R. L. Allan's NRSV Cross Reference Edition in Black Grained Goatskin

As I've mentioned before, it's not easy to find a quality edition of the NRSV these days. From time to time, I receive an e-mail from someone on the search. These days, I'm recommending R. L. Allan's NRSV Cross Reference Edition (NRSV1*) in black goatskin. It's an excellent setting of the text with a good quality binding, though I'm quite to point out it isn't bound in flexible highland goatskin, but rather a glossier, more rigid variety. If you follow the link above, you'll see it sells at Bibles-Direct.com for £65.00, which works out to just under US $100 at recent exchange rates. Money well spent, if you ask me.

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For the uninitiated, Allan's 101: this Glasgow-based firm acquires text blocks (i.e., the papery thing inside the cover) from a variety of publishers, then has them bound shod in quality bindings. Unlike a publisher, Allan's doesn't design or print the interior. In the case of this NRSV (and the Allan's ESV), Collins published the text block, which was then bound in goatskin by Allan's.

I believe -- though I haven't seen it in person to confirm -- that the text block features the same layout as this Collins hardcover available from Amazon UK, if you'd like an inexpensive companion edition bound in less robust fashion. 

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My understanding is that, unlike highland goatskin -- which has natural grain, this goatskin is stamped, and the heat involved in that process results in a more rigid material. (By the way, anyone with a better way of explaining the process should feel free to leave a comment.) Still, this is attractive stuff, on par with (though a little different from) Cambridge's stiffer goatskin offerings like the Pitt Minion. If you haven't experienced highland goatskin and thus have no ideal to compare it with, this will do nicely.

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The cover features an attractive semi-yapp edge and art-gilt pages. There's just one ribbon, but it's a nice, thick one -- a little short for my taste, but those of you complaining about the long ribbons in the Allan's ESV should like this one! It has a sewn binding, of course, and opens flat.

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Inside, you'll find one of the best double-column settings of the NRSV I've ever seen, a tasteful combination of serif and sans-serif type that reminds me -- especially with those dotted lines demarcating the reference column -- of the beloved NIV Bold Print Reference. Every design decision contributes to a clean, readable result, from the line-spacing to the boldface section headings. Collins did an excellent job on this layout. It's really superlative.

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Some of you have had the pleasure (or misfortune, as the case may be) of seeing me lecture in person. If you're in that group, you might recognize the photo below. I like this setting so much, I've been using it to illustrate my slides! This photo is also useful to those of you trying to gauge whether the level of bleed-through on this edition is acceptable to you. Click for a larger version, and you'll have a good idea. As always, there's ghosting, but the paper reads as white and the printing impression is dark and sharp enough to provide good contrast.

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The thickness of the ribbon comes through in this shot, too. It's not a big deal in the overall scheme of things, but I must confess I appreciate a wide ribbon so much more than the stringy things most Bibles come with. 

In the levitation shot (below), you get a pretty good idea of the cover's flexibility. Not limp by any means, but flexible enough. Typing those words -- "flexible enough" -- I feel like I'm damning this edition with faint praise. That's not my intention at all. This is the best NRSV I know of at the moment, and it's quite good. But Allan's has really raised the bar with highland goatskin, so I can't help making comparisons!

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It's a sign of quality, I think, when a Bible with a more rigid cover can assume one of my yoga positions and recover gracefully. This one does, as you can see.

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There's not much demand for the NRSV among the evangelicals who drive the market, and as a result there isn't nearly the support for this translation. If you want a hardback academic Study Bible, you shouldn't have any trouble, but for a quality leather-bound edition, you have to look harder. I'm happy to report that the Allan's NRSV Cross Reference Edition is a great option. Check it out, and your quest might just come to an end.