. I hesitate to say ‘India’ paper because your Bible’s paper does not have rag content and is from sustainable forests.”
    Then simply state that up front.
    3. The Bible was claimed to be ‘full yapp’ but it was not.
    His reason? If they made it with a full yapp it “would simply flap”.
    Then don’t call it “full yapp”.
    At this point I was hoping for some willingness to correct what I still feel is an unethical advertisement or a willingness to come up with a fair solution. None was forthcoming. I returned it though I had to absorb a cost to do so.
    I do not have any qualms of the quality of their product. I have serious misgivings as to the manner in which they run their business. My comment stands. I am not telling anyone NOT to buy their product, but I do recommend you only buy if you can personally SEE what you are buying, or you simply don’t care if what you get is not what you thought you were buying.

  15. I appreciate the information on this blog and everyone’s input on the quality of the bibles and services rendered by the sellers. The prices of these bibles I’m not saying are overpriced, but for many people bibles in this price range might be considered a once in a lifetime purchase, so the information is much appreciated. With that said, I’ve been admiring the Allan Wide Margin for quite some time and I’m most curious about the paper as mentioned in Mark’s review and also the latest post by John indicating that the bible papers were apparently sourced from Japan. In Mark’s separate review of the paper I believe he stated that he was unsure of the bible papers origin and I was wondering if anyone had any specific information in regards to the paper. Is this the Tamoe River paper from Japan mentioned by Mark or something similar? And does anyone foresee in the future a Wide Margin edition by Allan that includes the Longprimer Text?

  16. I just found this YouTube review on the Allan Clarendon Wide Margin Goatskin and I thought I would pass it on:

  17. Hi Mark, I recently became interested in a wide margin bible but the print is rather small. This would seem especially true for extended reading and study. Have you used this bible for an extended period of time? If so, did the smaller text seem difficult to use? That is, did your eyes get tired, etc.?

    • I can’t say that I’ve experienced eye strain due to small type — the Bibles I use most tend to have smaller type, so perhaps I’m just accustomed to it.

      • At the expense of sounding like I’m telling a man who says he feels fine that he isn’t, I’d argue this statement is not strictly true. Assuming you’re at the age that you need to wear corrective lenses, it is true that type can be shrunk and spherical lens correction added to make the apparent size the same. But the price you pay with stronger lenses is reduced depth and field and increased optical aberrations so there is, objectively speaking, more eye strain. Granted, there are portability and comfort advantages to small volumes. Still I think the best advice to give someone buying a book **to actually read** is to buy the largest typeface you can (up to ~12points) that you can reasonably hold and tote around.

        • Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying small type isn’t a trade off, or that larger print isn’t easier to read. When I hear “eye strain,” I assume we’re talking symptoms — soreness, headaches, etc. — and that’s not what I experience after using Bibles with smaller type.

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