Single Column Legacy ESV (Part 1): Interview with Crossway

I'm going to post a full review of Crossway's new Single Column Legacy ESV in the coming days. In the meantime, let me share an interview I conducted with the folks at Crossway. Randy Jahns, Senior VP of Sales, Marketing, and Bible Production, invited me to send some questions and he tracked down the answers from various team members at Crossway. Here is the result, along with some quick snaps of the Single Column Legacy in brown genuine leather.

Q. If you had told me in 2001, when I started using the ESV, that ten years later it would be one of the best-supported translations in the world, available in a rich variety of formats, I would have been surprised. Back then, I was doubtful whether there would ever be a wide margin edition. It’s a testament to how much effort Crossway has put into the ESV, and how responsive you’ve been to reader feedback. Tell me, how exactly does a new edition come about inside Crossway? Where do the ideas come from, how are they developed, how long does it take from idea to finished Bible?

Most of our Bible ideas are generated in-house, by our internal Bible Publishing Committee.  Also, we love hearing customer feedback: what new features and formats they would like to see in a text Bible, etc. We factor this helpful feedback into the new projects that we are developing. 

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New Bible ideas go through multiple stages of review by the committee before approval and publication. Usually this process begins with the review of a brief proposal and summary of the new idea. Then it progresses to a careful review of sample pages and proposed specifications.  The initial idea for the Legacy Bible originated in 2009.

Once an idea is approved it can take anywhere from eight months to multiple years to go from idea to finished Bible. 

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Q. What is the story behind the Single Column Legacy ESV? How did the idea originate?

The original project was conceived under the working title of “Reader’s Thinline Bible.” The goal was to create a single-column, text-only, reader’s edition that focused on an inviting readable page and beautiful design. 

Our Bible typesetter relied heavily on Canadian typesetter Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style as he developed the page design. Essentially, we tried to follow the "Renaissance Ideal" or "perfect page" layout. This layout refers to a set of principles called the “canons of page construction” that all focus around a 2:3 ration of page geometry. Jan Tschichold reintroduced this typographic ideal in the twentieth century, calling it a method “upon which it is impossible to improve” and which produces “the perfect book.” We stuck closely to this design philosophy, although we did have to make a few adjustments for the sake of overall page count.

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Q. For a lot of people in the Bible Design Blog community, this looks like the one we’ve been waiting for. When the marketing copy uses phrases like “the Renaissance ideal of a perfect page,” I get dizzy with glee. What was it like for the designers working on such a uniquely anticipated project? 

It was a tremendous encouragement to note the interest on your blog and elsewhere when people were first hearing about it. We loved this Bible already, but it was great to know that there was already an audience who appreciated what we were trying to accomplish!

At the point that the Bible Design Blog community started talking about it, we were mostly done with the typesetting process, but we’ve definitely put a lot of time into the small details of this important ESV Bible edition.

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Q. The most striking things about the page spread are that there are no cross-references and even the section headings are moved to the margin. What was the thinking behind these choices?

From the initial idea of having a Reader’s Thinline, we wanted the Bible text itself to be beautiful on the page, with simple and effective design. Our goal was to achieve clean blocks of uninterrupted text that would aid in the reading experience, which is why we moved the headings into the margin. This also added the benefit of slightly shortening the overall page count. 

One of the things you can’t see in the sample PDFs is the effect of the “line on line” typesetting, which we use for the Single Column Legacy and several other ESV Bible editions.  To achieve this, we employ a set typesetting grid, which allocates a full line of space for each line of Bible text.  This effectively “lines up” each line of Bible text with a line of text on the opposite side of the page. This eliminates some of the show-through and helps make the printed page look cleaner.  It also increases the readability and visual appeal. 

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Q. From a design and binding standpoint, one of the things I appreciated about the ESV Study Bible is the colophon, which included the typefaces used, the specs on the paper, and the fact that R. R. Donnelley & Sons had done the printing and binding. Can you fill out the colophon on the Legacy ESV for us?

Printer: Legatoria Editoriale Giovanni Olivotto (located in Vicenza, Italy)

Font: Lexicon, 9 pt / 10.75 pt

Paper: 36 gsm Thincoat Plus

Q. It appears there will be four cover options: two TruTones, a black genuine leather, and a brown top grain leather. I’ve always been a fan of Crossway’s “cordovan calfskin” bindings. Is the brown top grain leather the same, or something different?

Although it comes from a different supplier than some of our other calfskin Bibles, the Legacy’s top grain cover is Italian natural calfskin.  Since it is made from the whole skin (not split), it maintains both the characteristic soft feel of calfskin and the individual markings that differ from cover to cover. The hubs on the spine are handcrafted.

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Q. Whenever a new single column edition comes out, there are two questions readers always ask me, so let me ask them of you: (1) I realize the Single Column Legacy ESV already has a usable outer margin, but might there ever be a dedicated wide margin edition? (2) Is there any chance of the Single Column Legacy being offered in a hardcover edition? 

Although these options are not currently on the schedule, we appreciate the suggestions!

And finally, I’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you to the design and production team at Crossway. You’ve set a fine standard in Bible publishing, and with the Single Column Legacy ESV, it appears you may have done some of your best work yet.