Crimond House Two Version Bible (KJV/RV) in Black Calfskin

Crimond House is the publishing wing of Ards Evangelical Bookshop in Northern Ireland. In 2007, they published the Two Versions Bible, resurrecting an out-of-print text setting from 1899 which includes the King James Version with variants from the Revised Version noted in the outer margin. Not only is the edition a fascinating historical artifact, but it also provides an opportunity to highlight a small publisher who decided to do everything right. 

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In the late nineteenth century, as the project to revise the venerable King James Version came to completion, English-speaking readers were faced with a challenge very difficult for their twenty-first century descendants to imagine. They had grown up with a single translation of Scripture, its words interwoven into their culture and literature going back nearly three centuries. And now at long last, the translation was being revised — not just modernized, but actually changed. How was one to keep track of the differences?

Come to think of it, maybe that's not such a difficult scenario for us to imagine. Even today, when revisions are announced to favorite translations, a wave of uneasiness spreads through the ranks. "What are they going to change this time?" people ask, sometimes with excitement, often with dread. It's like finding out the government revised your birth certificate and changed your middle name to Maurice. In other words: unsettling.

For Victorians, there was an answer to the dilemma in the form of editions like the Two Version Bible, which spelled out the differences clearly. I have seen a couple of KJV/RV interlinears before, including a hardcover Cambridge which sits on my shelf:

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Above: Cambridge's KJV/RV Interlinear Bible

Confusing? Yes, it is. Once you get the hang of it, though, not so much. The Cambridge Interlinear gives you the text of the KJV right up until there's a variant. Then the line breaks into superscript and subscript, with the King James reading on bottom and the Revised Version reading on top. In the photo above, if you were reading verse 36, you'd see that the KJV has it: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Whereas the RV reads: "But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only." The two changes are immediately evident as you scan the text — though it does get a little difficult to disentangle them. 

The Two Version Bible takes a much simpler approach. The text of the King James is in the column, with notes in the margin indicating where the Revised Version differs.

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Whereas the Cambridge approach allows the nimble-eyed to read either the KJV or the RV aloud, the Two Version Bible is geared more to the KJV reader who'd like to be aware when the RV differs from what he's accustomed to. As the photo above illustrates, the KJV's reading of Matthew 24:36 is given in the text column: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."

The superscript numbers next to "man" and "but my Father only," signal marginal notes, where we find the RV substituting "one, not even" for "man," and inserting "neither the Son," between the angels and the Father. For good measure, there's another note on the second instance explaining that "many authorities, some ancient, omit neither the Son," taking back with one hand what it gives with the other. 

Both editions feature cross references in the inside margin. Because it renders the KJV in an uninterrupted flow, the Two Version Bible can still serve its original purpose for modern readers of the King James who want to be alerted when the text underlying the translation is in doubt. 

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Contributing to the Two Version Bible's continued usability is its form. Crimond House had never ventured into the world of Bible publishing before, though in the past they had commissioned special editions from oxford and Cambridge. To ensure a good result, they enlisted the help of an agent who had formerly been Oxford's Bible manager in the UK, Nigel Lynn. The edition was printed and bound in the Netherlands by Jongbloed. 

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The Two Version Bible features one of Jongbloed's excellent edge-lined bindings, in which no bookboard is inserted between the outer leather and the polyurethane lining, resulting in a limp, flexible cover. It also comes with beautiful art-gilt page edges. There's only one ribbon. It's black and a bit skimpy. Otherwise everything about this nicely-appointed edition feels right.

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The cover is soft, grainy calfskin that peels back easily (see above) offering very little resistance. Even better? Jongbloed recommended a 40 gsm paper manufactured in the Czech Republic. As a result, the Two Version Bible seems impressively opaque in comparison with many of its contemporaries. Like vintage Bibles, there is some showthrough, but it is less pronounced than we've grown accustomed to in modern editions. Isn't it strange that a small outfit on its first outing in the world of Bible publishing can manage what so many of the experienced players don't? 

It's really time for the opacity of Bible paper to increase. While no one expects miracles, I would like to see publishers start disclosing the specs of the paper used in their editions — not to mention using higher spec paper. Even if the increased cost were passed along to readers, we would be happy to foot the bill. When I asked people on the BIble Design Blog Facebook page whether they'd pay an extra $10 or even $20 to cover the cost of opaque paper, the affirmatives were overwhelming. In reality, the increased cost would be less, perhaps much less. 

Glued bindings are great for Bibles nobody is reading. The same goes for cheap, translucent paper. Those of us who buy Bibles with the intention of using them expect quality binding and quality paper.

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The Two Version Bible delivers both. I have to say, it's quite strange to be handling what looks like a vintage Bible in decidedly non-vintage ways. The cover pancakes under the weight of the book block when I apply one of my patented yoga moves:

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Like the edge-lined covers from Cambridge, which it strongly resembles, the Two Version Bible has a stitched turn-in providing additional reinforcement and decoration. 

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When I hear of small publishers resurrecting long out-of-print books, I tend to imagine muddy photocopies and cheap glued bindings. Nothing about the Two Versions Bible fits this stereotype. It's nicely printed on fine paper with a quality leather binding. It even comes in an attractive, sturdy crimson box. If you like your King James with a twist of late Victorian RV, the Two Version Bible would be an excellent choice.

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22 Comments on “Crimond House Two Version Bible (KJV/RV) in Black Calfskin

  1. I like the wider margins on top and below. They look like you could write notes in them no problem.

  2. I have the older Cambridge version. I would purchase this in a second if they had the Revised Version featured with the KJV in the notes.

  3. This edition, while neat in and of itself (the defunct Dickson Study Bible does essentially the same thing), to me is like the TBS Windsor in that it proves what could be done with more mainstream publications.
    I guess what I’m beginning to believe is that Jongbloed is really the gateway to quality bible production. While others (the Italian firm used for the Personal Sized NCPB and the ESV Single Column Legacy) are coming on strong, it seems like Jongbloed is at the top of the heap regardless of who contracts them.
    The real question is, what keeps Crossway, Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and Foundation Publications, etc. from going to Jongbloed directly for some premium editions (or even Windsor-like productions)? If TBS, Crimond House, Cambridge, and Schuyler can make it work on larger and smaller scales, why can’t anyone else seem to?
    Certainly if Jongbloed (and other premium binders) could get some of the biggies interested, they could leverage volume for better pricing all around and we could minimize the poor paper issues that seem to abound.

  4. Great review Mark as always. The now out-of-print Dickson Analytical Study Bible does what the Crimond House Two Version Bible does but only better. The RV variants are in the text itself next to the KJV translation. The Cambridge’s KJV/RV Interlinear uses very small text for the KJV/RV comparions which makes the comparions difficult to read. The Dickson uses the same size text of the RV variant as the main text so that it’s easy to read. I haven’t seen the Crimond House Two Version Bible so I don’t know about the text size but if one could find the Dickson Analytical (often copies are available on eBay – for a price!) I think that the Dickson does the job much better than the Crimond House bible. It’s good to know that we have three options: The Crimond House, The Cambridge Interlinear, and the Dickson Analytical. Each provides a different format for KJV/RV comparisons and each will attract its own following.

  5. Crazy question, but what is the need for an interlinear KJV/RV Bible? I mean…who consults the Revised Version and why? Wasn’t the RV sort of the “acid wash jeans” of Bible translations–used and in style for maybe a year or so–slight exaggeration. Why not put out an “ASV/NASB” interlinear Bible or a New English Bible/Revised English Bible while we’re at it. Seems to me each of these interlinear combinations would appeal to perhaps 5 or 10 people in the Bible purchasing world.

  6. Related question – in the Long Primer, you occasionally find marginal notes that say “read such-and-such”, not as a variant reading for the KJV, but rather as a correction of the KJV. What is the source of that corrected reading? Is that the Revised Version?

  7. thx for interesting review – the “RV” is another name for the (1901) ASV, right? I’ve become pretty impressed with the ASV using e-sword to compare with kjv and tyndale (another fav).
    I’m going to search for where to buy this 2 version bible you reviewed.

  8. I have a biography of WE Vine ( of the Expository Dictionary fame). He was given a copy of this Bible now published by Crimond House and the biography contains a facsimile of one page of his Bible. Every bit of white space is covered in tiny notes and annotations that he has made. An interesting example of a lifetime of labour.

  9. NB 40gsm paper is twice as thick as a more standard 20gsm bible paper. That’ why it’s so opaque. So a 1400-page Bible layout (which I suspect this is) will be pushing 2 inches thick instead of the under-1-inch thick “thinline” that the market appears to crave. It’s really the most basic of design tradeoffs. But until it becomes obvious to publishers that their target customers value opaque paper over portability (read thinline editions), nothing will change, especially when so many of the premium binders use the same textblocks that the basic Trutone dimestore editions get.
    I’m afraid I pretty much trust Market Forces and The Invisible Hand on this one. Bibles designed for the academic marketplace (Bible as Lit classes, critical studies etc.) are thick and readable because, well, because they’re meant to be read. Bibles marketed to church-goers are trendy, thin, and quite UNreadable because they’re meant as fashion accessories, or for the occasional “follow along with me” sort of textual interaction on a Sunday morning.
    I wish I could be proven wrong, but if I’m wrong, these major Bible publishers are being run by pretty poor business people. And I rather doubt that.

  10. “If TBS, Crimond House, Cambridge, and Schuyler can make it work” why can’t “Crossway, Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and Foundation Publications, etc.”.
    Because the former are British (or British influenced in the case of the Schuylers). Brits buy more books than Americans and have a tradition of supporting high-quality printing and book binding.
    American publishers don’t think their customers want or can tell the difference. But when you can buy a quality bible for less than 3 movie tickets, there’s no excuse.

  11. Interesting – I’ve been in this little bookshop many times and had no idea they had a “Publishing House”!!

  12. Bill,
    Bible paper quality is not just a function of thickness, it’s also a function of opacity and brightness (which I believe may be controlled by Titanium Dioxide levels…and that stuff is expensive) in the manufacture of the paper. Take a look at the Holman Large Print Ultrathin NKJV and see that a very thin page can be done with minimal ghosting…for $30.00 shipped to your door wrapped in “real” leather. It, like the TBS Windsor, is proof that it can be done…but for a couple of dollars/bible Nelson & Co. don’t want to do it (usually).
    The invisible hand is indeed active here though, in that there really are a lot of people who don’t know/care about paper opacity…and they buy a lot of bibles. It really does make business sense to save a couple of dollars/bible in production if you can sell said bible for the same price as a “good” one.
    What you often see today is a tendency to try to minimize bleed thru by increasing thickness rather than actually bumping up the quality of the paper.

  13. I second the comment by Kyle: “I would purchase this in a second if they had the Revised Version featured with the KJV in the notes.”
    I had been using an online presentation of the Cambridge Interlinear Bible of 1906 for several years and have become a fan. I now own the most recent edition of the Interlinear Bible that has been published by Cambridge, which happens to be printed and bound in the Netherlands. It is very nice. I find myself preferring the RV for the Old Testament, and the KJV for the New Testament. The Interlinear Bible and the Bible of Kralice (rebound by Leonard’s Book Restoration Station) are my constant reading companions.
    The ASV is nearly identical with the RV, but an unfortunate (in my opinion) feature of the ASV is that the divine name of the Creator (the Tetragrammaton) is presented as Jehovah in the Old Testament, rather than LORD as it appears in the KJV. Interestingly the RV was the only authorized revision of the KJV, and was used as the basis for the JPS 1917 translation.

  14. A Simple Believer: Where is the website that has the Cambridge Interlinear Bible on-line?

  15. Great review by you Mark!Learning is my passion, as it is endless. I am thankful to the owner for such a great learning.

  16. I have a copy of the Crimond Two Version Bible and it’s beautiful. I live in the US and had to purchase it from Canada. I have decided to stick with the ESV version for my Bible study, and I have other KJV Bibles to study from also. If anyone is interested in buying my copy of the “Two Version Bible”, please contact me at Tmygun69@gmail.com
    Please keep inquiries in the USA, as the shipping overseas is very high. I will, of course, send the Bible to the buyer first, so they can inspect it before sending payment. I’ve only owned it a short time, it is in pristine condition.
    God Bless.

  17. Tommy, your email address did not work. Do you have another? I am interested in this Bible.

  18. I am lucky enough to have an original copy of the Two Version Bible published by Oxford in 1899. It is bound in very supple morocco leather(after a hundred years it still has a faint leather aroma), india paper, smyth sewn. The other great thing is that after every second page, it has a blank, lined page for note taking, yet it still easy enough to carry around.
    From Mark’s and another review, though, I am tempted to get a copy from Crimond House just to compare.

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