Crossway Single Column Heritage Bible (ESV) in Black Calfskin

CrosswayHeritage1Crossway’s new Single Column Heritage Bible makes a virtue of simplicity, stripping away the usual cross references in favor of a clean, uncluttered page that gives the text’s 9-point type room to breathe. Even though the paper isn’t as nice as that found in Crossway’s larger Legacy edition, and the fit and finish doesn’t measure up to Cambridge’s slightly smaller Clarion, when I assembled a selection of single column Bibles and asked people without a horse in the race to pick which one made for easier reading, the answer was the Heritage. It gives you the Clarion’s compactness with the Legacy’s serene elegance. I do have a couple of gripes with the Heritage, but overall it’s a wonderful addition to Crossway’s ESV line-up.


On top, the Cambridge Clarion (rebound by Leonard’s Book Restoration). In the middle, the Crossway Heritage. On the bottom, the larger Crossway Legacy (also rebound by Leonard’s).


Compared to the Clarion (right), the Heritage is slightly taller and features slightly larger type. There are no references in the margin, and the paper is more opaque and whiter.


Simple. While the Heritage retains chapter and verse numbers, as well as section headings and running headers, simply removing the cross references makes a world of difference in terms of an uncluttered page.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. As time goes on, I gain more and more respect for the big Crossway Legacy, which was printed by LEGO in Italy. The paper is nice to the touch and reasonably opaque, while the book block opens flat and make a lovely candidate for rebinding (as my recent leather-lined Legacy by Leonard’s Book Restoration demonstrates). If the smaller Heritage had gotten the same LEGO treatment, I think the results would be fantastic. Unfortunately, the Heritage book block was printed in China. The paper, while comparably opaque, doesn’t feel or look as nice. More importantly, the book block does not open flat.

This last point has more to do with the binding — more below. The review copy in the photos is the higher end calfskin edition bound in Mexico by Abba Bibles. The work from Abba seems to be hit or miss sometimes. I’ve seen amazing covers from them, and I’ve seen covers that are a little bit rough. This is one of the latter, as you’ll see in some of the photos. It’s still quite nice — and at the sub-$100 prices I have seen online, still good value for money. But a text setting this nice deserves a binding that opens flat. My review copy also has a strong smell, more chemical than leather.

Pro tip: The reason the Heritage doesn’t open flat is that the binding features a strong, stiff hinge. While the cover itself is limp, this hinge hugs the book block, preventing it from opening. To fix the problem, you’ll need to locate the hinge sides (at the start of the records section in front, and the end of the maps in the rear) and gently bend them back in alignment with the cover. You’ll recognize the hinges by the thick white stitching visible in the gutter when you open them. While the Bible won’t open entirely flat after this operation, it will perform much, much better than what you see in the photos.


To get the Heritage to stay open, I had to turn to vicinity of Joshua and Judges. Even then the balance can be a little precarious. After bending back the hinges as describe in the review, it will open flat in mid-Genesis.


Above, you can see the strong hinge that prevents the Heritage from opening flat.



This closeup of the inside cover shows the grained liner and the edges of the cover. Compared to other Abba covers I’ve seen, this one looks a little rough.

The noteworthy thing about the Heritage, however, is what a difference the uncluttered interior makes to readability. In terms of both size and layout, this Bible looks like the kind of book you typically read, whether fiction or nonfiction. There’s nothing challenging about the layout, no special formatting to puzzle over. Instead, you can plunge right in and experience the text. It’s wonderful.

Next year, Crossway plans to release the ESV Reader’s Bible, which does away with chapter and verse numbers, section headings, and other intrusions on the text to provide a pristine reading experience. I haven’t seen page proofs yet, but I’m looking forward to that. Even so, you may be surprised just how close the Heritage comes to providing the target experience. The combination of de-cluttering, 9-point type, and 11-point leading (line spacing) really do make a visual impact. The 8″ x 5.5″ trim size puts this edition in trade paperback territory, with a width of less than 1.5″ contributing to its handy feel.

Line-matching looks good throughout my review copy, and the print impression seems consistent. Gilding on page edges is weak, which seems to be typical with Crossway editions, and I’m not a fan of the two thin ribbons (though they’re of a sufficient length to do their job, which is welcome). The strengths of the book block outweigh these negatives to me. The Heritage makes a great Bible for introducing people to the benefits of a single column text setting. I expect that for people searching for that simple, readable edition, this will be a welcome discovery.


The limp cover makes Bible yoga like this easy, despite the stiff hinge.


This is what it’s all about: a clean, readable layout that lets the Scripture text take center stage.


42 Comments on “Crossway Single Column Heritage Bible (ESV) in Black Calfskin

  1. I recently looked at the Heritage at my local bookstore. It’s nice edition, but I opted for the Legacy instead. In my view the Legacy has better paper. However, if you don’t want the bulk of the Legacy, the Heritage is a good option.

    • That’s fair. I still prefer the Legacy, being a big fan of those margins and that book block. The Heritage is far more portable, though, when it comes to carrying around.

      • Ditto. For me, the fatal flaw with the Heritage is the skinny outer margins. Although the Legacy is overkill (unless you’re big on taking notes in a Bible) some moderate amount of white space is needed (to my mind) to “frame” the text as an object of concentration. The Legacy has this down pat, and is a major reason why it’s a pleasure to interact with a Legacy.

        For me, something like 5/8″ is a minimum for an outer margin. Less than a cm and it’s Game Over after about 10 minutes of reading. There were some otherwise very nice single-column, large-print NIV84 layouts that had this same problem. Both Zondervan then (and Crossway now) would have had a more readable edition (and my eyes are not good) by knocking the font down a half-point, keeping the same words-per-line, but giving a generous margin.

        And I’m not generally one to take notes in Bibles, so that’s not why I want the space!

    • The ESV Readers Bible is great for casual reading. I bought it in hardback and love picking it up for some good reading!

  2. Thanks for the good review Mark. The hinge is something that I’ve worked on as well. I find that I also wish the paper had a more matte finish like my Legacy rather than the shinny surface.

    I’m wondering if a rebind from Leonard’s would resolve the issue to lay open flat. What do you think?

    • I believe so, since you’d do away with that stiff hinge, which seems to be the only thing preventing the Heritage from opening flat. Maybe check with Leonard’s first and see if they’ve done one already?

      • I had this Bible rebound at Leonard’s with a goatskin cover. I was disappointed with the results. The Bible actually was stiffer on opening than the original. In fact, it won’t lay flat at all and this draws the text much to much to the gutter. I get a much flatter opening with this Bible in the TruTone cover.

  3. I’m curious if the other bindings have the same problematic stiff hinge—that is to say I wonder if the TruTone editions open flat.

      • Mark,
        In reference to the bible laying flat with the TruTone binding, I just received mine today. My TruTone does not lay completely flat on a table until I get to about Joshua opening from the front of the bible and about the end of Amos opening from the back cover. It may loosen with time thought. Still, even with that, it makes a good portable take anywhere Bible that provides a nice reading experience. The size just feels good in the hand. I hope this helps someone. I believe I will send this inexpensive Bible to Leonard’s for them to work their magic with it.

        • Mike, did you ever send your TruTone edition in? How did it turn out? I’m seriously considering sending mine. Thanks for any review you can provide of your experience.

        • I did send mine to Leonard’s for rebinding in the Country Parson’s motif. Should have it by this weekend or early next week. I will post pictures if anyone is interested.

          • Scott – would love to see photo’s of you Leonard’s rebind. I thought of doing the same cover. The Heritage is very nice, just wish Crossway would use better paper and have better printer like Lego, etc.

    • Granted I’ve ONLY seen TruTone Heritages but they’re as lay-flat as any of the new Chinese Crossways, which to my mind are very good. Of course, any properly sewn and bound book needs some breaking in…

    • Just received my Trutone version – and I’m pleased to say that the hinge is not an issue with this version. It’s not as floppy as say, the Clarion, and it will need some work to lay it out flat – especially if you’re reading Genesis or Revelation / later epistles. But it beats the Clarion hands down for – handling / speed of turning to references, no paper “curling issue”, no cross references (either in margin, or little letters in the text). And certainly for cost too! £14 plus PnP in UK! Incredible value.

    • Richard,
      Even neglecting the references, both the old PSR and new PRB try to fit in more words per line, which is the fatal flaw in so many single-column editions and can make them totally unlike a conventional single-column book. This, to my mind, is why single column bibles must be short and stout…a large, thinline approach just won’t work.

      My biggest beef with the Heritage are the skinny margins (which I find highly irritating, and I’m NOT a note-taker) but the rest of the layout, in particular the words-per-line (or syllables per line, which is how this was discussed centuries ago) is about as good as you’re going to find in a modern single-column bible.

  4. I picked one of these up a couple months ago and was disappointed with the cover. The smell got me right away, just as you mention. Also, the cover edges weren’t parallel to the text block. To top it off, it appeared someone had set something odd on it, leaving a number of sharp dimples on the front cover. I contacted Crossway and they took great care of me, sending a replacement very quickly. The new one is far better in quality and doesn’t have the chemical smell. In fact, if I get my nose right up to it I actually smell leather. It isn’t nearly as strong as an Allan’s, but it sure beats the first one.

    I really like the Heritage, and got it to take over for the Legacy which took over for my dilapidated PSR. Since then, I’ve picked up a Clarion to take over for the Heritage. I blame you for all of this Mark:).

    One note on the Heritage and the main reason why my Clarion replaced it–the lack of a concordance. With no smartphone, even one of modest proportions is helpful.

    • Glad to hear yours didn’t have the “smell.” On the BDB Facebook fan page, I’m hearing people have gotten better finished calfskin covers, too. I think the key is to pay attention and, if yours is too rough for your taste, ask for an exchange.

  5. I know this thread is about the Heritage, but I’m very excited about the ESV Reader’s Bible mentioned in this post. I really liked the concept of the TNIV “Books of the Bible” that came out a while back. I’m glad to see that Crossway is doing a similar format with the ESV. I doubt that chapters and verses will ever go out of use, but there will be more and more options for Bibles that do not have them. I suspect that single column paragraphed Bibles will eventually be the new normal. The more that people use Bibles like the Heritage, the Legacy, and the forthcoming ESV Reader’s, the more they will see the benefits of an uncluttered text. There are good things to come in the future of Bible formatting.

    • Unfortunately Michael, we’ve had these “good things” in the past (the 50’s and 60’s) but the market was cool to them. It’s not like people have just now invented these layouts. That said, I certainly look forward to the Reader (although I fear more skinny page-edge margins) even though I would have preferred they retained the chapter numbers. Chapter numbers (“initials” as the ancients called them) can be set to be quite beautiful, and don’t detract from reading the text like versification (or worse yet, reference designations.) Of course these are merely my opinions.

      • Bill,
        I can see your point about retaining chapter numbers if they are discretely placed. I was not around in the 50s and 60s, but I suspect the market might be more receptive to more minimalist designs these days. Study Bibles, reference Bibles and the like still take a good chunk of the market, but single column paragraphed Bibles are more common today than they were even 10 years ago. I don’t expect Bibles without chapters and verses to be mainstream any time soon, but I do expect them to be a more common option.

        • I hope you’re right Michael. Yes there are more study bibles sold today, but also fewer commentaries. I’m not sure it’s not a wash. (Besides, I prefer keeping the text and comments separate anyway. Including “book introductions”.) I agree 10 years ago there was a real dearth of single-column bibles, but I suspect it’s about a 30 year cycle. E.g. the NIV NT was originally ONLY available in single-column. And that’s a relatively “new” translation to my mind. Same with the Peterson Message, which eventually sprouted versification AND double-columns.

  6. I continue to appreciate the work that goes into these reviews–thanks Mark. A post or two ago you mentioned that who weren’t sure why people were knocking Chinese text blocks. I thought, “the proof is in the pudding” and this once again demonstrates that. On the Allan’s Blog, Nicholas wrote a piece entitled “Chinese Whispers” which also argued the merits of Chinese printers. And yet, again, the proof is in the pudding. Why Crossway insists on sending the occasional project there after the stellar work of LEGO baffles me. The Chinese printed ESV Personal Size Study Bibles were horrible–thin, greyish, cheap paper. That being said, LEGO consistently produces excellent paper and print however they have work to do in the gilding dept. (thin and wears quickly) and a bit of work to do in the binding department.

    • The Chinese are quick learners in all industries. Their text blocks are getting better all the time.

  7. Crossway needs to get together with Allan. Can you imagine if the Heritage or the Legacy were bound by Allan? That would be my ideal Bible.

    • Robert, I share your dreams. Seeing how the existing Allan ESVs are Crossway formats, I don’t think it’s a wild dream to image one or both of those Bibles being bound by Allan at some point.

      Nicholas Gray, if you are reading this, please consider wrapping the Legacy and/or Heritage in highland goatskin with all the other usual Allan trimmings. I would prefer the Legacy, but I would buy either; perhaps both.

  8. Close, but no cigar. Between the gray print, ghosting, and sheen of the paper this bible makes for a very unpleasant reading experience. And the Legacy has its own problems with the compressed text, small font, and oversized margins. I believe somewhere in between the Legacy and the Heritage would make for a better bible.

    • Norm- Id like to give the Heritage a shot, do you want to sell your copy? Thanks!

    • Norm, I totally agree with you and the others about the paper in this bible. The sheen factor drives me crazy and I don’t know how they can call this “quality” paper. It seems to me to be a cheaper paper which makes the bible heavier as well. I have a Thomas Nelson Greek Interlinear NT that has this same type of shiny paper and it also weighs more than other books the same size or even larger. Does anyone know for sure the exact type of paper used in the Single Column Heritage Bible? I wonder if the Chinese did a bait and switch on Crossway? I have been tempted to return it but I do prefer a single column without distracting reference notes.

      • I agree as well on the paper sheen. It’s terrible, but I still love the layout and page size for a verify portable bible. It’s disappointing that Crossway has never fixed this and I don’t understand why they don’t see it as a problem

        I also don’t understand when Crossway has a great hit with dark print on the very nice paper of the Legacy produced by Lego why they change the formula and go with different paper and printer. Why not just stick with with what already worked well and proved itself?

  9. I noticed that Crossway is going to be coming out with a wide margin heritage legacy edition. Does anyone know who will be printing that edition? Seeing how it can go either way, I hope there will be a review here 🙂

  10. I would use either of these two, Heritage or Legacy, for my main study and/or preaching Bible, or even the Cambridge Clarion, which I own, if it weren’t for the ESV’s practice of not separating speaker dialogue in narrative portions. Kind of a personal quirk I guess, but it’s how I roll. So, I continue to use the NIV… largely because of text format: provides more clarity in getting date at first glance.

    • Oh, speaking of clarity, what I’m talking about is how the ESV runs multiple speaker dialogue into the same paragraph. Modern English texts generally separate speakers into respective paragraphs.

  11. Any word on whether Jongbloed plans to print this Single Column Heritage edition any time soon?

  12. How is the quality of the Heritage single column ESV Bibles that are currently being shipped? I like its size and format but I’m a little leery if the paper is all that shiny.

    I prefer a decent quality leather binding but if the paper is bad, I might consider the trutone. The ESV isn’t my primary translation choice, but I like it.

    I can’t seem to find a better alternative, as 9 pt. type is about the bare minimum size I’d want. I can’t read small print at night for any length of time.

    Comments from anyone who’s recently purchased the Heritage would be helpful, thanks.

  13. Well, the single column Heritage in calfskin was just too tempting, and I received it earlier today from Evangelical Bible, so I’ll make some comments. This is a very NICE little Bible, and I love its smaller footprint! Like Mark, I’m becoming a “shorter and thicker” fan. I’ve also become spoiled to nice leather covers, and this one does not disappoint. Mine is finished much, much better on the inside cover than Mark’s reviewed copy is. Mine is very neat and clean, and the calfskin is wonderful. The lining looks like pebbled leather, and the cover feels a little thicker and softer than the goatskin cover on my Allan NKJV, and maybe a little softer to the touch than the goatskin on my Schuyler. The calfskin is almost as supple as well, with a beautiful grain. After using it only a few hours, the cover lies flat and the text block lies almost flat from beginning to end, so the binding is relaxing nicely despite the hinge. There are eight maps and several family record pages, and a few thick blank pages in front and back. I like the small text notes and don’t miss the cross references. I also really like the narrower margins as this gives a smaller, lighter volume which is much more important to me.

    As for the Chinese paper and printing, it seems nice enough, especially at just over $100. (My almost-$200 Allan’s text block was printed in Korea and is the exact same block that’s now available in a nice $40 Holman brown cowhide edition from CBD, so…) The paper is thicker than some, including the Clarion’s, and the 9 pt. printing is consistently dark throughout, although not very bold. (I wish it were a little bolder; the Schuyler’s 11 pt. has ruined me.) The ghosting looks better than average to me, and the text is line matched. The paper is not as shiny as it looks in some on-line photos, but if held at a certain angle directly under bright light, there is a slight sheen, but only at that angle. There are two nice long, narrow, thick, satiny ribbons. I’m very pleased with this ESV and would encourage anyone who finds it interesting to give it a try.

    I’m really loving the size of this Bible. Does anyone know of a similar NASB, other than a Clarion?

    The “Bertrand Effect” is definitely coming into play at my house, too. Thanks as always for your great reviews!

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