Monday, June 13, 2016

ESV Reader's Bible - Hardcover and TruTone Review (and looking forward to the new releases)

Two years ago, Crossway released their Reader's Bible, a single column bible formatted to optimize the reading experience and make the reading experience more appealing to people who would normally not do much continuous reading of the text.

The reaction was, deservedly, positive. Crossway struck a cord that seems to resonate among many, active and casual reader's alike. With the pending topgrain cowhide single volume and 6 volume cowhide over-board, it seems only reasonable to review the original editions, looking back at their achievements, and looking forward to this Fall's pending releases.

Side-by-side, both the hardcover and Trutone are quite attractive. The design quality of both is readily apparent. The hardcover edition functioned as "the face" of the Reader's Bible, exemplifying Crossway's intention of creating a volume designed for reading. It has optimal size and font for continuous reading and has an essential "reader's aesthetic" - the build invites one to settle in with the Bible as one would a favorite book. The imitation leather, although featuring the same interior specs, seems to aim for the more the person looking for a more traditional reading experience with their bible.  

To Crossway's credit, its synthetics are really some of the best out there. The black imitation leather struck more than a few people as calfskin at first glance. 

Good construction on both volumes. The Reader's Bible includes two ribbons and sewn binding. Looking at both volumes when first opened, the hinges appear to work better with the hardcover edition. The hardcover opens easily and pretty much stays open.

The imitation leather requires a bit more effort and as a result some additional stress is put on the end-pages, placing additional pull on the block. For the most part, this will not be something one would do with actual daily use, but it is worth noting.

The hardcover edition has an easier time staying open at Genesis.

You can't see it here, but I'm holding down the cover and first few pages. The imitation leather is a bit stiff if you put it to the Genesis-Revelation test.

This being said, both editions lay open marvelously well:

As you can see, the Psalter has never looked so good! The use of red ink to emphasis the particular psalm number (used elsewhere in this edition for book titles and chapter numbers) helps break the monotony of the typical presentation of the Psalter. Anyone familiar with praying the psalms in the context of a liturgical tradition (through any of the Western liturgical books) should feel right at home as the formatting presents the psalms in a manner reminiscent of the liturgical tradition.

Do you see all that text going into the gutter? Neither do I! One of Crossway's hallmarks in recent years is page design - they've simply been on the A-game with identifying optimal page layouts, especially with their single column releases.

Note the red accent marking the book title and chapter. Italian bibles have been employing this type of layout for ages - it breaks the monotony of all black text and, frankly, adds some class. Between Crossway and Schuyler's use of this technique, lets hope it becomes the standard going forward.

The Reader's Bible genuinely raises the bar on reading experience. Is this the perfect single column bible? That depends on who you ask. Having spent years with single column critical editions of the original text, I've become thoroughly committed to single column layouts. The Reader's Bible does the typical single column version one better by removing much of the editorial matter. Text references, text divisions (such as chapter and verse running in the text) have been eliminated. As a result, the Reader's Bible produces the closest reading experience in translation of the text as one would normally encounter it in the ancient languages. The line matching is, plainly excellent - thus far I haven't identified a point where the line matching is off.

Looking forward to the pending topgrain cowhide single volume and the six volume cowhide over board, there are some things I hope to see.

Thus far, it appears that the topgrain cowhide single volume will incorporate much of the same material as the previous editions. Are we getting a Legacy treatment? Not this time out. Will this be the precursor to a Legacy edition of the Reader's Bible? Time will tell; the success of the topgrain cowhide edition and demand for an edition of the Reader's Bible off of JongBloed's presses will likely play a role.

The above being noted, it seems that Crossway intends the six volume set to be the standard bearer for its reader's bibles. The six volume set is due to be printed by LEGO SpA, cowhide over board. This is the same approach taken with the Reader's Gospels of last year. Here are the preliminary results from Crossway's website:

Although I would love to see the Reader's Bible get the Legacy treatment, Crossway's plan for the six volume set's leather edition is shaping up to be something to behold. Gaze at those volumes for a moment. Although modern-day premium bible lovers enjoy "a good floppy" goatskin, but there is nothing quite as striking as the "old world standard." Raised hubs, thick, solid leather bound volumes - folks, if you've ever been to a well stocked divinity library and browsed through the stacks and fawned over volumes from the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s, those tomes that were built to last, well, this is it. If you've ever held a sturdy leather bound liturgical book from the early 1900s and wondered where publishing standards went for sacred books, well, Crossway looks to have them right there. Granted, it is still some months away and, to my knowledge, no-one has held a working prototype set in their hands. However, specs and initial photos are circling around this pending release. It is going to be a long wait for October.

Note: Special thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this edition.

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