The Swiss Army’s Solution to Tiny Type

"My poor eyes can't take the strain!" This lament reaches my inbox every couple of days, aimed at the increasing difficulty aging readers experience with the tiny print inside their Bibles. In a context where 12 pt. type is considered large print, this is not surprising. Sadly, there isn't a miraculous ultra-thin, super-large-print compact Bible on the market that nobody's told you about. 

Victorinox, however, the makers of the iconic Swiss Army Knife, have a solution:

If you are straining your eyes to figure out what's in the picture above, it's a magnifying glass. This model knife is called an Explorer Plus. (The Plus means there's an extra screwdriver, a pin, and a ballpoint concealed within the handle.) I'm not sure which styles of SAK come with the magnifying glass, but if you struggle with the small print, you might consider finding out. 

I'm serious.

Antiquarians and consulting detectives throughout the ages have availed themselves of a magnifying glass in order to read fine print (and discover clues). The principal is similar to that employed by the cheap "reading glasses" they sell at the drug store: a little lens magnifies the size of what you're looking at, making it easier to see. The problem with the glasses is they slip to the tip of your nose and make people think you're a judgmental librarian type. With the Swiss Army Knife, they assume you were going for the scissors and pulled the wrong lever. 

I wouldn't exactly call the level of magnifcation provided by the SAK "robust." Laying on the page, it just about doubles the size of what's beneath, which is not too shabby. Examining the photo below, you'll notice that the word "hear" in the magnifier is a lot easier to read than the word "hide" in the next verse. Wave one of these in front of the R. L. Allan Compact Text ESV and that 6.5 pt. type expands to, like, 11. If you hold it back a bit, you're in large print territory.

Whenever the Levenger catalog arrives in my mailbox, I always flip through to make sure the Franklin Library Stand Desk is still there. One day, I hope to have one of these — or a vintage equivalent — in my office, with a nice big lectern Bible on top:


See the little globe poking up above the book? That's a magnifier. It comes with the desk, which is a thoughtful touch. Here's another image, illustrating the domed magnifier a little better:


The idea is that, as you're reading, you place the dome on top of the page and it makes the words freakishly large. If you carried one of these things in the wild, you'd be mistaken for a fortune teller — not to mention the risk of starting unintentional fires. But in the comfort and privacy of your reading abode, using such an aid is perfectly acceptable.

For reading out and about, I recommend the Swiss Army Knife. 

13 Comments on “The Swiss Army’s Solution to Tiny Type

  1. I have a pocket knife with a magnifier, and it doesn’t come close to answering the needs of even my very modest presbyopia. But I also have the lens from a broken magnifying glass — maybe two inches in diameter — that I can stick in a pocket and pull out as needed. Even this, though, is only good for menus and labels; for sustained reading, I need my glasses. Or, I regret to say, a Kindle.

  2. Mark, if you are considering a standing desk, I would suggest going all the way. I have a standing desk in my office (of course, the vast majority of my life is lived in that office) and there is NOTHING better for a change of pace. It also gets me away from my computer (constant streams of email) and my phone. Has a rather ornate foot bar and is heavy duty enough to bear my constant leaning. While the Franklin stand is indeed beautiful, I am afraid it would not stand up to my weight (which is a must for a standing desk) — and where would I put my foot? No. You need the full desk!

  3. I’m with Michael. If every word (or 2 or 3) comes to you via a lens you have to guide across the page, so that you lose of all sense of text on the page, where you’re headed, etc, you might as well read an electronic book on a scrolling screen.

  4. Thanks, Mark! I like how the Thomas Nelson “Smallest Bible” comes with a magnifying glass.

  5. As I see it, the problem with the magnifying knife is that you could get in big trouble for carrying it into certain places, like a school, where it would be considered a “weapon” no matter how much you protest that you only want to use the magnifying glass.

  6. John,
    If you will send me your email address I would be happy to snap off a couple of photos and send them to you.
    kylehedrick at comcast dot net

  7. Don’t know if it’s been mentioned on this blog yet, but Crossway now has a “Large Print Compact” ESV. Two column, red letter, text only, pretty cheap edition. If they put out a black letter edition, this would be the perfect inexpensive carry-along Bible. Of course the print isn’t giant, but overall I think this edition represents a nice balance between type size and portability.

  8. I recently purchased one of these dome magnifiers which lays directly flat on the page. The UltraDome allows you to move the magnifier across the page as you read. It magnifies 4 times the actual size of the print. The only problem that I’ve noticed is that when the print is real close to the gutter, then the print is difficult to see. If the perimeter of the dome was square this would allow you to get flat up against the gutter, which might alleviate this issue. The UltraDome is 2″ in diameter and costs about $12. I liked mine so much I bought an extra.

  9. forget the knife, where can I get the small bible?!!!!!
    gideon size but with BOTH old and new testiments……all of the word. Is it really that hard to print the whole thing?

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