I'm no fan of novelty Bibles, and it would be easy at first glance to dismiss the Transetto as precisely that: a new edition based on a gimmick, adding nothing to our ability to use and appreciate the text. But there is a fundamental difference between the Transetto, Cambridge's tiny new Bible format, and the plethora of flashy niche editions cranked out every year to catch the retail customer's eye. The Transetto's "gimmick," if you want to call it that, is really good. It's a sleight of hand that opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities.
Before we open this thing up, let's take a moment for the exterior. In terms of size, the Transetto, available in three color permutations, is somewhere in the bar-of-soap, deck-of-cards region. To try and illustrate the scale, I stacked a few traditionally-bound examples on top of each other for comparison:
From bottom to top, that's an Allan's Reader's Edition ESV in tan, a Cambridge Pitt Minion ESV in brown, a Cambridge Crystal KJV in black, and the blue Transetto at the peak. Both the Pitt Minion and the Crystal are compact editions, but they dwarf the Transetto easily. When you stack the Crystal upright next to the Transetto, the difference is striking:
More striking, however, is what happens when you open the two editions side by side. The Transetto may be much smaller, but the reading experience is quite comparable. In fact, the Transetto edges out the Crystal in terms of page size once opened, as you can see:
That's where the aforementioned "gimmick" comes in. The page spread inside the Transetto is turned on its ear. You flip through top to bottom instead of side to side. In effect, the two-page spread becomes a single page, doubling the amount of space available for layout. This allows for a very compact book size that offers a comparatively large perceived page size. Very clever!
The idea, of course, is familiar to Bible Design Blog readers. I noted it in my piece about the 2Krogh + Jongbloed Design Bible. Not long after I raved about the concept (dubbed a Dwarsligger® by the creators at 2Krogh), Cambridge announced their own version ... the Transetto. Not surprisingly, the Transetto is designed by 2Krogh and printed by Jongbloed in the Netherlands, making for a fine quality edition.
Naturally, once I started making comparisons, I couldn't stop. I set aside the Crystal and grabbed an Allan's Personal Size Reference ESV in red goatskin. Not surprisingly, the PSR looks huge in comparison to the Transetto. Open the Transetto, though, and the difference isn't all the pronounced.
And consider this: the PSR is set in 7.4 point type while the Transetto is set in slightly smaller 7 point type. That's the ingenious thing about the Transetto: the specs are roughly comparable to much larger edition. This little Bible punches above its weight.
The thing the Transetto reminds me of most is not a Bible at all, but a little nineteenth century service book my wife gave me years ago, one of those tiny little things the vicar is always clutching in historical dramas, with metal edges and a little clasp. Only when I dug mine out for a comparison, I found to my surprise that the Transetto is in fact a little smaller than the service book. Smaller, but infinitely more readable.
Another factor essential to the Transetto's format is the unique binding. The pages are sewn, but the spine is not secured to the cover, which instead floats freely. This allows the Transetto to open flatter than it ordinarily would, making one-handed reading quite simple. It doesn't take a lot of pressure to keep the Transetto open. Instead, the two pages become essentially one as the book block flattens out.
So when you read the Transetto, you feel like you're holding half a book in your hand. The weight is all on your fingers, no balancing required. At first the reorientation takes some getting used to. Realizing this, the designers have placed the pagination and book titles in the usual configuration, which lets you flip through the pages to find a particular passage the way you would in any other Bible, then rotate the page for actual reading.
Will the Transetto format replace the traditional binding? Not likely. But the size benefits and the unique reading experience lift it above the realm of mere novelty in my view. Even though I don't plan to chuck my Pitt Minion, I wouldn't think twice about slipping a Transetto in my pack when I'm traveling light, or giving one as a gift -- particularly since the novelty might inspire someone to actually read what's inside.
Thanks to the 400th Anniversary and all, the first Transettos are KJVs. To accommodate the entire text instead of the portion illustrated in the Design Bible (the Psalms set in a single column), the Transetto features a double column layout, though the text is paragraphed rather than broken up verse-by-verse. Hopefully we'll see Transettos in other translations (and portions) roll out in the future.
I love the fact (illustrated above) that all the specs related to type and paper are disclosed. The Transetto is printed on 27 GSM Indolux paper in the Netherlands by Jongbloed, which has a patent pending on the concept. The book is set in 7/8 pt. Karmina Sans. It's a black letter edition, which frees the designers at 2Krogh to use color attractively on the page, as you can see in several of the photos.
In my book, the Transetto is a great little edition. As I said, I hope to see more. What I'd also like to see is the same format using a single column text setting. After all, one of the challenges when it comes to setting the Bible in one column is the ratio of type size to column width. If the type is small, the column can only be so wide ... but if the type isn't small, the text block gets prohibitively thick. Glancing over a couple of examples in the KJV Transetto, you can get an idea how a single column version might look.
When I first wrote about this concept, never having seen it in real life, here's what I had to say:
My first thought, looking at this, is: I'd buy one. My second thought is, wouldn't this make a much better "outreach" edition than most of what's out there under that title? Instead of a volume clearly manufactured to be cheap and disposable, an innovative format like this would get passed around and appreciated. It would make a very different kind of statement.
After spending some time with the Transetto, I feel the same way!