The first time I visited Crossway, I brought something for show and tell: a thinline ESV rebound in thick black goatskin. The thinline text setting was my favorite at the time, because the absence of center column references allowed for wider, more readable text columns than the ones in the Classic Reference edition. The form factor appealed to me, too: a large, thin Bible that felt great in your hands.
Fast forward to the present day and my preferences have changed. I use single column editions almost exclusively, and they tend to conform to my “short and stout” ideal rather than the svelte, floppy, oversized thinlines that used to turn my head. Spending some time with the new Omega Thinline Reference Bible reminded me why I loved the format so much. For personal reading and in the pulpit, the Omega has plenty to offer.
Created to celebrate Crossway’s 75th anniversary, the Omega marks the first time the Wheaton-based publisher has had an edition printed and bound in the Netherlands by superstar Bible printer Jongbloed. When it comes to quality Bibles, all roads seem to lead to Jongbloed these days. First Cambridge, then R. L. Allan, then Schuyler, and now Crossway have relied on Jongbloed to deliver a quality package inside and out. For good reason, too: no one delivers the same consistently high quality, quality book blocks paired with excellent bindings.
This Bible pictured here courtesy of our friends at EvangelicalBible.com is the top-of-the-line edition featuring an edge-lined goatskin cover and art-gilt page edges. The cover extends over the book block nicely and even curls around, something I haven’t noted on past semi-yapp covers from Jongbloed. A gilt line runs the perimeter of the lining, an elegant touch. The binding is sewn, and the book block opens flat. The two black ribbons are similar in style to the ones in Cambridge editions, thin but long enough give you a good handhold when you’re turning to a marked passage.
Because the cover overhangs, the trim size specs reported by Crossway -- 6.125” by 9.125” -- understate the size somewhat. Measured on the outside, the size is closer to 6.5” by 9.75” while pinched tight the book block is just over 0.75”. Unpinched and measured cover to cover at the widest point, the Omega is about in inch thick. Tall, wide, and thin, the Omega really shows off how limp an edge-lined binding can be.
The size of the page allows for larger type, too. At 10 points, the type seems very readable. I preached through 1 Samuel 4-5 last week, picking out the bits of expressive dialogue within the story, and had no trouble finding my place every time I glanced down.
This sense of readability is aided by two additional factors: the paper quality and the width of the columns. I haven’t seen published specs on the paper, so I can’t cite numbers. The Omega’s pages are sufficiently opaque to minimize show through to a degree similar to what we’ve seen in Schuyler editions. You can still see print impressions from the reverse of the page, especially in poetry sections, but they are less pronounced that usual. If you’re super sensitive, you’re going to notice, but for most of us the Omega will be a pleasure. The paper feels smooth to the touch, as well.
Because the references are located at the bottom of the second column on each page and not squeezed between the text columns, the text has a little more room to breathe. The Omega reminds me so much of my reference-free thinline that I feel nostalgic. The wider columns are especially welcome in poetry sections, where all two column layouts force awkward line breaks not intended by the translators. Most reference editions of the ESV dice the poetry up real good. The Omega still does some damage, but not nearly as much.
The anniversary connection results in the Omega shipping with a nice heavy black clamshell box. I prefer slipcases, but the understated decoration on this box will make it useful for storage. Interestingly enough, the printing on the black box is silver -- very chic -- making me wish the imprint on the cover had followed suit, distinguishing the look even more.
During my time with the Omega, I’ve found myself thinking it would make a perfect all-rounder for someone who’s not interested in a shelf full of Bibles, but just wants one that does a lot of different things well. The large type and wide columns and good paper make it a nice “reader” while the discreet references make it good for study, too. And the thin form factor makes it easier than you’d expect to carry. If you’re not a single column devotee like me, and you want a big, floppy, superbly-made Bible with 10 point type, the Crossway Omega would make a fine choice.
The Omega is available through Crossway and a variety of retailers online, in particular EvangelicalBible.com. According to the EV Omega page, this text setting was originally developed for use in a Schuyler edition. (I’d have loved to see this setting in the original Schuyler with creeds!) While it's not an EvangelicalBible.com exclusive, they do seem to have the lion's share of these edge-lined goatskin editions of the text setting, so expect them to be available there longer than other outlets. Just so you know, the run of high-end Omegas was limited, and I'm told there have been a lot of pre-orders.