The R. L. Allan NIV Proclamation Bible in Navy Blue Goatskin

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The NIV Proclamation Bible bound in navy blue Highland goatskin for R. L. Allan

This offering from R. L. Allan adds a luxury binding to the Anglicized edition of the NIV Proclamation Bible, published by Hodder & Stoughton. The edition is available in four colors: black, brown, crimson red, and the navy blue of the review copy pictured here. They list for £140.00 from R. L. Allan direct, and $219 from EvangelicalBible.com. Whichever color you chose, the Bible comes with a semi-yapp cover, art-gilt edges, three ribbons, presentation pages, maps, and lined notepaper in back. Inside the back cover you’ll find a stamp proclaiming ALLAN FIRST EDITION.

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The Proclamation Trust developed this Bible for Hodder & Stoughton with expository preaching in mind. In addition to section and book introductions, it includes essays on the reliability of Scripture, how to find the “melodic line” when studying or teaching a particular book, how doctrine is developed from the text, how to prepare a sermon, how to lead small group and one-on-one discussion, and much more. The editor’s preface sums up the approach this way: “If you have ever wished you could have just a few minutes with an expert at the start of your journey into a passage of the Bible, then here is a study resource which provides just that.” Preachers and teachers will appreciate the NIV Proclamation Bible especially, though the material is accessible enough for any reader to enjoy.

Ian Metcalfe oversaw the development of the NIV Proclamation Bible from the Hodder end before taking over the reins at R. L. Allan, which adds to the significance of the project in my mind. For those of us who would love to see Allan develop and publish its own book blocks to go with the luxury bindings, this hints at what could be.

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Most of the extras are up front, set in a lovely single column with generous margins.

The NIV 2011 text itself is set in an attractive two-column layout by Blue Heron Bookcraft. I rave about the text setting every time I see it, and have done so for years despite the fact that I much prefer single column layouts. What’s the appeal? Maybe it’s the dotted lines that set off the center column references. I’m a sucker for details like that. Perhaps it’s the typeface — I am especially fond of the way those boldface section headings jump off the page. Whatever the reason, hats off to Blue Heron for design work that has stood the test of time and almost persuaded me — almost! — that I can live without a single column.

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In all its iterations, I have always loved this text setting by Blue Heron Bookcraft. The 9.3 pt. type size and the wider margins are especially easy on the eye.

There are a few quibbles to make, though. Ever since my interview last summer with Bibliotheca’s Adam Lewis Greene about his decision not to justify the text, the gaps between words in justified text columns have been jumping out at me. Once they whispered, now they shout. A narrow column of justified text can’t help inserting wider gaps between individual words to balance things out. Reading the NIV Proclamation Bible I found myself noticing the occasional gap, not to the point of distraction but certainly more than I would have in the past. Another thing that always bugs me is when a two-column setting imposes awkward line breaks on versified text, especially when it results in a single word dangling alone on a line to itself. While the Schuyler Quentel seems to avoid this, I noticed it a number of times with the NIV Proclamation Bible, as in the photo below:

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Chapter 3 is full of examples of one word alone on a line: see verses 2, 3, 4, and 7 (which does it twice!)

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When the lines happen to match up, opacity isn’t bad, but when they don’t the grey shadow makes words a bit harder to read.

The typeface is Versa Pro, which is familiar from other text settings (for example Nelson’s single column NKJV, later reprinted by Schuyler). The The book block is printed by CTPS in China. Since I haven’t seen any indications otherwise in the product descriptions, I assume the paper spec — a 35 gsm sheet from Spain called Especialprint — is the same as the Hodder editions.

For some of you, I know China-printed book blocks in a high end binding are a deal breaker because they’re received as cheap and therefore incongruous with the nice cover. I’m not trying to win anybody over — it’s an old argument and I respect all sides — but I have to say that this Bible doesn’t feel cheap, not on the outside and not on the inside. While I would have preferred consistent line matching and less ghosting, my reading experience was good, comparable to what I’ve had with Crossway’s China-printed book blocks. The print impression is nice and dark, and consistent from page to page throughout my review copy, which, combined with the 9.3 pt. type makes the NIV Proclamation Bible a fairly easy read.

The product description gives the page size as 9″ x 6″. The cover on my review copy measures 10″ x 6.75″, and the book is right at 1.5″ thick. While that’s not compact, considering the fact that you get 9.3 pt. type, an outer margin that runs 0.75″ wide, and a bottom margin clocking in at 1″, it’s still pretty handy. Since the book opens flat on a podium or tabletop, you shouldn’t have any trouble teaching or preaching from it. Too big for casual carry, perhaps, but for its intended purpose the NIV Proclamation Bible works quite well.

Turning our attention to the binding, one thing that really stands out about the NIV Proclamation Bible is the rounded spine. If you ask me, every Bible ought to have one. Here’s a photo to help illustrate what I’m talking about:

Top: A flat spine. Bottom: A rounded spine.

Top: A flat spine. Bottom: A rounded spine.

A rounded cover doesn’t mean anything. Plenty of rounded covers conceal flat-spined book blocks underneath. What we’re talking about here is the rounding of the book block’s spine, which changes the profile of the block when viewed from top or bottom. Instead of a rectangle with ninety degree corners, both ends curve in the shape of a C. Rounding the spine is an additional step, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that a flat spine connotes inferior quality, the rounded spine is one of those bookbinding grace notes I appreciate more and more as the the step is increasingly neglected.

The edge-lined cover in natural grain Highland goatskin makes for a limp Bible. As always, the fit and finish on this London-bound book is impressive. Because Allan bindings are consistently beautiful, there’s always a danger of taking their loveliness for granted. The details here are truly splendid, even up close.

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The crisp imprint on the spine looks molten up close. And the blue goatskin almost resembles an alien landscape.

The inside corners are neatly tucked over, with a gilt line around the perimeter of the lining.

The inside corners are neatly tucked over, with a gilt line around the perimeter of the lining.

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The navy blue edition is available in limited numbers. If that beautiful grain speaks to you, answer sooner rather than later.

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The signature white headband and the three thick ribbons are Allan staples, as are the art-gilt pages and the curved, overlapping cover.

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The overlapping cover qualifies as semi-yapp, right? It curves enough to notice, though it doesn’t extend as far as it might.

The limp Allan binding inspired by first experiments with Bible yoga, and the NIV Proclamation Bible doesn’t disappoint on this score, either. You won’t encounter many situations in life that necessitate rolling your Bible backward into a leathery cylinder. Rest assured, though, should the need arise, you’ll be ready:

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The only gripe I have with the navy blue binding is the black liner. You know how I feel about black liners inside non-black covers. Look, here’s the deal: sometimes black is the closest match available in a limited range of options. I get that. But I want publishers to exhaust their options before settling for black, because it just looks lazy. A navy lining would be lovely in this Bible. Personally, I’d have gone with scarlet to match the ribbons, but then I’ve always loved those staid navy blazers that blow open to reveal a retina-scorching red lining. The way I’m coping with the black liner in this case is simple: I pretend it’s midnight blue.

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The Allan NLT (top) is anorexic in comparison to the NIV Proclamation Bible, which falls somewhere between the Crossway Heirloom Legacy (bottom) and the Schuyler Quentel (second from bottom) in terms of girth.

Why would you spend over $200 on this edition when you could pick up the Hodder version for a lot less? If the font size and extra margin aren’t a major draw for you, it’s not an unreasonable question. Here’s the way I see it: an investment like this makes sense when you find the Bible you’re going to be using day in and day out. The aesthetic pleasure we derive from a well-made book isn’t hedonistic self-indulgence. To me it’s akin to the satisfaction a craftsman feels when working with good tools.

And this is a good tool. It feels right in your hand, it feels right as you flip the pages and scan down the columns. The Allan formula has been refined by now to the point of rock solid consistency. Their Bibles are dependably fine. If you’re intrigued by the idea of a Bible put together with expositional preaching in mind, and plan on using it on a regular basis, the R. L. Allan NIV Proclamation Bible will make a wonderful companion.

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24 Comments on “The R. L. Allan NIV Proclamation Bible in Navy Blue Goatskin

  1. Thank you for your clear review. I noticed this offering last week and without your review of this Allan edition I ordered the hardback version for about $30 to get a feel for it before potentially saving up. I’m still waiting excitedly. While the ESV is a fine translation I really appreciate the NIV and I’ve been surprised by the noticeably fewer offerings in high end bindings. So this is really welcome! There are complementarian, inerrantist, reformed folks like me who like the NIV 2011 just fine. And I know that there probably is a breadth of believers from different camps than my own who would enjoy a high end NIV. Thanks again Mark!

  2. Beautiful and as usual an excellent and detailed review by Mark.
    However I just dropped some serious coin on the new Schuyler Quentel ESV with the dark green goatskin cover. It is a very nice companion to my Quentel NASB in the imperial or dark blue. I would like to get another 3 or 4 Bibles but I do not have unlimited funds so I will have to beg off this time.

  3. I have been using the Allan Proclamation Bible for a few weeks. I have found that is is very comfortable to read. The flexibility allows me to display the text very easily. I like the font and the way the pages are laid out. I like the paper and only notice ghosting when I am looking for it. It’s very easy to read. After reading some high end Bibles I don’t see them as an unnecessary luxury. They make it much easier to get absorbed in what the text is saying without the distractions that uncomfortable books with small type can cause. The Allan Proclamation Bible is a great choice indeed. Overall it is a well designed Bible.

  4. Mark thanks for another excellent review. I have the hardback edition and have increasingly found myself turning to it when preparing to preach. I agree that the setting is excellent- ideal for reading as well as study. My major gripes are simply that my Hodder hardback binding is already showing distinct signs of wear and tear after less than a year of use, and that it is quite a chunky bible to be using as my main go-to. I notice from the Borrder website that they are bringing out a compact edition in June. If that format works, and if Allan’s produce an edition, I think I might have found the one…

  5. Sadly, your very first sentence ended my excitement for this Bible: Anglicized. After discovering how much the actual text of the NRSV was altered (but not publicly documented) by the anglicizing editors (actual theologically critical text, not just spelling and punctuation), I’ve lost trust and faith in any Bible that is anglicized. Everything else about this Bible appears to be the result of RL Allan at the peak of their craft and only getting better.

    • Interesting comment, Jason, and I’m intrigued as to what you mean exactly by ‘actual theologically critical text’. Could you give some examples from the anglicised NIV or NRSV or both? Best wishes, Rachel

    • Hi Jason – the NRSV Anglicised is generally regarded as having been pretty heavy-handed, it was done by one man not directly connected with the translation itself. For the NIV, there is a sub-committee of the main translation committee that meets immediately following the main translation committee sessions to assess for anglicisation, and is comprised of all the ‘British English’ translators – not just UK but also from India and anywhere else in the British Commonwealth. There is actually a project ongoing at present to review every single anglicisation change to make sure that there are no changes that change the sense or anything doctrinal. So it is certainly a much more engaged picture for NIV than perhaps any other translation.

      • Hi Ian! Could you just say a bit more about what you mean exactly by ‘heavy-handed’ when it comes to the NRSV’s anglicised edition? You may be right, of course,. But as a British person who used the US edition in an academic context for 5 or 6 years before the anglicised text came out and then switched to that, I can’t say I noticed significant differences of meaning. Best wishes, Rachel

        • I am not aware of anything with doctrinal impact, but as I understand it the original NRSV was envisaged as being an ‘international’ edition, so the word usage often reflected British usage but spelling and punctuation was US. The anglicisation was independently commissioned by Oxford University Press, one of (then) 3 licensed UK NRSV publishers. Collins – my own employer at the time – and CUP commissioned a review of all the changes made and although in the end we did mirror the full set of changes, our conclusion was that many more changes had been made than strictly necessary, in many cases reflecting older-style usages, particularly around hyphenation for compounds. I can’t remember much more detail than that though, I’m afraid!

          • Thanks, Ian; that’s helpful. I’m a big fan of the old-fashioned hyphen and so maybe that’s why I I’ve got a soft spot for the anglicised NRSV! I must admit, though, that both the US and anglicised editions go too far on the de-gendering front. The ESV and 2011 NIV get a better balance on that score. Even better still in my view is the Contemporary Torah, a revision of the Jewish Publication Society’s translation of the Pentateuch which aims to be ‘gender accurate’.

  6. Mark,
    Thank you for an excellent review. Another excellent Allan product!
    I agree with your gripe about black liner in blue or vice versa. I much prefer complimentary color combos, such as the Schuyler Green Q with the brown liner. That makes the ESV Q very elegant,along with the different shades of ribbons. This is where I’d love to see Allan progress.
    I do wish there was an NASB equivalent to the NIV Proclamation Bible. The Proclamation is beautiful with great resources for new ministers and missionaries alike.
    I also love the photo with the Proclamation in the stack. This photo showcases the dynamic beauty of the highland goatskins that RL Allan uses as compared with the equally high quality Jongbloed goatskins.

  7. Mark, as someone fairly new to your blog, thank you so much for the wonderful work of love you do in your reviews. Based on this review, I just purchased the NIV Proclamation Bible in the blue goatskin from EB and can’t wait to get it. Between your site and EB, I have found a good addiction. I have always loved good Bibles and now know more about what makes a great Bible (at least for personal preference). I love the Bible and believe that a diet of different translations is a good thing. Since November I have added high quality “personal” style Bibles in each translation that I have a good study Bible in. I have purchased the following: ESV Omega (Black Goatskin), Allan NKJV (Black Goatskin), Schuyler KJV-TBS block (Red Goatskin) and Allan NASB (Brown Goatskin). I plan to use these in leading our small group, filling in preaching at my church and for general enjoyment and edification. I also appreciate the articles about rebinding, especially Leonard’s and have several projects I am considering. Again thanks so much and I will follow-up with my thoughts on the NIV Proclamation once I receive it next week.

  8. What I think is really cool about this edition is that it has cross references, but it does away with superscripted notes in the text. I think references are valuable and would like to have them, but I find that they’re ugly and distracting. This is a cool way to go around that problem. Well done.

  9. Thank you for so many kind words, Mark. It is great to see the response to this Bible which has certainly been a labour of love – in both my Hodder and Allan roles! One clarification – you don’t need to comfort yourself that the liner is midnight blue, but can rather reassure yourself that it IS midnight blue. It’s very hard to tell on the navy but looking at the black edition (which uses the exact same shade of liner) you can see the difference.

    Having said that, yes, I like the idea of a contrasting liner myself, though I think it’s more likely something we might try on a black Bible…

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  12. Does anyone have any experience with RL Allan’s bibles not having the spine stamping being centered on the spine? I really liked this post and am giving my current NIV bible to my brother in law, so I decided to order an Allan NIV proclamation bible. I received it yesterday and am bummed because the spine stamping is crooked on the spine. Should I return it? If so, does Evangelical Bible pay for the shipping and restocking or do I need to spend another $25 to get a bible with straight stamping on the spine?

    • Alan – can you email me a couple of photos (or message them to me on our R.L. Allan Facebook page) so we can assess? Obviously our cases are made and the Bibles are cased in by hand so there can be some variation, as well as the natural flex in our bindings allowing some twist – but equally, we do aim to maintain the highest possible standards, so would be great to see what you’ve got there.

      Many thanks
      Ian

      • Hi Ian, thanks for the reply. I don’t have Facebook, but I can email you pictures. If you want to send me an email I will reply to it with some pictures. My email address is:

        ohmss1@gmail.com

        Thanks so much for your help.

        Alan

        • I just wanted to say that I spent time in this bible for the first time today. It is so awesome we even ordered a second one for my wife! Thanks RL Allan and Ian! Mark thanks for the website.

          Alan

  13. Has anyone compared the text block in Allan’s bible to the text block in the ordinary Hodder hardback please? If they are the same, I fail to see how Allans can justify wrapping leather around that? it’s OK as a text block, but I feel the quality is rather inferior in Hodder’s version.

    If anyone has some more info on this, I would be very appreciative.

  14. Has anyone compared the text block in Allan’s bible to the text block in the ordinary Hodder hardback please? If they are the same, I fail to see how Allans can justify wrapping leather around that? it’s OK as a text block, but I feel the quality is rather inferior in Hodder’s version.

    If anyone has some more info on this, I would be very appreciative.

  15. Hi Adam – as I think is obvious from the above, these are the same text block. As the publisher of both the Hodder and Allan editions (!) this is one of the best ‘standard’ sets of sheets we have used at Allan, printed on a Spanish-sourced Bible paper with a clear black print and a typesetting designed to the highest standards. All of those things are open to opinion, of course, but the Proclamation Bible is about to run out in its second binding and has been Allan’s bestselling NIV edition to date.

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