R. L. Allan NIV in Brown Goatskin
We don't discuss translation issues here at Bible Design Blog, where the emphasis is on the physical form of the Good Book, not the content. Inevitably, the subjects overlap at points — for example, when translations impose design choices, as with the HCSB reviewed recently. Two realities underlie my narrow focus here. First, the blogosphere isn't exactly lacking in places to argue over translations. Whether your taste runs to learned obscurity or conspiratorial paranoia, you will find no difficulty indulging yourself. When I started Bible Design Blog, I envisioned a different sort of space, somewhere to discuss the design issues typically overshadowed by all the jot-and-tiddle sturm-und-drang.
Second, no matter how good they begin, translation debates always seem to showcase us at our worst. There are so many sites offering such showcases already that it would hardly be worth my time to maintain yet another one. This place has to be different, or it won't be at all.
With that said, last year saw the introduction of another update to the NIV. You'll have to look elsewhere for a discussion of the differences between the 1984 NIV, the abortive TNIV, and this 2011 edition. Google the terms and I'm sure you'll find plenty.
Our focus is on an attractive new edition of the 2011 text, available from R. L. Allan direct in both black Highland and Antique brown goatskin bindings, and from EvangelicalBIble.com. Printed in China by CTPS, the book block comes from Hodder & Stoughton and features a two-column, paragraphed text setting. Maybe it's just the dotted lines that demarcate the center column references, but this edition reminds me of two of my favorite NIV settings, the Cambridge Pocket Cross Reference and the Allan Bold Print Reference, both out of print.
The interior typography was done by Blue Heron Bookcraft. There is cause for rejoicing. The TNIV seemed wedded to a typeface I couldn't stand to read. This edition uses a font which, while it retains a somewhat calligraphic feel, proves much more readable. Combined with a nice, bold print impression, this makes for an attractive, updated look.
Because it's a UK edition, the quotation marks look backward to American eyes. Single quotes introduce speech and quotations within the quotation are indicated with double quotes (see v. 4 above). Dialogue is properly punctuated, as in the HCSB, with new speakers introduced by a paragraph break. This is something other paragraphed translations need to take note of and emulate.
While I don't ordinarily pay a lot of attention to maps in the back of a Bible, I found these rather charming due to their use of yellow. The style is more illustrative than topographical. Like many editions from R. L. Allan, this one includes a section of tightly ruled notepaper in back.
It is bound in brown goatskin — not Highland goatskin, but a slightly firmer stuff with a more regular natural grain which Allan calls "antique brown goatskin." It's reminiscent of the Compact Text ESV's Alhambra goatskin, though that leather has a printed grain. While it is true that I once suggested to Nicholas Gray of R. L. Allan that he petition to have me named "laird of the Highland goats," with a suitable tartan to match, I am not a one-trick pony when it comes to the skin of beasts. I approve of goatskin, calfskin, sheepskin, and yes, even pigskin. My preference is for variety over sameness, for color over boring black. In that spirit, I want to suggest that just because a Bible doesn't have the word "Highland" in the name, don't assume it's inferior.
Above: Brown Highland goatskin on top, and brown plain ol' goatskin on bottom.
You probably don't spent much time worrying about how well your Bible photographs. As someone who takes a lot of photos of Bibles, I do. One of the things I love about this antique brown goatskin is the depth of color, which really comes out in photography. The subtly mottled dark and light hues are beautiful to behold. I would love to see the same leather in a dark red or dark green. It's very nice.
On the flipside, Highland goatskin feels a bit more limp and "organic" than this. My guess is that the average person wouldn't notice the difference unless it were pointed out. The antique brown goatskin is more uniform not only in grain but in the way it takes a semi-yapp edge. Clean lines and a firm hand, that about sums it up.
Above: "But will it go with my set of Calvin's Commentaries?" You be the judge.
This binding certainly resides on the limp end of the spectrum, not as extreme as the Highland goat, but far to the left of most Bibles. The binding is edge-lined, meaning there is no bookboard between front cover and lining to stiffen it up. The result is a pliable, easy-to-handle edition.
The brown edition comes with two thick gold ribbons. As I've noted before, the brown-and-gold combination seems perfect to me. I can't imagine another color working better with this shade of leather. This Bible is elegant inside and outside, with an understated sophistication I find very appealing.