R. L. Allan NASB Single Column Reference (NASB SCR) in Black Highland Goatskin

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OVERVIEW

Although the NASB Single Column Reference from R. L. Allan, available in black, blue, and brown highland goatskin, features a single column setting, instead of paragraphed text the lines are divided verse-by-verse, with generous outer margins to display references. This kind of hybrid design, a mix of old school (verse-by-verse) and new (single column), has never been much to my taste, but it enjoys a very strong following among preachers who exposit verse by verse, those who have a hard time finding their place in paragraphed text, and readers who simply appreciate the way each verse stands out without sacrificing readability as much as double column verse-by-verse settings do. The design isn’t as fresh as similar offerings from Crossway. Even so, if you’re a fan of the NASB and this style of Bible, I think you’ll appreciate what the Allan NASB SCR has to offer.

DESIGN NOTES & PAPER

R. L. Allan has rebound the Lockman Foundation’s popular Side Column Reference Edition. The 6″ x 9″ x 1.5″ form factor makes the NASB SCR a bit of a brick. In return for its bulk, though, you get a spacious layout and generous 11 pt. type. If you preach from the NASB one verse at a time, a design like this one might just be your best friend.

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One thing I’m not a fan of: translators deciding to use non-standard forms of typographical emphasis. Notice verse 44 above. The quotation is in caps instead of quotation marks. That would be appropriate if the text were citing a phrase carved in stone or written on a sign, but the NASB uses this irregular emphasis to denote an Old Testament quotation. A number of translations do this sort of thing, usually with keys in the front matter explaining what the strange usages signify. This is not okay. It makes about as much sense to me as setting the OT in a Hebrew-style font and the NT in a Greek-style font. Good design should be transparent. This calls attention to itself, and demands that readers learn a different set of skills for this book than for others.

That’s the last rant I’m going to include in this post, I promise. The sin is not exclusive to the NASB, and isn’t the fault of R. L. Allan, who sourced this book block from the Lockman Foundation. Maybe someone from the Foundation will see this and make a note that in some future edition usage will be brought into line with standard English punctuation.

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In the meantime, the NASB SCR gives me an opportunity to point out something interesting. Look at the poetry in the photo above. We all know that double column settings play havoc with poetry, forcing all kinds of bizarre, too-short line breaks. If you combine verse-by-verse formatting with double column layout, you get a much worse result — which might be why those old KJVs didn’t versify the poetry the way contemporary translations do. The question is, which is worse? The double column or the verse-by-verse. This photo makes it clear that the narrow columns are the culprit. Apart from some awkward formatting in verse 13-14, this poetry looks quite good, don’t you think?

What is perhaps not as good: the paper. This Lockman book block is printed in China, and while that’s not the blanket condemnation some people would like to believe — there are some excellent Bibles being printed and bound there — in this case the paper lets the edition down, especially in the eyes of Lockman fans familiar with the opacity of earlier editions of the Side Column Reference Edition. As you can see, the pages have a bit of a grey hue, line-matching is inconsistent, and opacity could be better. (“You mean much better!” cry the Lockman collectors.) Is the paper a deal breaker? If you have one of the older Side Column References and you’re looking for something comparable, perhaps so. But if today’s Lockman editions are your benchmark, no.

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BINDING

The binding is everything when you’re talking about R. L. Allan. You can find the book blocks elsewhere, but the bindings are second to none. The NASB SCR is no exception. The black highland goatskin cover pictured here is the safest of options. I would steer you toward either the brown or the blue unless you’re one of those people for whom a Bible ought always to be black. The semi-yapp cover’s overlapping edges add a little extra width and height to the book’s footprint, but they’re a nice classic touch that complements the art-gilt pages and the thick market ribbons.

Because it has an edge-lined binding, the NASB SCR is quite limp, as you can see:

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You’ll never need to contort your Bible in this way, but the photos give you an idea of how the Bible might feel in your hand. A more practical advantage of a limp binding in a larger edition like this is that, when hand-holding the Bible to read, you can curl one of the sides to minimize the bulk. As long as you don’t put stress on the spine, you’re good to go.

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The black edition of the NASB SCR comes with three navy ribbons, an essential if you’re using a reading plan, and has blue endpapers. In ordinary light they are dark enough to appear black, matching the cover’s black lining, but under the bright lights the indigo comes out.

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One thing I have to say about black goatskin in general is that, while it may not be the most exciting material to photograph, it displays leather grain exceptionally well.

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CONCLUSIONS

Every translation has its ardent followers, each with their own tale of woe. Until recently if you liked the KJV you had to put up with archaic layouts. NRSV readers look back fondly on the days when they could find editions bound in something as exotic as ‘genuine leather.’ The NKJV suffers from a similar lack of support, and I won’t even get into the complex feelings of those who cherish the various editions of the NIV. For the NASB crowd in recent years there’s been a “by the rivers of Babylon” vibe. It’s not that there aren’t some excellent NASBs out there; it’s that longtime users can’t help thinking of the bygone good ol’ days of Lockman quality.

The thing is, the good ol’ days for the NASB are right now. If you want a fantastic hand-sized, reader-friendly reference edition, the Cambridge Clarion NASB is a superb choice. For a beautiful, large-print reference edition designed from the ground up with quality in mind, there’s the Schuyler Quentel NASB — not to mention the Allan Readers Edition (another Jongbloed-printed large print reference Bible).  While the Side Column Reference Edition doesn’t measure up to the Clarion in terms of design, or to the Quentel or Allan Readers Edition in terms of book block quality, the unique format mated with this lovely Allan binding adds another great option to the contemporary line-up. It’s a very specialized sort of layout … but if you’re one of those readers a single-column, verse-by-verse format speaks to, this is a nice edition to have.

40 Comments on “R. L. Allan NASB Single Column Reference (NASB SCR) in Black Highland Goatskin

  1. I love preaching out of the SCR text block. I find the vbv format useful not only for slowed-way-down, verse-by-verse expository preaching, but also for less detailed context-by-context preaching (my sermon text yesterday was nearly the entire book of Malachi). If I’m using a paragraphed Bible with superscript verse numbers and I decide that the text breaks down differently than the formatters did, I have to hunt 6-point superscript numbers in the middle of paragraphs, and I miss seeing those much more than I’m comfortable with.

    I like the NASB SCR better than the ESV equivalents (though I agree that the Crossway design work is cleaner) because the print is larger and the column length shorter. Those Crossway vbv’s come in at north of 70 characters per line; the NASB SCR has a cpl count of about 57.

    I agree that the Foundation text block could be better, but it could be (and has been) much worse. The SCR’s from 8 or so years ago had pretty awful paper, and the current paper is an improvement. Basically, Foundation “thinlined” the text block. It’s considerably skinnier than SCR’s of old, but there’s a corresponding decrease in opacity. I wish the setting were line-matched. It isn’t, and that’s not going to change.

    Finally, I guess I’m just used to the small caps for OT quotations in NASB Bibles, or, for that matter, to the italics in NKJV’s. The only one that bugs me is the boldface in the HCSB.

  2. Another Allan “treatment” of a mediocre Chinese book block. I understand for small runs Allan can’t print at Jongbloed. But you end up with a high end “Corvette” exterior and a basic 4 cylinder motor. I passed.

  3. My one disappointment with this Allan edition (and why I passed on it) is that they didn’t use the most recent Lockman printing of this edition, which has wider 1″ outside margin space.

    • Actually, Allan did use the most recent 2013 Lockman printing, but they cut down the margins to fit the blue cases they already had on hand from their last run. They trimmed down all the sheets so that the Black and Brown editions would be the same size as the Blue.

  4. My favorite edition of the NASB is the Zondervan Wide Margin Bible: text-only, single-column, verse-by-verse, elegant typography, lots of white space, great paper and each book begins on a new page. The only drawbacks are the font size: 8, and that it’s available in nothing better than bonded leather – but what a text-block!

  5. I appreciate your comments and especially the photos of this bible.
    A friend of mine has an Allan ESV that looks very similar to this in size and layout but the finishing is better in the ESV.

    My wife has the Cambridge Clarion NASB and I the Schuyler Quentel NASB, they are both done very well in terms of opacity and finish and are very opposite from each other in size and offering but I enjoy using both of them for their readability. I haven’t seen line matching done as well as the Quentel on any other bible thus far.

    This is the one “complaint” I have with Allan Bibles – even though the binding is top notch, you can’t guarantee the book block will be up to par. A Corvette on the outside, but a Toyota Echo on the inside.

  6. I agree with Mark when he pointed out that single column vs-by-vs is actually not too bad in poetry. But I think the good result was unintended. In my opinion single column vs-by-vs is the worst overall format. I have one those Zondervan Wide Margin NASBs, and I find it almost unreadable in prose sections.

    To answer Mark’s question:
    “The question is, which is worse? The double column or the verse-by-verse.”
    Pick your poison. But I’ll take a paragraphed text over a vs-by-vs text every time, even if that means it’s double column with choppy poetry. As bad as it is, choppy poetry is better than extremely choppy prose.

    But thankfully we don’t have to play that game. Most of the better and more popular translations are available in a paragraphed single column edition.

    • What you say, Michael, is true of most single-column vbv Bibles. True of that Zondy wide-margin, absolutely. However, the smaller number of characters per line in the Foundation SCR text block ameliorates the problem. The “hole” left by a seven-character line in a 57-cpl Bible is much less significant, to me, at least, than the hole left by a seven-character line in a 75-cpl Bible. It just doesn’t bother my eye as much. I don’t use an SCR as my NASB reader, but I have in the past, and it gave me many fewer problems than I expected.

  7. I have a NASB printed by Thomas Nelson in 1977 in this exact text layout (comparing your photos with my Bible). In 1977, it was called the “Side Margin Reference Edition,” however. Some of the pages in the front have separated from the block but, for a 37-year-old Bible, it’s still in pretty good shape otherwise. (I’m actually an ESV guy these days.)

  8. I use the NASB SCR every day. If you need a larger print size due to visual or cognitive difficulty the SCR is the best decent sized print (multi-purpose) NASB available. I do not consider the Schuyler a portable Bible. However the SCR has some significant drawbacks. It has always suffered from bad line matching and an 11 pt. typeface that looks more like a 10. And all but the hardcover versions have had serious bleed through since they started making them in China.

    The wider margins of the 2013 are accomplished by making the Bible slightly physically wider and moving the print closer to the gutter. In my estimation having references in the outside margin rather than the inside is a design flaw. It makes the Bible text harder to read. If it were the references that are not used as often in the gutter it would not be as significant to move them closer. But with it being the Bible text it is significant. And if you have used both SCRs you can see what I am talking about. I do not write in my Bibles so it doesn’t help me to have wider margins, and it makes it more difficult to read when I have to press the pages open to get to the text.

    This printing of the Allan NASB SCR is an improvement over the first run in that they used a 28 gsm paper and cut the paper with the grain to eliminate unnecessary page wrinkling in the gutter. But it is still being printed in China on Chinese paper. The paper quality is a deal-breaker. I have not found any Bible printed in China with good paper or consistent print quality, even ‘expensive’ Bibles. A paper called “Apple” is used in some ESV versions but it is not as bright white reducing contrast and mine is already yellowing after only a couple of years. High quality covers like goatskin are really nice but what you are interacting with every day, all day is the paper and the print. Difficulty reading the text defeats the purpose. Having an expensive and beautiful cover on a poor text block is kind of ‘like putting lipstick on a pig’. And it makes me question Allan if they are willing to put their name on it.

    As far as the all caps to indicate Old Testament quotes, I see this as a minor issue. Simply having quotation marks according to current English usage does not provide a way to distinguish between OT quotes and quotes outside the Scriptures. I like the fact that the NASB makes this distinction so that you know immediately even if you do not have references or all you have is a pocket New Testament. How that is accomplished not as important to me.

    I long for the day that all the Bible manufacturers understand that there is a lot communicated about the Bible itself in the way the Bible is produced. I have given up on Zondervan and Nelson but maybe there is hope for Lockman?

    • I would love to see Lockman re-do the SCR with a better typeface, references along the inner margin, and line-matching, while still keeping the general format and column width. However, I have trouble imagining them re-setting what is most likely their best-selling Bible. From their perspective, the SCR is not the problem in their lineup.

      I do think, though, that Lockman generally does a good job with quality. Their settings may be dated, but their physical product is well-made. I think, too, that the qualities of Lockman text blocks from the days of yore are overstated. I have a hardback SCR from 1997, printed in the USA, and its paper is, to my eye, slightly less opaque than my 2010 narrow-margin, despite the text block being bulkier. For mass-market Bibles, the current SCR text block is as good as you’re likely to find, IMO.

      • Thank you for your comments, Matthew.

        I hadn’t thought about the SCR being their best-selling Bible. That may very well be. The SCR is a little bulky for what you get but I love the layout and the look. It just feels luxurious. And it is so easy to find the verses for teaching/preaching. One thing I would like to see is the actual pilcrow (¶) in the text at the beginning of each paragraph. The paragraphs just do not stand out like they should for a vbv format. This is partly due to inconsistent print quality. One of the NASB’s strong points is putting a lot of information in the text through asterisks, italics, large caps, etc. IMO, this would be a welcome addition.

        I wish I had the same experience you have had with Foundation quality. For many years I didn’t want to own a Bible that was anything but a sewn binding. But in the last 3 or 4 years Foundation started changing my mind. In that period of time every sewn binding Bible that I bought from them for daily use, the book block started separating at the signatures within 6 to 12 months. I almost shudder to say this but now I would rather have a well-made glued binding than a poorly made sewn one. (Did I actually say that? Yuck!)

        The more significant problem I see is the paper always starts yellowing after 2 or 3 years. If the paper was good quality and the binding came apart, you could just have it rebound. The yellowing looks bad but the real issue is that is reduces contrast. Combine this with the inconsistent print, significant bleed through and my visual difficulty and I begin to wonder why I am carrying around this bulk.

        This is the third time in as many years I had high hopes to get a good quality NASB and was disappointed. The first run of this Allan NASB SCR had bad wrinkling in the gutter and the paper was terrible for a $230 Bible. The Schuyler Quentel is just too big to be usable outside my home office. Having this SCR made in China almost makes this one an automatic reject. But any on-the-fence hope I still had was dashed when I saw the gold guiding on the blue edition.

        Best to you.

  9. Hey guys.

    Sorry if this is inappropriate. If I knew of a forum devoted to such things I would happily post there. Anyway, I’ve got a few Bibles that I love but I need to try to sell. They’re all in perfect, like new condition, with no marks and include the original box. I’ve got an Allan Single Column Reference ESV in Black ($150), Crossway Omega Thinline ESV in Black ($100), and a Cambridge Clarion ESV in Black ($125). Or I’ll let all three go $325. If you’ve got any questions you can email me at stephen.saucier@me.com

    Again, sorry if this is out of line. If someone knows of a forum where a post like this would make more sense, I’m more than happy to repost there.

  10. I like everything about this Bible. It is the best text on the market. Usually I agree with Mr Bertrand but not this time. I have the Allan version of this Bible. The Foundations Bible cover is a cluge at best. I like the emphasis on the texts in the New Testament that are Old Testament scriptures. It can make readers aware of the source of the quote in the New Testament. Keep up the good work Mark.

  11. I have this bible in brown goatskin. I absolutely love it. Yes this bible suffers from gutter crackling and thin paper. When you flip Through a bit you can tell that allan really cared about thos edition. No its not as good as the readere edition but I love single column format and the nasb
    I would recomend this if you are looking for a high quality nasb single column format. The allans reader I would recomend to everyone.

  12. Does anyone own this AND the Readers edition and have any light to shed? I am going insane trying to decide on one or the other.I love the yapp and soft leather of the SCR, but i don’t know how much of a sacrifice it is in regard to the paper. I really like how easy it looks to find the references since they are right next to the verses. Any opinions? and thanks for the review. I have been following this blog for a while now since 2 years ago when i purchased my Local Church Bible.

    • Yes Justin I have both. The single columns version has terrible paper and it suffers many defects. What it has going for it is the fact its an allen single column nasb. The readers edition has much better leather. The leather on the readers edition is much thicker and more defined grain but is not as flexible which I like. You can hold it in one hand without it drooping. The leather is very flexible though. The paper quality on the readers edition is much much better. Paper is thicker with less bleed through and much smoother. Now the readers edition is not verse by verse, but its also easirr to navigate than the single column. If you want the best allan nasb then go with the readers edition. If your just stuck on the single column and cant live without it then get it, but be warned. If you go with the single column you might be disapointed woth the quality. 250 bucks is a lot of money for chinese quality. Thats like paying 60 thousand bucks for a 10 thousand dollar car. If you get the readers edition you wont regret it.

      • Well that makes it pretty difficult to justify getting the SCR. I really do like the verse-by-verse format, but if the paper is THAT big of a deal, i don’t know if i can. The other main reason i wanted the SCR was because of the yapp size, but if the leather itself is better too, then dang. Thanks for the info brother.

        • Justin, the NASB Reader is also verse-by-verse, but it’s double column instead of single column.

        • Oops. Beth your right it is verse by verse. Sorry bout that Justin.

    • The text is from foundation publishers. Their Bible has a soft leather cover and I use this as my reading Bible. I also have the Allan SCR Bible. It is awesome. High quality and out of this world product. I just ogle it and am putting it aside to treasure. Quality Bibles value will always go up and this will also. If you are going to use the SCR for daily use the Lockman version. It costs less and is of excellent quality. The Allan will last a lifetime but it is just to nice to write notes in. I am a note taker and NASB freak so I will scribble in the Lockman and show off the alan. Text is same in both Bibes. If you want the best buy Allan. Look at the comments on the http://www.evangelicalbible.com web site for this Bible.

    • One more thing. I also have the Allan Readers edition and love it. The cover is one of all the best covers I have seen anywhere. And it has an awesome leather smell. It would last you 2 lifetimes just like the Allan SCR. I am a collector of fine Bibles and my wife thinks I’m nuts so what do I know.I just know I couldn’t choose between the two so bought both Bibles the Reader and SCR.

  13. Well being that i will only be purchasing one, i think i’ll go for the Readers. This site and the responses have been abundantly helpful.

  14. I would love the Allan SCR NASB but I can’t really justify spending that much money for an edition that I would only sometimes use, especially when the text block isn’t Allan quality. (My Allan NKJV is my main Bible and my only premium quality Bible, and it’s one of the less expensive Allans–but absolutely beautiful and a joy to use!)

    This is getting a little off-topic, but I did want a nice, easily readable NASB to read through, so I bought the Lockman Foundation edition in calfskin. I like the single column verse format. I’m an avid reader, but the pages in Bibles with paragraph format just look so packed and somewhat daunting. I like a little more white space within the text, I guess. I almost bought a Cambridge Clarion NASB instead, and I’m still not sure that wouldn’t have been a better choice for my small hands and extended reading. The Lockman gets heavy after awhile.

    Anyway, some thoughts on the Lockman and this text block. It’s is a fairly large personal Bible. I can’t bring myself to write in my Bibles, so I’d have preferred standard margins and slightly smaller (9-10 pt.) text for a bit smaller or thinner Bible. However, if you can manage the heft, this is a very readable Bible. I’m not an expert or collector of finely made Bibles, so the paper doesn’t bother me. I’ve noticed no crinkling or curling. The Lockman calfskin cover is extremely flexible and limp, which is fine, but it is also thin, perhaps too thin for a Bible of this size and thickness. (While my Allan cover is as flexible, it somehow seems more sturdy and comfortable to hold.) The finish and grain are nice. The quality is of course not up to Allan’s, but neither is the price. For about $95 at EB, the cover could be a little thicker, but the Lockman may be an acceptable downgrade for those unwilling to buy the Allan but who want the NASB in SCR format. It’s also available in genuine and synthetic leather at lower costs.

    • it cost about $250 and you can get it from bibles-direct.co.uk or from evangelicalbible.com
      You should honestly check out the Readers edition though. I was trying to decide between the two and ultimately decided on the Readers for the overall quality.

  15. We’ve all heard that the best paper in a NASB95 SCR is found in the 2002 printing. What edition of the NASB77 has the best text block? Thanks.

  16. Why does Allan use somewhat inferior paper/printing in some of its Bibles? I would have thought all Allan Bibles would have excellent paper and printing. That’s such an important part of the book. I’m now understanding some of the comments about the little car engine in the luxury car body.

    Of course, my Allan NKJV has the Holman text block, but at the time I bought it I didn’t know as much about premium Bibles. I cherish that one, though!

    But it seems an Allan Bible should be Allan quality through and through, not just in the binding. Have my expectations become too high?

    I enjoy these reviews and the comments, thanks!

    • No CEC your expectations are not to high unless you paid $50 for these bibles. But we’respending $200 and $250. for the best quality in the world. That is what they’re marketed as and should be the best. You think you got something of good quality that will last until you things like the maps look like they are coming loose, the gutter crinkles bad, ghosting is incredible, no line matching, paper quality is like cigarette pape instead of creamy white india paper, $250 for a $20 text block is outrageous. The one thing I like is that its single column, but I could have bought a $60 version for this and the paper would have been better. What i literally cant live with is the chinese printing in the gutter, yes its visible and outrageous. Sorry bout the spill but really $250 is way too much for this. $160 i could see. Basically your paying for the goatskin. Hope this warns folks. Not all Allen bindings are like this(KJV is their cup de grace).

  17. Hello, I currently own the second edition of the SCR, brown. I also have bought two SCR third editions. My second edition has much darker font. Its much easier to read compared to the latest edition. Oh and Mark, I am thankful for the features of the NASB.

    • I was under the impression that the third edition SCR from Allan has less of the noisy crinkling than the previous two. Does anyone know if that’s true? Thanks,

  18. I like this Bible just like it is. I also like the different font for quotes from the Old Testament. Just need to poke the Chinese a little to get better quality print. Yet things from there seem to be of slightly better quality lately.

  19. Hello,

    I’m a long time follower of this blog and felt that maybe some you other readers may be interested in a Bible I’d like to sell.

    I have a 2002 Printing of the NASB Side Column Reference that I had rebound by Mechling in Dark Green Goatskin. I’m willing to accept all reasonable offers. Please feel free to click on my name and follow the link to view it.

    Thanks!

  20. I’d love to have an ESV, verses on their own line (like NASB); psalms and proverbs and NT only in calfskin for preaching through the New Testament. I can’t find anything on the market. Does this bible exist or is there a way I can have one printed?

  21. Reading all these comments makes me realize what a treasure I have with my 1971 edition purchased in 1974. It may be time for another rebind. Single column is the way to go, whether verse-by-verse or paragraph, 9 point font is my minimum so this 11 point edition is heavenly.

  22. One more comment as I never realized how much variation exists out there. I just checked my wife’s SCR and realize it is different from mine. My 1971 was published by World Publishing in New York while she has a 1973 edition published by Holman. The text block and pagination is the same but the 71 has thicker/creamier paper, the ’73 paper is whiter and perhaps thinner as there is much more ghosting.

    All this is to say that I agree with earlier posts that while the cover and binding is important the quality of what is inside is more so. Paper quality, font selection and size, layout, white space, printing sharpness – they all matter.

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