Wednesday, July 6, 2016

CROSSWAY - ESV Heirloom Thinline in Brown Goatskin (Review)

Crossway has something truly exquisite in its Heirloom line. Printed and bound by Jongbloed in the Netherlands, the Heirloom line represents Crossway's premium treatment of some of its more endearing text blocks. As the name of the line implies, these volumes are designed to last - investing in one of these editions should ensure you have a bible that can transition to another generation. These editions are supremely crafted (among Jongbloed's best work) and the pinnacle of Crossway's offerings.

The Heirloom Thinline wastes no time in impressing the reader. The goatskin binding is extremely supple - a tactile delight, frankly. One is readily reminded why one falls in love with the art of the sacred book.

The Heirloom Thinline features perimeter stitching - coupled with the inside liner, this ensures flexibility of the front and back covers. 

The perimeter stitching is done quite well - in keeping with Jongbloed's standards.


The end papers are tabbed/edge-lined to provide greater durability. This is standard practise for premium bibles and customary for Jongbloed's top tier editions. The hinge has Jongbloed's nearly trademark re-enforcement. There is minor trade off in that the bible (as one finds in many Jongbloed editions) does not lay flat. Conversely, the hinge is strong and that can often be crucial to a bible's long term durability, especially if it receives a reasonable amount of daily use. If the hinge is weak, the bible will fall apart, typically detaching the cover from the book block.
The ESV Thinline Heirloom is designed for portability. As such, its strength is intended to be found in manual use. To this extent, the Thinline Heirloom fits extremely comfortably in the hand and is easy to navigate and read from. The 8 point font works well. As should be expected, the thinline format keeps it suitable for carrying in one's satchel or backpack - this one will be easy to take with you on the road and isn't tough on the eyes.
The text text block is a well used thinline block from Crossway. It has proven its endurance and established its credentials. It is only fair to note that due to the age of the block, it does not feature line matching. Depending upon one's preference, this might be a consideration. The paper is approximately 28 gsm and there is a some bleed through, although it does not distract from the reading experience.

The art gilding is extremely well done across the Heirloom line, benefiting as it does from Jongbloed's excellent materials and technique. When lying closed, the gold edging exudes that warmth and richness that was nearly omnipresent among bibles and prayer books and psalters until the 1960s or so, and then became displaced by methods more suitable for mass production. There are only a handful of printers on the planet who do this and do it right, successfully continuing (not simulating) practises that have since become rarities in the publishing world.


 My go to reference for how well a premium bible is made is not so much older bibles by Cambridge and Oxford, but rather the breviaries published in the 1940s and 1950s. The combination of art gilding, ribbons, leather lining and cover evokes the build of those well made volumes - and I still tend to think many of the printers responsible for today's premium bibles cribbed a few notes from the binding of prayer books in previous decades.

The subtle salmon color to the dye underlying the gold gilding is classic - reserved in display and following on the spectrum of well crafted sacred books from previous decades.

The Thinline Heirloom comes with two ribbon markers. As with the choice of dye under the gold gilding, Crossway has opted for more reserved ribbons. The color of course is suitable for the leather. Ultimately, there is something about Crossway's line that lends itself to more reserved ribbon markers. Crossway isn't trying to produce something ostentatious, and I am not sure how many of the more "sumptuous" ribbons out there genuinely compliment the editions they are attached to. I personally prefer something more understated and reserved when it comes to ribbons. As alluded to above, I see the continuity between contemporary premium bible design and the vintage missals and breviaries of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The ribbons should follow suite with those noble volumes. The design in the Heirloom series carries on the tradition quite well.

Another shot of that gilding for good measure:

Every now and again one sees a bible that exemplifies the holy art of the sacred book, that is, the consistent application of rigorous standards and craftsmanship to produce a bible worthy of its purpose. The ESV Heirloom Thinline is one such volume. Sufficiently portable and easier on the eyes than many similar counter-parts, this edition will serve you well if you are looking for a well built and travel friendly ESV designed to last.

You can pick up the Heirloom Thinline at  and

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