February 27, 2012
If you want a new Bible to read during Lent or you plan to give someone a special Easter gift, the number of choices may first seem overwhelming! Lord willing, we’ll talk about the many study Bibles and English translations in weeks to come, but instead of starting with the mental assurance of biblical accuracy or the spiritual lift that elevates some translations over others, let’s start by getting physical.
Why? Like any book, your response to The Book begins with first impressions involving your senses.
Do you want a Bible to drape in your hand and lay flat on a table?
Do you want a binding that will last for many years?
Do you want The Book to smell good, feel silken to the touch, and not jab you in the stomach as you read?
If you answered “yes,” you probably won’t bond well with bonded leather! While that type of cover or a hardback work fine for thick, heavy study Bibles kept on a shelf, a Bible you really, really want to pick up, hold, smell, stroke, hug, and read will most likely be a reader’s edition with a good quality leather cover such as French Morocco leather, calfskin, or goatskin.
To briefly cover those covers:
Goatskin is wonderfully soft and worthily expensive since it provides the top quality for a thin-line Bible or a reader edition with no study articles and notes to distract your cover-to-cover reading. My personal favorite is a wide-margin Bible with space for penciling my thoughts in the margins as I read, and goatskin encourages this by lying nice and flat. As I physically interact with God’s word in this way, the Bible becomes even more personal to me with its soft, responsive cover especially huggable on a bad day!
French Morocco, the next highest high quality leather, also lays flat and drapes nicely in the hand. Instead of goatskin though, this cover comes from calfskin that’s split to make it slightly thinner and soft, yet durable enough to last for many years.
Calfskin leather, often labeled “genuine leather,” gives your favorite reading Bible a durable binding too. Typically this cover feels thicker than the above choices and not quite as soft but may lay flat – or not! This depends somewhat on size with larger Bibles more apt to stay open. However, the method of binding also makes a discernible difference in overall quality, including the physical ability to stay flat.
Smythe sewn bindings are considered the best since the pages are sewn together prior to being glued to the inner spine. These Bibles stand up to wear-and-tear far better than glued-in pages, which are apt to get unglued as you walk along, giving new meaning to a paper trail.
If paperback is the only cover you can afford right now, the Bible can be inserted into a leather cover later, of course. However, the glued-in pages will not provide long-lasting durability. Consider, too, that the price of a paperback plus the price of a leather cover can easily add up to the cost of The Book you really, really want to read and read and read.
For blogs on a variety of Bible topics, see Blogs by Mary.