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!)

The Photos: 





Below, I snapped a couple of comparison shots between the DIY Journaling Bible and the lambskin-bound ESV Personal Size Reference:

16 Comments on “DIY Conversion: Chopping the Margins Off an ESV Journaling Bible

  1. Gasp! Does this mean you don’t use the Clarion anymore?

  2. I love your modification above and if the ESV Single Column Heritage Bible was not coming soon I might try getting it done myself. I have a feeling the 9 point type of that version might work better for my eyes.
    Here is hoping you receive one for a review. I am so glad to see you back here with your posts.

  3. Oh pretty pretty please review a ESV Single Column Heritage Bible. (I can picture all the peasants applauding joyously lol)

  4. Appears the Heritage has been delayed from June to end of August. Has anyone seen one?

  5. I’m a fan of the NRSV. However everytime I look for a quality NRSV it seems to always have the Apocrypha in it. I don’t use the apocrypha, so it’d be cool if you did a project where you removed the apocrypha from a bible. You could use that really poor NRSV bound in French Morroco (you called it a “Frankenbible”) Thanks so much!

  6. According to Crossway’s website, the calfskin edition on the ESV Heritage will be out on June 30th.

  7. I suppose it’s possible that the premium ESV Heritage covers could lead the TruTones but usually the text blocks are the pacing item, which would delay them all. I suspect that some of the links are just slow in being changed.
    Comparing the Legacy and Heritage sample pages, both appear to use the same typeface and font size. However the Heritage has fewer words per line and a bit more leading it appears, both of which should make it more readable, while clearly being more portable. So why would Crossway market two such similar bibles so close to each other in time? Sure makes you wonder why they didn’t leave the versification out of the Legacy, the one most likely to be used for home reading. It would have made it more consistent with their Renaissance theme of historical page layout as well.
    Although I like the Legacy, I think I’ll like the Heritage more. I’m glad now I didn’t spring for a more expensive Legacy binding.

  8. Welcome Back!!!! Your blog posts were greatly missed!!!!!

  9. Brandon: Thanks for the update. I’ll be putting my order in for a calfskin ESV Heritage on July 1. 🙂

  10. I’m not going to chop up my hardback SCJB, but I like where you’re going with this. If Crossway is going to make a Bible that looks exactly like a Moleskine notebook, they should offer an edition that’s the same width as one: 5 1/4 inches wide, no lines, everything else the same.

  11. I like the way you cut the margin out of the book however it does look a little obvious however i liek ti because it is Original and still is comfortable in your hands and i like you dont use my margin to write in.. my Thompson chain reference bible has nice a rather narrow margin on each page but the margin is of course used for referencing and i do write in the margin on that bible. same thing with my Cambridge bibles. i have a few of those bibles which i use the cameo versions and i just inherited a Pitt Minion bible from my brother. he came across a bible store recently that was going out of business and they were selling all of the bibles they had at 75% off and he acquired 10 or 12 cameo bibles for about 20.00 each all of them with the premium leather. just curious what do you personally think of the Cambridge bibles. i think they are well made and last a long time. i sent 2 of my bibles to Leonard’s a few weeks ago to have them rebound in Goat Skin leather and am expecting them back in the next week .. i cant wait to get them back. i had one of them done in the 19th century Circuit Rider with the cover wrapping around the bible and then tucked in the front which i am sure you’ve seen. Incidentally i read all of your blogs and i find them very articulate and interesting. thank you for keeping us alerted to your new editions and what you have been doing. you are a very interesting gentleman. I had one of my bibles done liek yours. when i called Leonard’s i spoke to Kelsi and she explained what bible i wanted when i told her about one of yours but i couldn’t remember the one .. she asked me the color and i said it was a tan goatskin with green backing on the inside.. you must have a huge collection of bibles and books redone by Leonard’s. They are the best when it comes to rebinding bibles in my opinion.. i knwo that there are a few really good bible companies out there that do the same thing but i dot think i have seen them that give the versatile selections of the different leathers and exotic skins in rebinding..

  12. Could you tell me if your premodified version was a note takers bible or journaling and it DID contain the apocrypha, which version was this and manufacturer? I have been looking a very long time for a journaling bible with apocrypha and the only one I can find is $200!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *