Single Column Legacy ESV (Part 3): Legacy vs. Clarion

Nothing lasts forever, but if you're waiting on a nicely-bound single column ESV, you might have your doubts. The Clarions seem to have been recalled due to a typographical error in the Old Testament, and the brown cowhide Legacy was pushed back thanks to problems with the binding. All we know for certain is that, some time in 2012, some of us will be pondering the profound question: Legacy vs. Clarion? Here they are to make a comparison:


Clarion (left) vs. Legacy (right)

For the moment, both of the editions pictured above might as well be bound in unobtainium. What you're looking at is, on the right, one of the now-delayed brown cowhide Single Column Legacy ESVs. The problem with this run is that the cover separates from the liner, probably due to the thickness of board used in the spine, which doesn't allow much flex. On the left, you're looking at an unbound text block of the Clarion ESV, the guts of what would be a brown calfskin edition (hence the brown ribbons). While neither of these are quite ready for the market, we can make some helpful observations. 

The Clarion is about an eighth of an inch thicker than the Legacy, but nearly two inches shorter and a half inch narrower. It feels lighter and much more compact in the hand. The art gilt edges are nicer than the Legacy's gold gilt. The Clarion is printed and bound by Jongbloed in the Netherlands, while the Legacy is printed and bound in Italy by Legatoria Editoriale Giovanni Olivotto. The Clarion's text column is 3.5 inches wide and 6 inches tall. The Legacy's text column is 4 inches wide and about 7 inches tall. Both are set in Lexicon type: the Clarion in 8.75 pt. with 10.25 pt. leading and the Legacy in 9 pt. with 10.75 pt. leading. The Legacy features classical page proportions, which means a beautiful and usable outer and bottom margin. The Clarion has cross references in the outer margin. 


Both editions show ghosting through the page, particularly in poetry sections. The Legacy's paper appears whiter and more opaque to my eye, and less prone to curling than the Clarion's. If the numbers make them seem quite similar, in reality they are very different, particularly in terms of size:


Clarion (left) is smaller than the Legacy (right).
Below, the Clarion (top) compared to the Legacy (bottom).


In the first photo above, you see the Clarion text block wrapped in black goatskin cover. Pardon the mismatch of brown ribbon and black leather. Next to it is the genuine leather edition of the Legacy. In the photo immediately above, the Clarion KJV in brown calf rests atop the brown cowhide Legacy. As you can see, the Clarion is the more compact of the two, a thick mid-size edition compared to the Legacy's full-size status. 

So with the comparisons out of the way, which is better, Legacy or Clarion?

If you're looking for an uncluttered reading experience, the Legacy is your choice. The slightly larger type, the better paper, and the elegant proportions all combine to make the Single Column Legacy ESV an attractive choice for extended periods of reading. While the verse numbers are still in the text, removing the section headings to the margin really does promote an unhindered flow. The cowhide edition opens flat and is quite limp, while the genuine leather doesn't open flat and will require some break-in. The Legacy is attractively priced and would make a wonderful rebinding project, too.

The Clarion ESV possesses the same magic for me as the original I reviewed last year. If you're looking for a compact single column ESV with cross references, this is your choice. While the type is smaller than the Legacy's, this is ameliorated by the narrower text column, which some readers will prefer. The thinner, less opaque paper shows more ghosting and is prone to curling at the edges, giving the Legacy an objective edge -- but if you're willing to trade some opacity for a smaller footprint and cross references, the Clarion really shines. 

This wouldn't be Bible Design Blog if I didn't make the case for having both the Legacy and the Clarion. When I first realized that the Clarion and Legacy would be coming out at roughly the same time, the either/or dilemma seemed particuarly tense. Then it dawned on me how different the proportions would be. It's a no brainer, now. These two editions are sufficiently different to justify both.

While they don't integrate quite a fully as the Cambridge Pitt Minion and Wide Margin, I envision a similar division of labor, with the the Clarion cast as the all-arounder, the one you tote with you on the road, and the Legacy as the edition you go to for serious reading and study. As my own tastes change, I find myself increasingly drawn to leather hardback bindings. Imagine the Legacy and Clarion each shorn of their factory covers, rebound in hardcover in matching shades of brown (or possibly green) goatskin. That would be heaven, if you ask me.


In the English-speaking world, we've always been spoiled for choice when it comes to translations and the variety of editions. Users of the ESV enjoy more choice than most. Even so, it's quite a pleasure at long last to be writing not about "when will we ever get a decent single column text setting" but "which of these splendid options is the best fit for me."