Transcribing the Entire Bible: Pen and Paper Recommendations

Q. I am preparing to transcribe the entire Bible (probably the ESV). I am planning this to be a 10 year project, with a goal of binding it into a one-volume family heirloom.Would you have a recommendation on paper and pen? My goal would be to eventually have the manuscripts bound in a nice hard cover goatskin. 

This question comes from Anthony Lynch, who is going to have a sore hand ten years from now. I love the idea of undertaking this kind of scribal project, though, so let's offer all the help we can. I'm going to give my advice, and would appreciate other options/suggestions in the comments.

Option 1. Create the bound book first.

The first thing I would advise Anthony to do is have the bound book created first. You could have something like these ship's log books made, then write to your heart's content. I suspect this would make the whole project more self-contained: no loose sheets to keep track of, no problem having them bound together at the end. For me, it would be a great motivator, too. Seeing a beautiful volume full of blank pages, you would have an incentive to keep at it.

Option 2. Use pre-bound books.

If Option 1 doesn't fit your timetable, you could use journals already bound. This would make rebinding at the end of the process much easier, while keeping your up-front investment modest. If I were you, the journal I would use is the Seven Seas Writer from Nanami Paper. The Seven Seas line keeps getting better and better -- the volumes come in slipcases now, and you can even buy raw book blocks for custom binding. The journal features thin Tomoe River paper, which fountain pen enthusiasts like me love for its ink-handling properties. Because it's thin, you will experience some show through, just as you would from Bible paper, but each journal contains 480 pages.

Option 3. Looseleaf.

To me, looseleaf is the worst option for what you want to do. If you write out the entire Bible on looseleaf, the bound book won't be in signatures and won't open flat the way a book should. Keeping track of the loose sheets will become a pain over time, too. If you simply must go with the looseleaf option, though, you can buy Tomoe River sheets in pads from Nanami, or go with something thicker like Clairefontaine Triomphe (which would make a nice-looking page, but could get thick).

Now as far as pens go, the options are so plentiful that the only way I can answer is by putting myself in your shoes and imagining what I'd do. For a ten year writing project I would choose one of two pens in my arsenal: the Pilot Custom 823 (fine nib) or the Pilot Custom 74 (extra-fine nib). If I had nicer, more calligraphic handwriting, I might choose differently, but since I don't these Japanese pens are ideal. They write much finer than any Western fine or extra-fine nibs, which means your writing can be smaller and neater, and they both hold plenty of ink. The 823 has a unique filling system that holds a ton of ink, while the 74 uses the generous CON-70 converter. Coupled with the EF nib, it writes forever.

The nice thing about using a fountain pen for this task is that you have a choice of many different inks. Not that you should use that many inks in your work! If you chose a black ink, though, and a nice red for contrast, and bought a few bottles of each in advance, you can keep consistent color throughout your manuscript, which might be harder using disposable pens over a long period of time. Fountain pens are fussier, of course ... but people deciding to hand copy the entire Bible are bound to be attracted to the kind of fussiness that gives more control over the project.

Well, that's my advice, but I'm sure there are other perspectives out there. Maybe someone's attempted this already and could share some insight? Let's give Anthony some options to think through at the start of this monumental enterprise.