The Brevier Clarendon is back and more interesting than ever. R. L. Allan's earlier edition of this classic Oxford KJV text setting (reviewed here) sold out some time ago, but it's been resurrected both in its original form factor and as a beautiful wide margin edition. In this post, we'll look at the wide margin, which is available in two bindings, both of them black. The softbound 5WM - Highland Goatskin will set you back a little more than the 7WM - Italian split calfskin, but adds some nice touches in return. These Bibles are available direct from R. L. Allan and from

Here's something new. A quick silent movie to give you an idea of the handling experience of the highland goatskin edition:

Enjoy it? I hope so ... Here's the same thing again, this time with the split calf edition:

(Note: I've already written about the excellent paper quality in this edition: "'Opaque, Lightweight and Writeable?': Putting an Allan Brevier to the Test." Since the whole point of a wide margin edition is to write in the margin, paper is a big concern. I'll say a little bit more about the paper below, but to see how it holds up to fountain pen ink, follow the link.) 

In addition to being printed in the Netherlands by Jongbloed, the new Brevier Clarendons (both standard and wide margin editions) were bound there, too. The split calf binding bears a strong resemblance to the recent split calf editions from Cambridge, also bound by Jongbloeds, but the upscale goatskin edition has upgraded specs like an attractive blue leather lining. This is what the Brevier wide margin looks like compared to the Allan ESV Reader's Edition:


The biggest difference between the two is the way the cover of the Brevier projects straight out instead of curving over the page edges. This gives the Brevier an exaggerated footprint. 

To match the pretty navy ribbons, the goatskin-bound Brever has a blue leather lining. The cover boasts the same limp feeling as the UK-bound Allan editions in highland goatskin, though the imprinting inside is different. 

In the photo below, you can see how the cover is attached to the text block. Instead of pasted-down endpapers to hold it in place (which is how hardback books and many Bibles are bound), the blue tab is pasted under the endpaper attached to the text block:


Inside, the goatskin and split calf editions are identical. The margins are generous, even on the inside, which means you can write notes next to either column of text -- a big advantage compared to double-column wide margins that only give you space next to the outer column. The goatskin edition has three navy ribbons and the split calf comes with three red ones.

In both editions, lined notepaper is bound in back. This is a handy place to keep notes or outlines you refer to frequently. For example, I have a Bible whose lined paper I've used to copy outlines of how the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ were developed biblically -- essentially a digest of the "argument" in each case. In another, I've copied various quotations from theological sources. You can also use these pages for regular note-taking ... but since they're bound into the Bible, I tend to think through what I want to write before making it permanent.


The goatskin cover is very limp and flexible, as you'd expect. While I'd prefer to see the edges curved over, in every other respect, the cover is excellent. 


The Italian split calfskin cover -- also called Dollaro split calfskin -- is stiffer, with a deep, printed grain. This is the go-to edition for those of you who prefer more structure in a cover. I love limp bindings, but as I've mentioned before, I can appreciate the desire for more rigidity. When I first started using my goatskin Pitt Minion, I was really disappointed by how stiff the cover was, and now it's pretty much perfect. Some of us want to break a Bible in.


I'm also happy about these covers (both the Allan version and the ones from Cambridge) because it's nice seeing calfskin making a comeback. A decade and a half ago, goatskin bindings were pretty rare. Most of the luxury editions were bound in calfskin. Over the last ten years, the pendulum swung and finding a calfsking-bound Bible became pretty hard. There are so many wonderful leathers available to bookbinders, so it's refreshing to see some variety.

As you can see below, the split calf edition is bound in the more traditional way, with the endpaper pasted down, overlapping the folded edge of the leather cover. 


As I mentioned in my paper test post, I was fortunate enough to be provided with an unbound, untrimmed text block from the Brevier wide margin print run. This gives me the opportunity to say a few things about the way fine books are made. When you hold the stack of unbound signatures in your hand, it's rather hard to imagine their finished form. They appear quite humble really:

When the sheets are printed, the black boxes you can see in the photo below include numbers to ensure that the individual signatures are arranged in order. Although these booklets are unsewn, the perforations have been made in the spine for needle and thread to follow. Once sewn, the page edges would be trimmed evenly before gilding. 


Here's an individual signature:


As you can see, it's a slender booklet. Every folded sheet contains four pages. In this bundle, there are eighteen sheets, a total of 72 pages. Looking at the unbound sheets, you'd think the margins are especially vast -- but as I mentioned, some of that white space will be trimmed away during the binding process.

I'm not as big a fan of maps in Bibles as I was during my often-bored childhood, when they helped releive the tedium of an over-long sermon. (Though I found myself daydreaming just as often about the conquests of Alexander as the missionary journeys of Paul.) Having the untrimmed maps from the Brevier is a real delight. The bars on the side help pressmen check that the color is correct.


On modern editions, this is what I like to see. The Jongbloed name always reassures me. They do consistently great work. 

Thanks to Allan's decision to produce both standard and wide margin editions of the Brevier Clarendon setting, readers can enjoy the benefits of a one-two combination. Use the smaller one for reading and carrying, the larger for study and teaching. The location of passages remains consistent between the two, facilitating an easy transition back and forth. Cambridge has been doing the same thing with their Pitt Minions and Wide Margins, and I love it.

(Note to Cambridge: A Clarion wide margin to go with the standard Clarion would make my day. In the immortal words of King Claudius: "Do it, England.")

The Breviers are thus aimed at the many readers who continue to use the KJV and prefer a classic Oxford two-column setting. They're nicely appointed and beautifully printed on good quality India paper. If you're a dedicated fan of the Authorized Version and you can't get on board with my love for single column settings, a brace of Breviers would suit you nicely!