Last week's piece about Chad Whitacre's edition of the gospels has me thinking about my favorite "portion" editions. The two that come to mind are pocket-sized, single column text settings perfect in every way for serious reading. Unfortunately they are also incomplete realizations of the concept.

First, there's the ultimate example, the Pocket Canon. Then there's Crossway's similarly-sized edition of the Gospel of John. (I have a copy of the Psalms, too, but I can't seem to locate it!) 

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I call them incomplete realizations because there aren't editions available for every book of the Bible. You can go much farther with the Pocket Canon, but ultimately you run out of booklets. Since these little editions seem like a perfect way to read through the Bible, I wish someone would run with the idea and do all sixty-six books. 

What there is of them, however, is magnificent:

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The Pocket Canon is slightly smaller than the Gospel of John, roughly the same size as the Apica CD10 notebook I was praising last week. I could see slipping Pocket Canon and Apica into the same pocket with ease, toting them around as I read and take notes on whichever book I happen to be on. These little volumes seem especially well suited to group book studies. You'd get each member a copy, just as you would in any book group, and voila!

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There is, of course, nothing new under the sun. In 1917, as American doughboys shipped off to the trenches, the American Bible Society sent these tiny Army and Navy Editions along with them. I happen to have St. John and Proverbs, perfectly sized to slip into a soldier's tunic pocket. They're very thin, staple-bound with what appears to be a paper-backed linen cover. The only downside to this kind of portability it that I doubt one of these could stop a Mauser bullet. 

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Unlike the Pocket Canon, which also uses the KJV, the text inside is not paragraphed. There is no celebrity introduction in front, either. For such a small edition I find the type quite readable. 

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Admittedly, I have a soft spot for little booklets like this. I think Penguin 60s are the best thing ever, for example, and I have enough of them to prove it:

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To me, the Pocket Canon illustrates that with a little thought and good design, a volume that's cheaply produced can also be a thing of beauty -- and great utility. Perhaps some enterprising publisher will catch the bug and put out an entire pocket-sized canon. As Chad Whitacre demonstrates, the tools are readily available to us now. Maybe we should just make our own!