Four years after its release, the Pitt Minion ESV remains one of my go-to editions. To borrow from the late Steve Jobs, this Bible has a "magical" form factor. It's small and thin enough to qualify as a compact edition, but sufficiently full-featured to serve as your main (or only) Bible. I wrote about the Pitt Minion in depth when the new editions first came out. Today, we'll bring the story up to date and take a look at one of the new cover options: brown split calf.

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In some respects, my love for the Pitt Minion makes no sense. As you know, I'm an advocate for single column, paragraphed text settings -- Bibles that look like the kind of books you read, not the ones in which you merely look things up. I also tend to prefer the "less in more" approach when it comes to inserting study apparatus in the text. If they're subtle, I can abide chapter and verse numbers, and even section headings. But everything else, including cross references, leaves me cold.

On top of that, the books that feel best in my hand tend to be short and stout. Our mania for thinline editions seems to do more harm than good, in my view. When your 1000+ page, small-print Bible is half the thickness of a 300-page thriller in hardback (and ten times more difficult to read), I'm not sure the trade-offs are really worth it.

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And yet, for the past four years, the Bible I've done more reading from, more teaching from, and even more preaching from is the Cambridge Pitt Minion. Why? Despite the smaller size, I find the Pitt Minion quite readable. The relative proportion of type size to column width seems to work, even if I have to hold the page rather close to my middle-aged eyes in certain light. Also, the slightly-larger-than-compact size makes the Pitt Minion easy to handle, easy to hold onto. 

Probably the best thing the Pitt Minion has going for it is its spring-open binding. These Bibles lay flat, and that's the most important handling characteristic I look for. 

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The Pitt Minion is printed and bound by Jongbloed in the Netherlands, and recently Jongbloed has been turning out some excellent split calf bindings. They're not as limp as goatskin, not as elegant as fine calf, but they are attractive and affordable alternatives to the run-of-the-mill bindings most publishers are still offering. They have visual and tactile interest.

Finely grained leather often appears more elegant. A deep printed grain like we see in this split calf conveys more rugged connotations. The covers feel more rugged in the hand, too, which may be as much a function of the board under the leather as the skin itself. The brown split calf cover in the photos reminds me quite a bit of my brown goatskin Pitt Minion when I first received it: nice to look at, and stiff enough to stand all on its own.

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There was a time when I abhored such stiffness. I wanted Bibles to come out of the box like melted chocolate, as elegant and slouchy as an odalisque on her couch. While I'm still a fan of limp bindings, my experience with the brown goatskin Pitt Minion reminded me of something I've always known: there's something to be said for things that break in over time. Like a pair of good shoes (i.e., the ones with the soles stitched on, not glued), a Bible can break in as the result of frequent use, developing a lived-in charm that will never come fresh out of a box. Those of us who baby our Bibles and keep them sheltered in the box never experience this. It's a shame.

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The split calf is an excellent choice if you're on a budget. It makes sense, too, if you're one of those people who actually wants a certain degree of stiffness in a cover. I'd trust one of these upright on a shelf far more than it's squishy cousins. Later in the week, we'll take a look at my four-year-old goatskin Pitt Minion and see how it compares to this one.