DIY Conversion: Chopping the Margins Off an ESV Journaling Bible
Here's a follow-up to yesterday's post about the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible.
I love everything about the Single Column Journaling Bible. Well, almost everything. After months with the SCJB, I’ve found one feature that doesn’t really fit into my pattern of use: the lined margins for note-taking. While this Bible has become one of my standards, in the whole time I’ve had it, I have never written in the margins. There was a time when I would have made heavy use of those margins, but now I’m more likely to write notes down separately.
Even so, I wouldn’t have started daydreaming about chopping those margins off if it wasn’t for how perfect the SCJB seems in every other respect. The thickness of the book, the way it opens flat, the nice dark print on the lovely cream paper. It would be so right, I kept thinking, if only the margins weren’t there.
Viewed from the front, the Single Column Journaling Bible, thanks to those margins, is a bit squarish. Opened flat on my desk or on the podium as I teach, the book appears almost twice as large as it needs to be. All that empty space … what would happen if I just snipped it off?
In my attic workshop, I have a heavy-duty guillotine paper cutter. The Single Column Journaling Bible is about as thick as a book can be and still fit under the blade. The thing that kept me from making the cuts was that, in addition to losing the margins, I would lose the running headers and the page numbers, not to mention some of the back matter, which is formatted to fill the whole page. With the hardcovers, I would also lose the elastic strap that holds the cover closed, and the covers themselves would look raggedy once I’d sliced them.
I solved the first problem by leaving enough of the margin behind that I could still make out a few letters of the header. I wouldn’t be able to retain the page numbers, and the resulting chopped edition would not help me win any speed-draw competitions … but to my mind, that’s a good thing. The older I get, the more I turn against chapter and verse in favor of sentence and paragraph.
The second problem, the ragged cover, I solved by chopping the natural leather edition. Using a rotary cutter, I could make a clean edge and then round the corners. The paper lining runs right to the edge of the leather now, which doesn’t look quite right, but otherwise it’s a convincing result. As an aside, because the natural leather doesn't have any kind of protective finish, the surface is particularly susceptible to spotting. If you like things to look new throughout their lifespan, this cover won't rock your world. But if you're one of those people always hunting for the fast-track to patina, here it is.
The conversion took less than ten minutes, and most of that time was spent gathering the courage to cut. I took the pages down in stages — you can always cut more, but you can’t uncut once you’ve gone too far. In the end, I stopped cutting once the margin looked right proportionally. This left more residual lines at the edge than I wanted, while making for a more aesthetically pleasing result overall. When you look at the photos, imagine what this would look like if Crossway created a setting with the headers and page numbers in line with the text and no margin. I think people would love that edition.
Post-chop, my SCJB retains all the features I appreciate about this Bible. It’s fluid, it opens flat, it has a great readable layout. Although I performed the conversion as an experiment, not planning to use the Bible afterward, I’ve found myself carrying and enjoying it. Perhaps it is a testament to the SCJB’s qualities that even with the funky edges, I still prefer it to so many other options.
And I definitely don’t worry about “damaging” it!
Ironically enough, not long after I executed this DIY conversion, I decided to transfer my notes and outlines for sermons and lectures I'll be teaching this summer my red Single Column Journaling Bible, using Metaphis color-coded tabs to coordinate the passages — i.e., all the references for one sermon are marked with white tabs, the references for another in orange, and so on, making them easier to distinguish from one another. The relevant notes on the passage are copied into the margin (in pencil). So I found a use for the Journaling Bible's margins after all.
What I Like
Just about everything.
What I Don’t Like
The fact that you can’t buy this margin-free edition from Crossway. (But the forthcoming Single Column Heritage Bible looks like it will fit the bill nicely!)