February 29, 2012
After posting an article on genuine leather covers, I finally had the opportunity to visit a Bible bookstore and ask the clerk about various covers that Bible publishers seem to be using. Her response was to show me imitation leather, leatherflex, and genuine leather Bibles, so I could feel and handle the covers myself – something not possible when researching options on the Internet.
Here’s what I found:
Imitation leather has traditionally felt stiff, unnatural, and inflexible, which may no longer be true, but to be on the soft side, just visit this choice in person, rather than ordering and being disappointed with the quality. This gives you the opportunity, too, to check out TruTone, NuTone, and other polyurethane covers that sometimes feel more like leather than real leather does at first touch. That generally changes with time, however, as leather softness continues to improve, while synthetics are apt to dry out and fade as did my dusty rose Bible that's now the color of wilted petals.
Bonded Leather consists of fibers and scraps leftover from cut leather and held together with some kind of bonding agent or adhesive. The thickness and quality of the individual ingredients determine longevity, so the standards of the Bible publisher matter greatly. Over the years, many of my Bibles have had bonded leather covers that, sooner or later, ringed with tiny rifts and splits around the edges. Interestingly, the publisher of the Bible I just purchased also published my one remaining bonded leather edition that's still fissure-free and flexible. Therefore, I highly recommend that you see which companies stand by their products with some type of warranty.
Paperback Bibles often have a vinyl coating to increase durability, but this type of cover will curl, like my hair, with too much humidity. Most importantly, though, paperbacks seldom have Smyth-sewn pages. As the glue ages, the glued-in pages loosen and, yeah, come unglued. Nevertheless, this is my top choice for a reader edition (no study notes) of a new or new-to-you translation you want to try when you’re looking for a personal favorite with whom you can fall in love. Yes, love. Just yesterday, for example, I heard the store clerk exclaim, “I LOVE my King James Bible!” whereas someone in a Bible study group inevitably says, “I LOVE my Living Bible.” Pick almost any other choice too, and if you’re around enough Bible lovers, you’ll eventually hear the beloved name of every translation into English.
Hardback Bibles have a way of poking and prodding body parts so might be ideal for people who need God to remind them, “Yes, I’m talking to YOU!” For most readers, though, a hardback cover works exceptionally well for study Bibles – as in plural, Bibles. Of these, Bible lovers and all students of Bible study need many options to get, grab, compare, and see the bigger picture.
Leatherflex consists of heavy duty paper coated in a flexible, sturdy vinyl to give a cover the look and feel of quality leather or suede. Besides providing you with covers of many colors, leatherflex keeps goats and cows from losing their hides. Since the store I visited mainly carried Thomas Nelson Bibles, I have not checked into the policies of other companies, but this one offers the same “Guaranteed for Life” seal and registration on Symthe-sewn leatherflex and bonded leather Bibles as it does for the genuine leather NKJV I just bought on sale. This might not mean much with a new Bible publishing company, but Thomas Nelson has been around since 1798.
Leather soft covers, unlike leatherflex, begin with actual leather that has been treated to soften quickly as real leather will do on its own over time. If you already have a leather Bible that feels dry or stiff, just give it a soft body treatment! To soften my Bibles, for example, I lightly coat my hands in mineral oil since that oil does not turn rancid as vegetable or animal oils will do. I then stroke every inch of the cover – back and front, corner to corner – to distribute the oil evenly. Then, using a clean terry washcloth, I rub with the grain, holding the Bible under the light to make sure the cover does not remain greasy but gains the soft patina of healthy skin that’s highly responsive to a quick kiss and a hug.
© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler. For more Bible topics to choose from as well as articles on poetry and the Christian writing life, see Blogs by Mary.
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.