Crimond House is the publishing wing of Ards Evangelical Bookshop in Northern Ireland. In 2007, they published the Two Versions Bible, resurrecting an out-of-print text setting from 1899 which includes the King James Version with variants from the Revised Version noted in the outer margin. Not only is the edition a fascinating historical artifact, but it also provides an opportunity to highlight a small publisher who decided to do everything right.
In the late nineteenth century, as the project to revise the venerable King James Version came to completion, English-speaking readers were faced with a challenge very difficult for their twenty-first century descendants to imagine. They had grown up with a single translation of Scripture, its words interwoven into their culture and literature going back nearly three centuries. And now at long last, the translation was being revised -- not just modernized, but actually changed. How was one to keep track of the differences?
Come to think of it, maybe that's not such a difficult scenario for us to imagine. Even today, when revisions are announced to favorite translations, a wave of uneasiness spreads through the ranks. "What are they going to change this time?" people ask, sometimes with excitement, often with dread. It's like finding out the government revised your birth certificate and changed your middle name to Maurice. In other words: unsettling.
For Victorians, there was an answer to the dilemma in the form of editions like the Two Version Bible, which spelled out the differences clearly. I have seen a couple of KJV/RV interlinears before, including a hardcover Cambridge which sits on my shelf:
Above: Cambridge's KJV/RV Interlinear Bible
Confusing? Yes, it is. Once you get the hang of it, though, not so much. The Cambridge Interlinear gives you the text of the KJV right up until there's a variant. Then the line breaks into superscript and subscript, with the King James reading on bottom and the Revised Version reading on top. In the photo above, if you were reading verse 36, you'd see that the KJV has it: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Whereas the RV reads: "But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only." The two changes are immediately evident as you scan the text -- though it does get a little difficult to disentangle them.
The Two Version Bible takes a much simpler approach. The text of the King James is in the column, with notes in the margin indicating where the Revised Version differs.
Whereas the Cambridge approach allows the nimble-eyed to read either the KJV or the RV aloud, the Two Version Bible is geared more to the KJV reader who'd like to be aware when the RV differs from what he's accustomed to. As the photo above illustrates, the KJV's reading of Matthew 24:36 is given in the text column: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."
The superscript numbers next to "man" and "but my Father only," signal marginal notes, where we find the RV substituting "one, not even" for "man," and inserting "neither the Son," between the angels and the Father. For good measure, there's another note on the second instance explaining that "many authorities, some ancient, omit neither the Son," taking back with one hand what it gives with the other.
Both editions feature cross references in the inside margin. Because it renders the KJV in an uninterrupted flow, the Two Version Bible can still serve its original purpose for modern readers of the King James who want to be alerted when the text underlying the translation is in doubt.
Contributing to the Two Version Bible's continued usability is its form. Crimond House had never ventured into the world of Bible publishing before, though in the past they had commissioned special editions from oxford and Cambridge. To ensure a good result, they enlisted the help of an agent who had formerly been Oxford's Bible manager in the UK, Nigel Lynn. The edition was printed and bound in the Netherlands by Jongbloed.
The Two Version Bible features one of Jongbloed's excellent edge-lined bindings, in which no bookboard is inserted between the outer leather and the polyurethane lining, resulting in a limp, flexible cover. It also comes with beautiful art-gilt page edges. There's only one ribbon. It's black and a bit skimpy. Otherwise everything about this nicely-appointed edition feels right.
The cover is soft, grainy calfskin that peels back easily (see above) offering very little resistance. Even better? Jongbloed recommended a 40 gsm paper manufactured in the Czech Republic. As a result, the Two Version Bible seems impressively opaque in comparison with many of its contemporaries. Like vintage Bibles, there is some showthrough, but it is less pronounced than we've grown accustomed to in modern editions. Isn't it strange that a small outfit on its first outing in the world of Bible publishing can manage what so many of the experienced players don't?
It's really time for the opacity of Bible paper to increase. While no one expects miracles, I would like to see publishers start disclosing the specs of the paper used in their editions -- not to mention using higher spec paper. Even if the increased cost were passed along to readers, we would be happy to foot the bill. When I asked people on the BIble Design Blog Facebook page whether they'd pay an extra $10 or even $20 to cover the cost of opaque paper, the affirmatives were overwhelming. In reality, the increased cost would be less, perhaps much less.
Glued bindings are great for Bibles nobody is reading. The same goes for cheap, translucent paper. Those of us who buy Bibles with the intention of using them expect quality binding and quality paper.
The Two Version Bible delivers both. I have to say, it's quite strange to be handling what looks like a vintage Bible in decidedly non-vintage ways. The cover pancakes under the weight of the book block when I apply one of my patented yoga moves:
Like the edge-lined covers from Cambridge, which it strongly resembles, the Two Version Bible has a stitched turn-in providing additional reinforcement and decoration.
When I hear of small publishers resurrecting long out-of-print books, I tend to imagine muddy photocopies and cheap glued bindings. Nothing about the Two Versions Bible fits this stereotype. It's nicely printed on fine paper with a quality leather binding. It even comes in an attractive, sturdy crimson box. If you like your King James with a twist of late Victorian RV, the Two Version Bible would be an excellent choice.