Breaking In the Pitt Minion

As I mentioned earlier in the week, my brown goatskin Pitt Minion has served as a mainstay during the past four years. If you had told me in 2008 that this would happen, I would not have believed it. Frankly, I hated the thing at first. Hate is a strong word, but you have to understand, I had such high hopes for the brown Pitt Minion. I'm not a black Bible kind of guy, nor am I a stiff cover kind of guy. So I needed the Pitt Minion to be non-black (check) and soft (uncheck). 

While the cover wasn't as stiff as some late nineties calfskin I could mention — so stiff you could put an edge on it and slice fingers — the Pitt Minion wasn't soft. It could stand all by itself, which is a great thing if you're a toddler learning to walk. Not so much if you're a high-end Bible.

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"Don't think I'm going to treat you special," I told the Pitt Minion. "'Cause you're not special. You're stiff." True to my word, I twisted the cover, bent it, curled it, rolled it up like a newspaper — and I did all this with white-knuckled intensity becasue I didn't care what happened. If I ripped the cover off, if I tore the binding, none of it mattered. 

A great man once said — was it Bono? — that karma is getting what you deserve and grace is not getting what you deserve. In the case of the Pitt Minion, I received grace. All this abuse didn't destroy the little Bible. It made the Pitt Minion better. I can't exactly recommend the procedure … but it worked. 

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If I had to describe my Pitt Minion's cover today, I'd called it "rubbed." It looks well-handled, because that's exactly what it is. All that twisting — along with more conventional use — has resulted in the cover wrapping around the edges somewhat. There's a little pinch at the spine. Near the headband and along the top edge, there are some pale nicks in the leather.  

No, the cover didn't turn limp. It still possesses enough of its original rigidity to support the text block in my hand. But I've found I quite like that. Part of the break-in process involved softening the cover. To be more precise, I was bending and stressing the board underneath. Part of the process was also, in some esoteric sense, making this edition my own. 

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There's a tendency for those of us who appreciate well-made Bibles to consider them as objects to collect and admire rather than use. All bibliophiles are prone to this. Michael Russem writes about the phenomenon in the Fall 2007 issue of The Bonefolder in a piece called "The Failure of Fine Printing." See if this rings a bell:

Because we are so accustomed to mass market productions, the physical elements and processes traditionally chosen for fine press books — handmade paper, letterpress, and hand bindings — are foreign to the average reader and thus call too much attention to themselves, over stimulating the senses and spirit. It is impossible to handle them without relishing in the deliciousness of the materials — though all the while feeling panic over the possibility of damaging these precious items. It is difficult to imagine curling up in bed with a full leather or a delicate paper binding as one would do so readily with a paperback. Because the editions are so luxurious and often unwieldy, it is impractical and terrifying to read these book. People are often afraid to even touch them.

The end result, with apologies to Augustine, is that we take, but we do not read. Ironically, in pampering "fine" books this way, we are giving in to the assumptions that drive mass market consumerism. Equating quality with luxury, perpetuating the idea that some things are too well made to actually use, is what keeps the abismal standards prevalent in the industry alive. And Russem is talking about true fine press books. By his standards, the high-end Bibles we cherish are mass produced. 

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Above: Note the light dots near the head and where the top layer has flecked away.

When I stopped caring about preserving the Pitt Minion, when I stopped caring even what happened to it, I discovered this little Bible really was made to be used. It hasn't fallen apart. There aren't any missing pages. The ribbon hasn't even frayed significantly. The abuse hasn't ruined this Bible's looks. In fact, to me, it looks much finer than your shiny new ones in their glossy protective boxes. 

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All it took was a little of this (see above). "I will break you," I said. And the Pitt Minion, channeling Paul Atreides, replied: "I will bend like a reed in the wind." 

12 Comments on “Breaking In the Pitt Minion

  1. I was looking forward to this post. I bought the same edition in December 2008, and have treated mine similarly. It is my daily reader and primary bible. I have found it to be much improved over time. It doesn’t have the worn-out look, it has the “broken-in and just getting started” look. I look forward to many more years of use with this bible. It’s the best bible I have ever owned. If my house burned down, I’d get my family out, and grab my Pitt-Minion! Maybe an exaggeration, but you get the point!

  2. This post was perfect timing as I just received my brown goatskin Cambridge ESV Pitt Minion in the mail today! The difference is I have the newer edition and it’s the 2011 ESV text. It also comes with 2 ribbons which I was surprised to see when I opened it. I’m most likely going to make this my main Bible and I can’t wait to see it 4 years from now.

  3. Pitt Minion = best format of the Bible of all time. Especially that brown, it reminds me of Fall. I love my brown Pitt.

  4. I can’t find anywhere that this is actually the 2011 ESV text like Matt mentioned. Everything I have seen says it is still the 2007 text. Is that true? Also, some seem to have one ribbon and some have two. Does anyone know the difference?

  5. Hi Pitt Minion lovers, greetings from Singapore. As a kjv user, I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the new kjv Pitt Minion at the end of the year. 1 qn tho, being in paragraph form, does anyone find it difficult or that it takes more time to locate a specific verse? I have the clarion and I find it difficult at times to quickly locate a verse on the Bible. It’s all the more challenging when Cambridge uses numerical symbols for their referencing too. Do long time users just get used to it?

  6. MIkeB: Cambridge have now published the ESV Pitt with the 2011 text. I think they introduced the two ribbons in the ESV Pitt a couple of years ago while it was still the 2007 text edition. I have a brown goatskin 2007 ESV Pitt which originally came with one brown ribbon but I have added two more to make mine a handy three ribbon edition. I recently handled a 2011 edition and the cover was noticeably limper (is that a word?) than mine was when I bought it, but like Mark’s mine is also well worn in and remains my go to carry-about bible.

  7. Matt Burns and all,
    Where did you purchase your Pitt Minion ESV from? Every source I have contacted says that their copies of the Pitt Minion ESV contain the 2007 text edition of the ESV, not the 2011 text edition.
    Does anyone know where I can get a 2011 text edition Pitt Minion from?

  8. I’m considering buying the Pitt Minion ESV in brown goatskin. One of my life rules is “don’t own things that are too nice to use.” It’s good to see that this little Bible can take a beating and come away looking better.That’s what any quality leather product should do.

  9. I’m curios as well if anyone knows where to get a 2011 text pitt minion?

  10. in case anyone is curious, I got this response from Cambridge regarding text versions of the 2011 ESV:

    I have heard from Cambridge Bibles. Their answer is as follows:

    “The answer is that both of the black letter ESV Pitt Minions (9781107629189 and 9780521734868) do include the 2011 text revisions, but that both of the red letter editions currently available come from an earlier printing using the 2007 text.”

  11. Got my ESV a few days ago. I intend for this to be my always Bible…..and honestly, I’m hesitant to do so because its so nice.

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