How to Carry Your Bible

Q. I like to carry my Bible with me, but I don't want to damage it. Do you have any suggestions about Bible covers or cases? 

A. Absolutely: Don't do it! At least, don't get one of those oversized, zip-around briefcase style thingies for toting around your Bible, a dozen different highlighters, and a year's worth of church bulletins. Or one of those frilly, lace-edged ones Holly Hobby ones. Generally speaking, avoid even the appearance of kitsch. Better to hold your Bible in your hand than to sheath it in one of those things.

Maybe I'm exaggerating for effect. But I'm kind of serious, too. When it comes to protecting your Bible, there are inelegant solutions and elegant ones. The advantage of the inelegant ones is that they're easy. The market is flooded with unattractive Bible covers and holders. Christian Book Distributors has a whole section devoted to them. I don't find any of them aesthetically pleasing, and some are downright depressing. 

So on to the elegant options:

(1) Bag with fitted pocket. This is my typical solution. I've selected briefcases with the problem of keeping a Bible intact in mind, so my current one has pockets to accommodate my "carry" Bible, the ESV Deluxe Compact in pigskin I wrote about recently, and also an Allan's ESV1 if I decide to bring one along (different pocket, of course). This requires some fussiness up front -- finding just the right bag -- but is painless going forward, since it doesn't require keeping track of a case, and doesn't look like you're carrying your Bible around in a protective sheath. This is the most elegant approach, because it gets the job done without calling attention to the fact. 

Above: On the left, my ESV Deluxe Compact is tucked into a book-sized pocket stitched inside a, well, pocket. 
On the right, an ESV3 dropped inside a big side pocket. Nothing else is in there, so it should be fine.

Now I realize that Option #1 might not seem like an answer, since it's as simple as tucking the unprotected Bible into an existing pocket. But that's what I like about it. No fuss. And to my mind, carrying a regular satchel or briefcase is a lot more practical than a standalone "Bible case," which won't have room for other stuff.

Above: The antique brown ESV3 slipped into one of the side pouches of a smaller, thinner briefcase.

(2) Slipcase. For an added level of protection, there's always the slipcase. Cambridge used to supply their Bibles in two-part slipcases. Using the part the book slides into, you could protect your Bible from undue harm and still remove it easily. Library of America slipcases its hardbacks this way, and it's a great idea. Unfortunately, Cambridge discontinued the process. But you can make your own slipcase following instructions like these. Perhaps there are bookbinders who still make them, too?

Above: An NIV Pocket Cross Reference Bible in its slipcase. Ready for anything.

The slipcase essentially functions the way a laptop sleeve would. When you put your computer in a padded sleeve, you don't have to worry about whether your briefcase or bag has a built-in compartment. The sleeve transforms any bag into an appropriate vehicle for technology. Of course, the slipcase isn't padded, so don't get crazy with it. While the slipcase is a bit fussier than nothing at all, it gives an added level of protection if you're worried about dings and scratches.

(3) Portfolio. If you're really looking for aesthetic pleasure, you could always carry your Bible (along with pens, notebooks, etc.) in a zippered portfolio. I photographed an Allan's NIV poking out of one, and people mistook it for a high end Bible case, which is what originally sparked the idea. The nice thing about the portfolio idea is that you can use it for other applications, as a standalone case. Then, whenever you want to transport your Bible, just slip it inside for carry, or put the portfolio in a larger case. Here are a couple of links: Levenger, Papworth, Aspinal. Those are all pricey, but there are cheaper options out there. I found one in my local Staples that would do the job for not much cash. 

Above: A TNIV Reference Bible inside the Levenger portfolio.

Option #3 is really Option #1 stripped down to essentials. I don't know that getting a portfolio for the express purpose of carrying a Bible around makes a lot of sense, but if you have one already, it's a pretty effective, minimalist means of achieving the end.

(4) Custom. I'm not really a fan of the rustic look, but if you are, you might get in touch with Renaissance Art and see whether you can have one of their custom laptop bags made to fit your Bible of choice. They also offer a cafe-style bag that one reader, Edward Lyons, points out fits the Allan's ESV1 perfectly. He slips an Allan's Journal in the back pocket and is ready to go!

Above: Renaissance Art's Essential Satchel, true to its name, holds the essentials.

(5) Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. I can't bring this to a close, though, without making a quick case for doing nothing at all -- i.e., for taking no special precautions. There's a difference between use and abuse. A quality Bible is better adapted to use than the perfect bound softcovers we so readily jam into any available space, so why baby it? Sure, it costs more, but the way I see it, you're paying not to have to take special precautions. You certainly shouldn't have to go out of your way. No matter what you do, your nice Bible isn't going to remain pristine unless you leave it in the box. So bite the bullet and take some damage. You might be surprised how liberated you feel.

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While I've exhausted all the options I can think of, I'm sure there are others I've left out. If so, please share. And if you feel the urge to set me straight about Bible covers, then feel free to do so. I look forward to hearing how other people would answer the question.