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High Quality Bibles – What’s the Difference?
EvangelicalBible.com stocks a wide range of Bibles. We carry paperback Bibles used in evangelism which cost $2.00 and Goatskin Bibles that can reach $250.00. Both Bibles contain the Word of God in their entirety. There are a range of intermediate qualities as well: bonded leather, genuine leather, french morocco, calfskin etc.
The reason that evangelicalbible.com has sought out excellence in binding is for the simple reason that many Christians use their Bibles considerably more than other books. If a book is read once or twice in its lifetime, the binding quality is of less concern than if it is used daily over a lifetime. Our presupposition is that our customers will read their Bibles more than once or twice in their lifetime. With this in mind we have attempted to gather Bibles that are bound in such a way that their lifespan is considerably longer than others.
Evangelicalbible.com is proud to have some of the best crafted Bibles in the world, first, because of their durability. Schuyler, Cambridge & Allan and a selection of other premium Bibles are more durable than others. One of the most important inputs into durabilty is the binding method. Higher quality Bibles have the sheets sewn in groups. Other Bibles use a glue adhesive which is less durable. The ‘Smyth Sewn’ bound Bibles generally do not have pages falling out after a few years. The importance of durability will vary from person to person. Many people are attracted to the premium leather Bibles because Bibles are put to daily use, and often contain personal notes.It takes great effort to restart that process every few years. Sewn Binding costs more than the more conventional glue adhesive, but for many people the added cost is worthwhile.
Legibility and Binding:
Another important aspect of sewn binding is legibility. Sewn books generally lie flat when opened. This is important when trying to see the words nearest the middle of the Bible (gutter). All Schuyler, Allan (and most) Cambridge Bibles have ‘edge-lined‘ binding. This is a hand- made process which results in a much more durable cover and Bible.
Good paper is more costly than inexpensive paper. Many Bibles can be purchased at a local bookstore for $30.00 or less. We know for a fact that the paper cost for a Schuyler Bible can exceed the cost of the average Bible. The reason is simple. Paper sourced by Schuyler and Allan for example is both extremely thin and opaque. There are only a couple of paper mills than make this type of paper quality. Paper quality is one of the most important components in Bible quality and legibility. It is sadly too often overshadowed by a flashy cover. In a real sense a Bible’s quality cannot go further than its paper quality.
Shell (Cover or Case):
We offer a wide variety of Bible ‘cases.’ First, leather cases are more durable than paper, synthetic or hardback shells. Again, if you are one who plans on studying your Bible on a daily basis, and often transporting it to different locations, durability is an important consideration. Almost all leather shells are equally durable. A Smyth Sewn Genuine leather Bible is a great choice; however, many genuine leather Bibles still have glued bindings. Smyth Sewn binding becomes more commonplace with the premium leather versions.
One of the reasons the softer leather Bibles are attractive is because of their flexibility, that is, they open and roll into virtually any position. (This is a point Bible Binding Expert, Mark Bertrand often makes.) Again, the softer leather Bibles translate into higher costs. Many Schuyler, Cambridge and Allan covers have ‘natural grain’ goatskin covers. 99% of covers on the market today are ‘heat embossed.’ That is, the cover pattern you see comes from a mold. All Schuyler Bibles and many Cambridge and Allan Bibles have natural grain Bibles that reflect the ‘natural’ or authentic grain of the animal from which it was harvested.
Finally, there are some Schuyler, Cambridge, and Allan cases that actually cover the end of the pages. This is called a ‘full yapp’ cover. The extra leather acts as a Bible case and serves to protect the Bible.
Finally, Bible cost is also a function of aesthetics-the way it looks and feels. Premium Bibles often put an emphasis on detail and aesthetics. Here is a example. Have you every owned a Bible whose gold edges faded after a year? For some, this is a detail that is inconsequential. Cambridge, Schuyler and Allan Bibles’ ‘gold’, for example, will not fade for many years because they use the ‘old school’ technique of injecting a red dye into the pages and then ‘burning’ a gold foil onto the surface. This is a labor intensive technique that, of course, increases cost.
This article is not comprehensive, but simply introduces a variety of factors that determine cost. Other factors that determine cost will include: concordances, index, color maps, ribbon markers, paper quality, and double stitching, to name a few more.
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Every edition is the product of certain trade-offs. All editions have their respective strengths and weaknesses. Here is an example: A thinline Bible. The purpose of this Bible, in part, is to be compact. A successful thinline Bible is thin, light and portable. In order to make a Bible meet these specifications it will necessarily have a lower paper density (opaqueness). If it had the most opaque paper, it would be too thick to be a thinline. Similarly, a “Wide Margin” Bible should have margins wide enough for adequate note taking, as well as high quality Bible paper for note taking. With such specifications it would be difficult to include Large Print. With a Large Print Wide Margin Bible-you may need a 3 inch spine and a 10 pound Bible! The same would hold true for a Study Bible-with space devoted to study notes-you’re not going to have adequate room for wide margins or large print. The ESV Study Bible is already approximately 4.5 pounds-with 9 point font…imagine its size and weight as a large print. Likewise compact or personal size Bibles are going to have smaller print and thus lower legibility because one has to fit the same amount of information into a relatively smaller area. Most “Classic Reference” Bibles attempt to find the best balance of all these different criteria. Finally, price is another trade off criterion. In many cases less expensive Bibles are “cheaper,” because they use inferior materials to produce their products, or their binding techniques are less durable. In sum, every Bible has its strengths and weaknesses. Each person needs to focus on which criteria are important to them. No single Bible receives top marks in each category.
A Brief Article on Choosing a Bible.
High Quality Bibles – Realistic Expectations.
Our highest quality Bibles in terms of craftsmanship and quality are the premium leather calfskin and goatskin Bibles. The prices of these Bibles are substantially higher than their genuine and bonded leather counterparts. The higher prices are associated with their superior materials and individual hand craftsmanship. The bindings are sewn, instead of glued. The leather is actual grain leather, not leather that has been pressed into a mold. Red dye is injected into the pages so the gold edges retain their gloss. Gold foil is actually melted onto the pages. In summary, you are purchasing an individually crafted work of art, not an assembly line mold. Since each premium leather Bible is individually crafted, they also have individual character. Each Bible is therefore unique. Stitching (a lot of which has been done by hand) can vary, red dye lines vary, gold luster varies, color and texture of leather and paper may vary-guaranteeing, in essence that your Bible is unique and individually crafted. Your goatskin or calfskin Bible is a unique work of art. There will be none other exactly similar. Let us provide a common example. Natural Goatskin bindings are available from Schuyler, Allan & Cambridge Bibles. Every now and then a customer will contact us and report the existence of an alleged blemish on the leather cover. The blemish usually amounts to an irregular line or circle, which doesn’t follow the grain. The answer to this is that Natural Goatskin is the only leather binding which is not pressed into a mold. All other Bibles are molded under heat and pressure to produce a uniform grain (like a waffle iron). With a natural grain Bible what you have on your Bible is the actual hide of the goat that was wandering the hills of Nigeria or South India. If the goat rubbed against barbed wire or was bitten by a wasp or asp, these marks are retained on the leather. These alleged blemishes actually attest to the authenticity of the Bible in question.
Individually crafted Bibles are not perfect. The added expense associated with the binding and individual craftsmanship does not translate into perfection. This is an unrealistic expectation. Not every page will be 100% uniform. Margins can vary by a millimeter or two. Pages may be smoother or slightly more opaque. Ink intensity can vary. Slight page creases may exist. With most Bibles having about 1600 pages, you can expect a few variations along the way. These differences testify to each Bible’s unique character. There are of course rare occasions, when we do have a certain defect: ie. a loose page, a tear in binding, smeared ink etc.- and in these cases we want to replace the defective Bible as soon as is convenient. In sum, our premium Bibles are individually crafted. They make use of the best materials. They have the highest quality standard and controls. They will never, however, attain the mark of symmetrical perfection. Expect to purchase a high quality Bible-don’t expect a perfect one. The only thing we can guarantee to be perfect is the Word itself!
Want to know more: See our Page on Typesetting Schuyler Bibles. Next we have a page devoted to Printing and Binding. Finally we have a tribute to one of the leading innovators in Bible Design, Mark Bertrand.