Appearances can be deceiving. Which of these two Bibles is bigger, the green or the brown?
If you said the green, it's no surprise. Although it appears perhaps a hair shorter in the photo above, the green Bible, a Compact Text ESV from R. L. Allan, is clearly the thicker of the two -- at least 1.5 times larger than the brown volume, a Cambridge Pitt Minion.
But turn them around and ask the same question. Which of these two is smaller?
See what I mean about appearances? Because of its semi-yapp cover, the Compact Text appears to be as tall as the Pitt Minion. In fact, it's both shorter and narrower. When you hold it in your hand, the Compact Text feels much smaller than the Pitt Minion. This photo tells the story best:
A third question: does smaller mean better? Let's admit from the outside that a post called "Pitt Minion vs. Compact Text ESV" is about as absurd as, saying, "Legacy vs. Clarion." There are similarities, sure, but there are big differences, too. Still, the comparison is relevant in at least one regard. Before the Compact Text ESV came along, the Pitt Minion was arguably the best all-around "compact" edition, even if its form factor stretched the definition just a bit. The Compact Text existed in the form of Crossway's Deluxe Compact, but its binding wasn't in the same league as the Jongbloed-bound edition from Cambridge.
Now there's a new version with an excellent binding, so the question is, "Can the Compact Text ESV replace the Pitt Minion as the leading small-format copy of the ESV?"
Above: My four-year-old, broken in Pitt Minion (left)
vs. a brand new Compact Text ESV (right).
Viewed from above, the two Bibles manifest that deceptive similarity in form. Inside, the two layouts appear quite different, though there are interesting parallels. The Compact Text doesn't have a center column filled with cross references. If you pulled those references out of the Pitt Minion and butted the two columns together, however, you'd end up with a proportion similar to the Compact Text's. That's because the actual text columns in the two Bibles are the same width -- 1.5" across. The Pitt Minion's type is set in 7 pt. Lexicon. The Compact Text is slightly smaller at 6.5 pt., and while the type is presumably Lexicon as well, there's less letterspacing, so the lines look tighter all around. While a Pitt Minion text column is six inches tall, the Compact Text's column is only 5.25".
Boiling it all down, I would say the Pitt Minion is easier to read, while the Compact Text is easier to carry. In terms of layout, however, I'm giving the nod to the Pitt Minion.
The Pitt Minion excells in another area, too, which is opening flat. As you can see in the photo above, the Compact Text required an assist to keep Ephesians 1 front and center, whereas the Pitt Minion can hold that pose all day long. While the Compact Text will perhaps improve with use in this regard, I can't imagine it ever rivaling the Pitt Minion's open-flat friendliness.
In terms of paper quality, my first instinct is to crown the Pitt Minion again. It was printed in the Netherlands, not China -- isn't that enough? Well, here's the thing. While the Compact Text shows enough bleedthrough to make me wish Crossway had printed it on more opaque paper, the Pitt Minion sports a five o'clock shadow, too. I'm going to call this one a wash, although I lean a little toward the Pitt Minion because its paper feels nicer to the touch.
Where the Pitt Minion really can't compete is aesthetics. I'm not prepared to say that an Allan binding is more durable, longer lasting than any other. The Pitt Minion's classic pastedown binding, in which the endpapers are pasted securely all along the cover's length, might be more rugged than the Allan's edge-lined style, where the book block is secured to the cover via tabs at the spine. Then again, maybe not. I have no idea. But the elegance of the latter is indisputable. The Allan binding is more refined to the eye and feels better to the touch.
Which is not to say that the goatskin of one is infinitely better than the other. I imagine they're comparable in quality. What makes the Allan binding so nice is the semi-yapp cover, the leather lining, the gilt line around the inside, the neat gold imprint inside the front and back cover, even the lined paper in back. It's all very nice, completely delightful. The overall effect wins you over at once.
Is that enough, though, to crown the Compact Text triumphant?
Here's what I think. The Pitt Minion is still the best all-around edition. No, it isn't the most compact, but it does small pretty good. You get references, a slight bump in type size, and that coveted flat-opening cover. There's a reason some people use the Pitt Minion as their one-and-only, and the Compact Text won't change that.
However, while the Pitt Minion is a superior all-rounder, the Compact Text delivers true small-format performance. If you're looking for a small edition to fill the portable niche, then form factor will be more important to you than font size and references. The Compact Text is a better choice.