Monday, August 22, 2016

Crossway ESV Verse-by-Verse Reference Bible, Top Grain Cowhide (Review)

Verse-by-verse Bibles are quintessential to the Western Christian Tradition. When the thought of the sacred page is evoked, the verse-by-verse is seeming the archetypal layout that comes to mind. This is perhaps good reason. The verse-by-verse layout has established its predominance for use in preaching, praying, and otherwise liturgical use, It is so much to be preferred that Weber followed the format for the critical reconstruction of the Vulgate (minus punctuation).

The verse-by-verse format lends itself to a different experience. As mentioned above, preaching, prayer, liturgical, it has an entirely different feel than paragraph formatted layouts. It is a layout that pushes the reader towards a more deliberate and perhaps even somewhat delicate experience of scripture. It is less about textual comprehension or reading for the purpose of doctrine. It is more in the ever allusive direction of the experiential encounter with the Logos through the sacred page. In light of the purpose, it seems only appropriate that one should find a Bible bound to fulfill such a noble purpose.

Towards this end, Crossway's Verse-by-Verse in black top grain cowhide is something of a feat. This is a solid volume that immediately strikes the reader with its appropriate heft (this Bible has substance) and the culmination of its specs. This a well designed Bible, the appreciation of which only grows with regular use - after weeks, it genuinely dawns on you just how well it was made.

Truth to be told, I have a soft spot for top grain cowhide. When done right, top grain cowhide pulls off a certain look that alludes calf skin or goatskin.

The raised hubs are a fine example of this. Crossway's cowhide editions have consistently have thick raised hubs - if you're going to do raised hubs, this is how you should do them. In general leather manufacturing, cowhide is known to be smoother and more resistant to breakdown under tension (tensile strength). As such, there is "work-horse" quality to cowhide and it gives you a Bible that is both in the upper tier of leather options and sturdy for daily use and travel. In other words, put this in your satchel or bag and go without reservations - the Verse-by-Verse is meant to be used, and seen.

The top grain cowhide is complemented by leather lining - I believe this is Cromwell bonded leather. As result, the flexibility of the cover is superb - you should have no concern that inside cover will crack and it you should expect it to remain flexible.

The binding is edge lined, adding more resilience and decreasing the stress put on the book block from opening the cover.

The font is a very readable 9 point Lexicon and is enhanced by the opacity of the paper.  Crossway's decision in favor of 36 GSM Apple Thinopaque paper is a genuine boon for the reader. Needless to say, the Verse-by-Verse Reference Bible brings back all of the fond memories of first reading through the Legacy's gorgeous paper. There is a similar, though not identical, look and feel to the paper.

When considering the paper used for the book block, one begins to appreciate just how well built the Verse-by-Verse Reference Bible is. The paper, sewn book block, and cowhide all come together to create volume with the right amount of heft and substance. Holding it in one's hand, the volume convincingly conveys the sense that this is a Bible built to last. Like any well made sacred book should, the Verse-by-Verse Reference Bible conveys presence.

Crossway has provided two black satin ribbons with the Verse-by-Verse Reference Bible. Crossway prefers something more subtle and understated compared to the more luxurious ribbons out there, even in the Heirloom line. Here is no exception, although many readers will find the opacity of the paper to be worth the trade-off, especially with the attractive price point on the Verse-by-Verse.

The ESV Verse-by-Verse Reference Bible is a job well done by Crossway, who continues to impress the reader with the breadth of its line. Crossway is gradually changing expectations in Bible publishing and is able to deliver publication line that runs the full spectrum of price points and features.

You can get this for a great price at - perhaps the best price you'll find on this one.

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

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