Cambridge Pitt Minion (ESV) in Brown Split Calf

Four years after its release, the Pitt Minion ESV remains one of my go-to editions. To borrow from the late Steve Jobs, this Bible has a "magical" form factor. It's small and thin enough to qualify as a compact edition, but sufficiently full-featured to serve as your main (or only) Bible. I wrote about the Pitt Minion in depth when the new editions first came out. Today, we'll bring the story up to date and take a look at one of the new cover options: brown split calf.


In some respects, my love for the Pitt Minion makes no sense. As you know, I'm an advocate for single column, paragraphed text settings — Bibles that look like the kind of books you read, not the ones in which you merely look things up. I also tend to prefer the "less in more" approach when it comes to inserting study apparatus in the text. If they're subtle, I can abide chapter and verse numbers, and even section headings. But everything else, including cross references, leaves me cold.

On top of that, the books that feel best in my hand tend to be short and stout. Our mania for thinline editions seems to do more harm than good, in my view. When your 1000+ page, small-print Bible is half the thickness of a 300-page thriller in hardback (and ten times more difficult to read), I'm not sure the trade-offs are really worth it.

And yet, for the past four years, the Bible I've done more reading from, more teaching from, and even more preaching from is the Cambridge Pitt Minion. Why? Despite the smaller size, I find the Pitt Minion quite readable. The relative proportion of type size to column width seems to work, even if I have to hold the page rather close to my middle-aged eyes in certain light. Also, the slightly-larger-than-compact size makes the Pitt Minion easy to handle, easy to hold onto. 

Probably the best thing the Pitt Minion has going for it is its spring-open binding. These Bibles lay flat, and that's the most important handling characteristic I look for. 

The Pitt Minion is printed and bound by Jongbloed in the Netherlands, and recently Jongbloed has been turning out some excellent split calf bindings. They're not as limp as goatskin, not as elegant as fine calf, but they are attractive and affordable alternatives to the run-of-the-mill bindings most publishers are still offering. They have visual and tactile interest.

Finely grained leather often appears more elegant. A deep printed grain like we see in this split calf conveys more rugged connotations. The covers feel more rugged in the hand, too, which may be as much a function of the board under the leather as the skin itself. The brown split calf cover in the photos reminds me quite a bit of my brown goatskin Pitt Minion when I first received it: nice to look at, and stiff enough to stand all on its own.

There was a time when I abhored such stiffness. I wanted Bibles to come out of the box like melted chocolate, as elegant and slouchy as an odalisque on her couch. While I'm still a fan of limp bindings, my experience with the brown goatskin Pitt Minion reminded me of something I've always known: there's something to be said for things that break in over time. Like a pair of good shoes (i.e., the ones with the soles stitched on, not glued), a Bible can break in as the result of frequent use, developing a lived-in charm that will never come fresh out of a box. Those of us who baby our Bibles and keep them sheltered in the box never experience this. It's a shame.

The split calf is an excellent choice if you're on a budget. It makes sense, too, if you're one of those people who actually wants a certain degree of stiffness in a cover. I'd trust one of these upright on a shelf far more than it's squishy cousins. Later in the week, we'll take a look at my four-year-old goatskin Pitt Minion and see how it compares to this one.



18 Comments on “Cambridge Pitt Minion (ESV) in Brown Split Calf

  1. I have this edition of the ESV and a couple of other Pitt Minions, like the NASB version. I’m generally a fan of Cambridge, and I really wanted to love this Bible, but the type size is just not large enough to make this a practical go-to for extensive reading, teaching, and preaching from. I recognise these things are largely personal preferences, but I tend to reach for my Allan ESV Reader’s Edition for most needs because of its easy readability.

  2. “As elegant and slouchy as an odalisque on her couch.” This will probably be the new catch phrase in Bible advertisements!

  3. What is the type size for the Cambridge Pitt Minion (ESV) in Brown Split Calf?

  4. Since you often do side-by-side comparisons of various states of flexibility, I’m wondering if perhaps you might take a photo of a slouchy Bible on a couch next to an odalisque. Or read by an odalisque.

  5. I just purchased an Allan’s Compact ESV in Black Goatskin (which I believe you will be commenting upon sometime soon) and – ooohhh – I’m normally an NRSV man, I do like the inclusiveness (as well as other factors of this translation) – and do have an Allan’s NRSV. But the small semi-yapp bible and I started reading Job – aloud – and I’m bitten. I tend to like the formal styles of translations like the RSV, NEB and KJV – and the ESV seems to do it.

  6. just bought one…thanks for the review as I have been looking at this one on EB for a while…thanks for the video!

  7. I had no idea Jonbloed did everything–the printing and binding and supplying the covers? What part does Cambridge do?

  8. Publishers publish, printers print. Publishers with in-house printing operations are fairly rare these days. The publisher decides on an edition, finances production, creates the design (either in house or in conjunction with an outside firm), and coordinates manufacture (selecting the printer, determining specs, etc.) and then promotes the book to the market. Cambridge uses Jongbloed quite a bit. The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible uses L.E.G.O. — the same printer that did the ESV Legacy for Crossway. Sometimes a printer also binds (as Jongbloed does here) and sometimes book blocks are sent elsewhere for binding (as, for example, when Crossway’s China-printed book blocks go to the UK for an Allan binding).

  9. To perhaps state the obvious, not all reference bibles use the same references. Decades ago, the NUMBER of references was a selling point for a bible. (So does a ref to Matt 1:2,3 count as one or two references?) Perhaps more importantly, which references are there and who chose them is VERY seldom mentioned, although the Thompson Chair-reference is the obvious exception, and I have an old KJV someplace that notes in the frontispapers “this edition uses the XYZ reference system” or something similar. Since denominational and doctrinal biases are bound to come through in the choice and placement of references, I’m quite surprised more isn’t made of this.
    My ESV Study Bible and ESV PSR appear to use the same references. Does this PM follow suit??? Are all ESV reference “systems” the same? Is that “system” owned (copyrighted) by Crossway? (I don’t read that in the fine print any place.) Or is a condition of licensing the ESV text the requirement to not use any other reference system? Are the “authors” of what appears to be the official ESV reference system the same, different, or a subset of, the ESV translation team itself?
    If there is such a standard for the ESV, it would seem possible to love the ESV but hate its reference “system”. Or vice-versa. So why isn’t this discussed? This is as good a blog as any, no? You wouldn’t buy a generic “study bible” without knowing who wrote the notes, would you? Or at least who was the intended audience?
    Zondervan/IBS never seemed to have a “preferred” reference system for NIV84. The NIV Thompson’s ref system is not the same as the Archaeological SB’s which is not the same as the NIV Pitt’s. So is the Bible market best served with a variety of reference “systems” available?
    I at least would request some definition/citation of the reference system used in a given reference bible, a “reference to the references” so to speak. And yes, how many references included is somewhat a measure of completeness as well, just as the number of entries in a concordance is useful consumer information.
    Shifting gears somewhat, the physical format of the references on the page deserves mention as well. This ESV Pitt seems to have it all wrong. Since it’s 2-column, why couldn’t they have made the extra effort to line up the references with it’s vertical location on the page? Instead they take the easy route of putting the left column refs at the top of the center column and the rt col refs at the bottom. (Is there a single classic Cambridge or Oxford reference KJV that uses such a user-hostile system?) In addition to that, they use bold text in the center column to locate where that reference applies, similar to the well-executed Cambridge Concord KJV, but then they still stick the intrusive superscripted letters into the text, which makes simple reading of the text more awkward, while doing little more than help decipher which reference goes with what exact word in the rare cases of more than one reference per verse.
    If my complaint isn’t clear, just pick up any old Cambridge Concord with the “bold-figure references” and spend a little time with it.

  10. Just received mine today and was thrilled with the look.
    Also, I preach from my kindle keyboard, and the ESV PM is within a quarter-inch of the dimensions of the cover my kindle is in…great pairing…both are a brown leather.
    Thanks again, Mark!

  11. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for the informative video; what font did you use for the video’s titles?

  12. Hi Mark,
    Please forgive the delay in replying; thank you for the font information!

    • They’re comparable in terms of stiffness, and I’m not sure I could tell the difference blindfolded except that the split calf’s grain is more raised. (That’s comparing two individual instances; I can’t say that it holds true across the board.) I prefer the look of the brown split calf.

  13. “Later in the week, we’ll take a look at my four-year-old goatskin Pitt Minion and see how it compares to this one.”

    Dear Mr. Bertrand: I really value your website, and have learned a great deal from your excellent postings.

    Just wondering whether you posted the follow-up that you mentioned (please see above quote)?

  14. Just finished your review.
    Apparently this particular ESV calf split Pitt has 2 ribbons?? Hope so. Just ordered one from evbible. Paul couldn’t tell me when I called

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