This is going to take some explaining. Let's start with the hat. It's a foldaway trilby from Christys' of London, and as the name suggests, it's claim to fame is that you can fold the thing up and stick it in the red tube. 


Above: A foldaway trilby from Christys' of London, a storage tube, and some gloves.

Below: The same hat, stuffed inside the tube for safe keeping.


Okay, so what does this have to do with the Allan's NIVC1 in dark brown goatskin? Is it starting to dawn on you? "Oh, no he isn't ... "

Yes. I am. Before:


And after:


Your eyes do not deceive you. That's a Bible measuring approximately 6.5" x 10" x 1", and I just rolled it into a tight circle and stuck it in the foldaway hat tube. And there was plenty of room to spare. So would you like to know more about this Bible? I thought so.

If you've been reading Bible Design Blog long enough, it should be familiar already. This is the same NIVC I wrote about in March 2008, only back then it was bound in fairly stiff, grainy brown calfskin. Very attractive, but not the sort of thing you'd want to pack away with your trilby in the travel tube. Now the NIVC1 is back, sporting an incredibly limp, leather-lined natural highland goatskin cover.

It makes a bit of a difference.


Above: The NIVC1 in highland goatskin. A nice makeover.

I've recently waxed eloquent about short, fat Bibles, but even there I alluded to the fact that a tall, wide, thinline seems ideally suited to certain kinds of binding. When you put a liquidly limp cover like this one on a Bible with as generous a footprint as the NIVC1, the result is almost magical. A big, floppy text block with a big, floppy cover equals ... well, you can see what it equals. Something remarkably tactile and compulsively touchable.

Inside, the NIVC1 looks familiar. This edition sports two ribbons instead of one. Otherwise, things have stayed the same. This is a cross reference edition of the NIV complete with concordance.


Above: Now the NIVC1 sports two ribbons.

The difference is on the outside. As I mentioned in my earlier piece on the calfskin NIVC1, I happen to love that pebble grain cover. The brown calfskin covers Allan's has made, while stiffer than natural goatskin, take color dramatically, making them striking subjects to photograph. But the goatskin covers are as much for the hands as the eyes. You might think the pebbled calf looks as good or better, but believe me, it feels nothing like the new goatskin cover.





Above: The old NIVC1 and the new, side by side.

The layout of the NIVC1 is not my favorite. That honor still goes to the NIV Bold Print Reference, which features the most compulsively readable two-column text setting I've ever come across. This one is quite good, though, and where the Bold Print Reference looks very modern and up-to-date, the NIVC has a classic air, a sophistication that its thicker cousin doesn't necessarily possess. 


Above: Getting all artistic with the double column layout.

The more flexible cover transforms my sense of the NIVC1's size. I remember trying to hold the original on my lap in church, always struggling a bit with the form factor. Thanks to the rigid cover, there was no folding the sides over. Open flat, the footprint measured something like 13" x 10", more than a handful. But the natural goatskin's limpness abolishes that impression. The cover drapes gracefully, and can even be doubled over without damage to the spine or leather. 

This is one of the advantages of a flexible cover that people often overlook. "I could never hold that thing in one hand! It would flop over!" In reality, you fold one side under and things are just fine. It makes managing a larger Bible that much easier.


Above: The trim size of a limp Bible doesn't equal its footprint. As you can see, one side can be doubled over without damaging the book, making a large Bible much handier. (Rocks sold separately.)


Above: A detail of the text.


Above: A detail of the concordance.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that a limp cover is pure necessity, without even a hint of luxe splendor. There's plenty of that, too. In fact, my guess is that for the first couple of weeks, you'll find yourself holding this Bible even when you're not reading -- giving it a twist here and a bend there, telling yourself you're helping "break it in." As I said, this cover is compulsively touchable. Matched to this large, thin text block, the highland goatskin comes alive. You may have other Bibles similarly bound, but you don't know this hide until you've experienced it like this. Fluid, flexible, water-like -- it soon exhausts the metaphors.


Above: A C-curve, shot from above, gives a great idea of the cover's natural grain.

After opening with the hat tube, a little yoga seems almost anticlimactic. But it's not. When you look at these shots, pay attention to the long, low oval formed under the spine. A stiffer cover supports the weight of the text block more, resulting in a rounder opening. When a Bible sinks into this low-slung posture, you know the cover is especially limp.



Another thing you might not appreciate without seeing the inside of the cover (below) is how thin it is. The fit and finish here is splendid, a testament to the bookbinder's craft. The inside is a darker brown than the cover, stamped HIGHLAND GOATSKIN in gold foil.


The cover inspired me to experiment with other angles, trying to illustrate just how flexible it feels in the hand. They might require a little explaining, so here goes. Below, you see me pinching the lower corner of the NIVC1 between thumb and forefinger, then letting the rest hang freely. Note how the cover rolls in harmony with the text block. Pure poetry.


Again with the curls -- this time (below), I stood the NIVC on its edge, then let the weight naturally arc the cover downward. The slouching elegance of an unstructured suit jacket.


Finally, though perhaps not as dramatic, this graceful, almost meandering curve, like a bend in an art-gilt river:


Ecstasies aside, the popularity of the NIV over the years means that it remains one of the best supported recent translations. There are many different editions out there for people who use the translation. The NIV has been around long enough that some are vintage, too, with the corresponding up-ticks in quality. 

Even so, I find that the NIVC1 occupies a unique niche, thanks to its size. I've written about a variety of NIVs at Bible Design Blog, but this has to be the biggest. Cambridge offers the Pitt Minion and (if you can hunt one down) the Pocket Cross Reference, both quite handy. The Bold Print Reference from Allan's was larger, but is no longer available. But the thin, deceptively huge NIVC1, now clad in limp goatskin, seems rather unique. I like it ... but then, that much should be obvious by now.


* * *


The NIVC1 lists for $145 at, the US distributor for Allan's Bibles. It's available in both black and brown. New stock is expected shortly, and editions in buffalo grain goatskin (designated NIVC3) are also available for pre-order as of this writing.

NIVC1 in Black Highland Goatskin

NIVC1 in Brown Highland Goatskin

You'll find a complete listing of editions and pricing at the Allan's NIVC1 page at, too.