New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (KJV) in Black Calf and Hardcover

A quick history lesson: Bible Design Blog started in 2007 in advance of the publication of my book Rethinking Worldview. Before then, I posted the occasional essay about Bible design and binding at jmarkbertrand.com, a site devoted primarily to my writing. The idea was to move all the Bible-related stuff to a blog of its own, perhaps even to update it from time to time. The four or five people interested in such things could follow along. I honestly worried that no one would ever be able to find the blog.

The original posts on this site were grandfathered over from the old one, so they actually date back farther in time than their dates suggest. My original post on the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, for example, is dated September 2007. In reality, it's older than that. The NCPB was published in 2005, and while it heralded the dawn of a new era, borrowing its name from Scrivener's nineteenth century Paragraph Bible, my review noted some disappointments, primarily having to do with the size of the book.

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The NCPB was a single column, paragraphed setting of the KJV at a time when no one offered such a thing in print. Unfortunately, it was also a brick. So I urged Cambridge to come out with a hand-sized edition of the NCPB. In 2011, they finally did. The problem is, by that time they had also released the Clarion KJV, another single column setting. So in this update, we're going to look at the new editions of the NCPB, comparing them both to the original and their obvious rival, the Clarion. 

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The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible isn't just another KJV. This description from the original listing captures the spirit of the project well:

The standard editions of the 1611 King James Bible (or Authorised Version) currently available give, with little variation, the text as established by the Oxford edition of 1769. They give the reader, therefore, a seventeenth-century text in mid-eighteenth century clothes – clothes which are neither original nor modern. In this new edition of the King James Version the text has been collated with the translators' original work in order to give the reader as closely as possible the exact text on which the translators decided. It has also been given consistent modern spelling and presentation in order to make it easier to read and study than standard editions. The text is presented is paragraph form, with marginal notes.

In other words, you're getting the text as the translators intended you to read it, the form accommodated for readers four hundred years later. The result is a beautifully proportioned layout, with text set originally in 12.5 pt. Swift. The new Personal Size editions are 87% reductions of the 2005 setting, which lowers the type size to roughly 11 pt. (see the photo below).

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These editions, like Crossway's Legacy ESV, were printed and bound in Italy by Legatoria Editoriale Giovanni Olivotto, or L.E.G.O. for short. They're available in hardback and black calfskin. For a sense of how they size up in comparison to the original and the Clarion, let's take a look at all three:

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Above and below: Clarion (top), Personal Size NCPB (middle), and original NCPB (bottom).

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Looking at the image above, think compact Bible/full-size Bible/pulpit Bible and you've got it about right. The Personal Size NCPB is large enough that it doesn't spoil the majesty of the original layout, but handy enough to carry with you without the aid of a servant. It is also large enough to disguish the NCPB from the Clarion, minimizing the apparent redundancy in releasing two hand-sized paragraphed KJVs so close together. 

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Before this release, the handiest way to experience the NCPB was the Penguin paperback, which is roughly the same trim size as the Personal Size NCPB but half an inch thicker (1.5" vs. 2"). 

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Comparing the two, we have an illustration of the frustrating trade-offs involved in Bible publishing. The Penguin edition wouldn't know the difference between fine India paper and Kleenex. It's printed on the sort of paper you'd expect in a Penguin paperback, perhaps slightly thinner in deference to the book's size. As a result, this edition (which you can pick up on Amazon for a tenner and change), appears substantially more opaque than the leather bound edition. See if you can tell:

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There is ghosting — i.e., show-through — on both pages, but the Penguin (top) fares better than its upscale cousin. And you can enjoy this superior opacity if you're willing to put up with the additional bulk. The thin paper Bibles are printed on trades opacity for width and weight. Frankly, I wouldn't mind an extra half inch or so for an increase in opacity. Unfortuately the Penguin's glued binding makes it clumsy and unsuitable for rebinding. 

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Compared to the smaller Clarion, the Personal Size NCPB offers some distinct advantages, but also displays some of its shortcomings. The Clarion is slightly thinner. It is also shorter and narrower, which combined with a limp binding allows more of a short and stout feel in the hand. 

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There are no cross references in the NCPB. The marginal notes are located on the inside margin, as opposed to the Clarion's more traditional outer margin location. This gives the NCPB an advantage: the text doesn't curve into the gutter. The Clarion's text appears slightly denser on the page, although laying one page of the NCPB over the Clarion, the space between the lines nearly matches. Even the fonts, Swift and Lexicon, don't look that different, although Swift seems a little more spacious. Typographically, the NCPB abounds in elegant touches — for example, the way the psalms are headed is much more attractive than the type treatment in the Clarion.  

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Where there is no comparison, however, is the quality of the binding. The Clarion, printed and bound in the Netherlands by Jongbloed, manifests a superior level of fit and finish. As I pointed out in the video, the gilding on the page edge is marred by a very noticeable wavy line. The cover construction also seems a little rough at points. Based on this example and the issues Crossway had with the first generation cowhide Legacy covers, I think L.E.G.O. still has some work to do in the quality control department. If the major publishers use them more, perhaps the resulting pressure to improve will help. 

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Above: The wave. Below: The rough.

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The calfskin cover is, however, very soft and limp. Bible yoga proved no trouble whatsoever. The bookboard under the leather seems much less substantial than the Clarion's, for better or worse. 

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The photo above really illustrates the beauty of a limp binding paired with a single column setting — particularly one with the notes in the inner margin. The text column flows uninterrupted, and the unread page can be folded away handily. 

I'm grateful to Cambridge for releasing these Personal Size options, and also for making one of them a hardcover. I wish every text setting was available in a nice hardcover. They're great for reading, great for study, and allow you to pack the Bible anywhere without having to worry about damaging your lovely leather binding. The hardcover opens flat, too, which is essential. 

 

13 Comments on “New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (KJV) in Black Calf and Hardcover

  1. Thanks Mark. I have been looking forward to a review of this edition. I only wish it hat art-gilt page edges. With that being said, I still think it looks awesome.
    Thanks for another great review
    Be Encouraged:-)

  2. I continue to appreciate the time you’re taking to do these reviews and the weekly regularity with which they appear. Thank-you Mark. Perhaps someone can address the need for a return to the 1611 version other than the historical value. What was wrong with the revisions (three official revisions if memory serves) made to the glorious King James? And, can anyone fill us in on what was revised and why the need for those revisions? In a nutshell, I already have two Clarions, is there any reason the New Paragraph would be of any use? If this is of interest, here is the Trinitarian Bible Society’s take on this edition:
    http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/site/articles/felcencpb.pdf

  3. I also question the whole point of this edition. In particular, I don’t know why the spelling was modernized for this edition. I can understand the need for a 1611 version for more scholarly historical purposes, but changing the spelling seems to make it less useful in that regard. I really like the layout features of this edition that increase readability, such as paragraphs, and no references, and no italicization of the supplied words, but the text just isn’t what I think of when I think KJV. What I really want is a readable KJV that reads just like the traditional King James that I memorized passages from as a child (i.e., the 1769 version). I want the KJV I know for its connection with tradition, and the sentimental value of it, and the poetry of it (which I don’t always get from my mainstays the ESV and NIV).

  4. The original post on the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible was my first encounter with your blog. That was the summer of 2006.
    You renewed my interest in reading the King James Bible and, through the last six years, you have occasionally depleted my book budget. I am, however, all the richer for it. Thanks.

  5. First, let me add that this edition of the NCPB has made editorial corrections to the earlier editions, most of which are rather minor. The official list is available as a pdf at the Cambridge Bibles site, and also at the “NCPB Blog“, where the blogger has made bold to suggest some very minor corrections to the corrections.
    That being said, a few personal observations.
    I like the KJV (though I am emphatically not KJVO), but I prefer to have it with the apocrypha, and the original translator’s preface if possible. I have several bibles with those features, but it’s a difficult combination to find, which makes this edition particularly welcome on my bookshelf. Without getting into details, I’ve read Prof. Norton’s description of what he has done and why and generally agree with his approach.
    But the bare-nekkid text-only NCPB tends to pull me up short if I’m doing anything but just reading. I’ll read Mt. 2.23, for example, and say to myself “Forsooth! At what place say the prophets so?” (sorry, I sometimes get carried away). Other examples could be given. The NCPB offers no help.
    If I want to do anything but simply read, I find myself picking up the American Bible Society’s “400th Anniversary” KJV with Apocrypha (ISBN-10 1585169870), which also includes the translator’s preface. It is lightly cross-referenced, has a nice selection of helps (the list of “Words that have changed in meaning” stands out … I sometimes forget the King James usage of “conversation” and “prevent”), and some of the essays are actually helpful. It retains the italics, which I myself don’t find helpful, but they make the text seem more familiar. IMHO it’s actually a rather good edition. It is, however, an aesthetic disaster, in more than one way. But I find myself picking it up at least as often as I do the NCPB.
    I suppose the only real solution is for someone to start One Off Bible Publishing and produce bibles to order, with the purchaser’s preferred mix of base text, notes, apparatus, typography, paper and binding. As soon as there is a good market for $5,000 (and up) bibles, I’m confident that someone will do this. :)

  6. Bob, the point of this project is:
    Modernize spelling to make it easier for modern audiences to read. I agree with Mark that some of the difficulty that a lot of folks have with the KJV is not so much the language, as how it’s presented (chopped up in verses and cluttered with self-pronouncing marks).
    Secondly, the extensive marginal notes give some insights as to why the original 1611 translators chose what they did, and what alternatives they considered. There’s much talk about why the NIV/NASB/ESV comittee chose one reading over another, but we rarely get to see the decision making process of the AV translators (because they’re all dead, which makes emailing them problematic). To me, this edition is a great insight into the 1611 translation process. For those looking for a 1611 Updated…the clarion’s a great option.

  7. This looks like a great bible! Do you know if there are any plans to do more translations in this setting?

  8. I have had this bible now for a couple of weeks myself. I love just about everything about it. Norton’s work is very interesting and makes for quite a readable KJV bible. This may be a serious contender for being my daily reader. The only thing that would keep that from happening is the bleed through. Its pretty bad. There is some “accidental” line matching on some pages which makes for some nice reading on those pages, but that does not happen often. The bleed through is about the same as the Clarion KJV from what I can tell. I am hoping my eyes will adjust and this will work out for my main bible none the less.

  9. Does anyone know if the bindings of these volumes are sewn or glued? I see what seem to be glued signatures (??) on the hardback, and glue around the headbands of the leather volume, but no thread anywhere. My knowledge of bookbinding — especially current practices — is pretty rudimentary, though so I regard these simple observations as inconclusive. I’m not even sure how “glued signatures” would actually work, that’s just how it appears.

  10. Tom:
    Many time there will be individually sewn signatures that are then glued together, this could be what you are seeing.

  11. So it appears this is no longer called the Personal Size NCPB, to distinguish it from the original, but just the NCPB. Also, this one has more transparent paper, hit-or-miss line-matching, and smaller, less legible typeface than the original, but is a desirable “full-size” while the original is a dreaded pulpit Bible. Sigh.
    Actually the original is the size of most 1st-year university textbooks, and not even family-bible-sized; it certainly isn’t the size of a pulpit bible. But since the original NCPB is a great favorite of mine, I hope these sell like hot cakes and free up some of the original ones for the used market. They’re going for king’s ransoms right now so I think I’m not the only one who loved it and would like to get another.
    The original NCPB was the all-around perfect Bible for 90% of my usage, yet it can find no love on this blog.

  12. Tom H: I can’t speak about the hard cover, but the calfskin is sewn. The slip case that it comes in says so.

  13. I got the hard back to check this bible at this size as far as print and bleed through and I have to say I really like it. I really enjoy reading this KJV. The page is uncluttered and the verse numbers, while there, fade away for me and do not break up the reading experience. I had the full size and gave it to a preaching friend because it was too large to try and read from unless sitting at a desk. I have come to like it enough that I intend to invest in the leather edition and if unhappy with the binding I will have it rebound at Leonard’s in a nicer cover. As Mark says the marginal notes in the center make the reading of the text a joy. A great reading bible!

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