Some pastors are going to hate me for this. They send me e-mails all the time, and their biggest complaint is the small type size used in so many Bibles. How can ... mature ... eyes be expected to read these things? I know some of my readers would be happy to see legislation passed prohibiting type under 12 pt., and I feel for them. Still, I just love small Bibles. No, let me take that back: I love tiny Bibles, itsy bitsy ones. The kind you can slip in a jacket pocket and forget about. The kind you can carry with you everywhere. In this roundup, I've collected three of the smallest editions in my collection: a Compact ESV rebound by LeatherBibles.com, a Cambridge Crystal Reference KJV bound by Allan's, and a Little Oxford Bible. Let's start with the biggest and work our way down. The Compact Thinline ESV is small. The type is just over 6 pt. and the trim size is a mere 3.75 x 5.75. It offers a concordance but no references. Old eyes may find this edition unusable, but I happen to like it -- so much that I have six or seven of them lying around in various bindings: two Collins editions from the UK in hardback and paperback, two of the original bonded leather ones, a TruGlo, a bonded leather Portfolio, and this one in soft calfskin from LeatherBibles.com.
If you visit their website, you'll see that this edition is no longer available -- and for good reason. For some reason (possibly the adhesive binding), the Bible simply won't lie flat. In the photograph here, you can see that the inner part of the binding near the spine is kind of pinched together, so that the pages only spill out flower-like after the first half inch or so. Needless to say, that makes for a difficult reading experience. Having said that, the leather is attractive -- comparable to the soft calfskin used in Nelson Signature Bibles -- and it comes with two ribbons.
The second Bible in the line-up is from R. L. Allan's. It's a Cambridge Crystal Reference KJV bound in goatskin, measuring 3.75 x 5.5. The type size is comparable to the ESV, but the font seems a little more readable. When you consider how small this Bible is, under an inch thick, it's amazing to think that this is a reference Bible complete with a concordance. The goatskin cover feels exquisite, but it's a subtle luxury that only makes itself apparent with use. I wish I'd had this Bible back when I attended a church that used the so-called Authorized Version from the pulpit, because the features would have come in handy at this size. I'm not sure how this Bible, which is roughly the same thickness and width as the ESV Compact Thinline and a quarter inch shorter manages to pack so much onto the page (and offer wider margins to boot), but it does.
The last and smallest Bible in our diminutive line-up is the Little Oxford Bible. Like the Compact Thinline ESV, it offers no references, but it comes in at a mere 3.5 x 5. The sewn binding is quite supple, though it doesn't quite lay flat. The covers are French Morocco and have acquired a nice patina from use, though the ribbon is now a bit frayed. I've never encountered a smaller Bible that was actually usable -- and this one is emphatically usable, assuming you have good eyes.
The portability of these tiny Bibles is amazing. They're designed for the hand and the pocket, not the shelf. They aren't as easy to read as larger editions and perhaps they're smaller than they reasonably need to be -- but as far as I'm concerned, they're wonderful. Thanks to these itsy bitsy books, you can take a Bible with you anywhere and read to your heart's content.