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October 19, 2007


Scott Sackett

I'm not 100% sold on the single column Bible. I love The Message & it's single column design. But I wonder if The Message has the advantage of nontraditional verse numbering.

I think the key is finding the right balance between text, font size and line length. I have a paperback Zondervan NASB thinline that is perfect in that area IMHO.

I do agree on the small/thick as a better option. I have the NIV Personal Size Study Bible and it is a little brick. My only problem is it is too thick for my backpack!


I've got the ESV Single-Column reference in calfskin -- and now, after reading single-column, I didn't realize what I was missing and can't imagine I would ever settle for or buy another double-column Bible again in my life. But who knows...

Jesus Saenz

Single column Bibles are great for when you want to read or for when you are studying which is different than the kind of reading you do while at church or when just looking up a verse. I think that the ESV Personal Size Reference Bible will be a very handy size, it's dimensions will be nearly identical the old Cambridge Cameo which I really like. The format will make reading easy and the size will make it transportable.

Nowadays we are not limited to one single size or translation. It is possible to buy a Bible that fills our needs specifically. I am an advocate of a Bible quiver. If you want to write in your Bible don't buy a thinline, you read for long periods at a time don't buy a compact, you want ease of carry don't buy a study Bible.

Single column paragraph formats work in two different applications. A relatively small book, 4.5"x7" with a font size of around 7 point. Easy reading, easy carry. The other is a larger font size maybe 10 point with wide margins of at least 1.25" for taking notes. Crossway does make something close to what I just described but it is not in a paragraph style as each verse starts a new line. Keeping the single column in a paragraph will aid in keeping to the context of what is being read and with the wide margins will make for a great "study" Bible... your own.


Jesus - couple of comments. I find that I like to stick to the same Bible for a long period of time, because I get familiar with that Bible. I know that Titus 2:13 is on the right side of the page halfway down...and it just makes it comfortable. I'm not sure if others feel the same, but for me personally, if I move between Bibles (let alone translations), I find that very frustating. But that's me.

I've heard comments on the paragraph versus single verse format argument a couple of times now. As you state above, the argument is that paragraph forms "will aid in keeping to the context of what is being read" - yet, in the Crossway ESV, even though it is in verse format, verses are combined into sections. For example, in Revelation, we have 7 churches spoken of in chapters 2 and 3. If you look at those chapters, you will see them beautifully blocked off, so the context stays in check. They seem to do a good job of this throughout the Bible. I think the way Crossway did it is capturing the best of both worlds...finding a verse easily (which is somewhat an annoyance in paragraph format), while also making an effort to allow the reader to see the context.

Jesus Saenz

PDS, I too own the SCR in calfskin. It is the Bible I use for devotional reading as well as for Sunday service. It is a large Bible that may be too big for some but fits quite nicely in my large paws, especially because of how soft the leather is. It also has the paragraph symbols to let one know where the paragraph divisions are.

There is no reason to have anymore than one Bible if one is all you want. My suggestion for owning a quiver is merely for those interested in having a Bible for specific purposes. I know what you mean about being able to quickly look up verse and it can be made more difficult in looking things up having more than one Bible.

As far as the verse per line or paragraph format... I think the paragraph is more aesthetically pleasing.


Makes sense to me...but with all this Allan talk, I may break my own rule.

Jesus Saenz

Get an Allan Bible, you will not be disappointed!


With my preferences above, which one do you think I'd like?

Jesus Saenz

Their options are limited. It all depends on the translation of choice. If you are currently using the ESV then you have either the black or the tan to choose from. The block is from Harper Collins in the UK, they then pass their magic pixie wand over it and out comes one of the finest Bibles you can own. They also offer one without the leather lining, 32 pages of lined paper at the end and they don't use the nearly extinct "Highland" goatskin. I guess it's just your run-of-the-mill goatskin... maybe from the local petting zoo.

You can also get one in the KJV(AV), NKJV, NASB, NIV, TNIV, NRSV as well the aforementioned ESV


So there are different grades of goatskin huh? I prefer the ESV.

Jesus Saenz

If you want the ESV then either the black or the tan are your options. Take a look at the reviews by JMB for a better view of what is available.

As far as the goatskin goes... RL Allan offers two different types, one they call Highland the other is just goatskin. They don't say what the differences are but the Highland goatskin is what they use for their top of the line Bibles.

Doug Olson

I am looking for a Thinline single columnBible (I would love Wide Margin). I would like NASB or ESV. I will use NIV barring the first two. I prefer something very supple if possible. Can you help me? Thanks In advance

Jesus Saenz

Doug, I do not think that anyone makes a thinline single column Bible. I think single column and thinline are diametrically opposed. If you want a supple wide margin Bible, Cambridge makes a wide margin, NASB bound in goatskin. The Lockman Foundation make a wide margin called the In Touch Ministries Wide Margin Edition which you can get in calfskin also in the NASB. Lockman's side column, wide margin is not anywhere near being thin at 1.75" thick. Crossway(ESV) makes a few Bibles with margins that are wider than normal but the only one made with premium calfskin, so far, is the Single Column Reference.

J. Mark Bertrand

Doug -- Another option to take a look at is the single-column NIV that Cambridge has offered for awhile now. Here's a link to check it out:


It may be larger than you want, but I'm afraid the pickings are still pretty slim at this point. If you can wait until the new ESV Personal Size Reference debuts, it should fit your criteria pretty well (though I'm not sure about the thickness). More details here:



On the subject of dimensions, I don't understand why Crossway doesn't publish thickness measurements. If they did, people wouldn't be having to wonder whether the Personal Reference Edition qualifies as "thinline".

Paul Dearinger

I have been searching for a single column, paragraph format NAS bible for quite awhile.
I learn so much more of the context of the scripture by reading this type of bible and the NASB is my first choice.
Thomas Nelson has a small one with bonded leather but I would prefer a real nice leather bible or even a hard cover.
I wished someone would make one.


As an amateur graphic designer that likes dreaming about 'the perfect Bible format,' I really enjoyed finding this website a few months ago.

I would be very interested if there would be some coverage of typography on this site. Perhaps it's a little bit technical, but maybe listing the fonts used in your personal favorite editions. Or, for those less traditional, looking at what more progressive fonts are working and which ones aren't. Maybe even nominating a couple for "the perfect format."

All the best.


I love this site. I'm a professional graphic designer who has been on the hunt for the perfectly designed Bible. Keep trucking!


I wonder if which type of column one prefers could be related to one's reading level? It makes sense to me that a person who can read around 1000 words a minute and take in whole lines at a time would prefer a single column where as a person who reads closer to 400 words a minute (or less) would be helped by the shorter lines. That way one could take in a whole short line and perhaps increase reading speed. Just a thought.


I personally would like to see a Bible with single column, paragraphed, verse and chapter reference at the bottom of the page, only common punctuation such as periods and question marks, with the text only. I feel the same as mentioned by someone else. Once I become familiar with a certain Bible, I know that the text is on the right page in the middle. I would prefer the translation to be the KJV. As far as the size, I like thinline Bibles are perfect. If they removed all extras, concordances, maps, verse numbers, topical headings, book introductions, and chapter numbers, much more room would be allowed for an ample size text. This is only my opinion and opinions are like armpits, most people have two and some stink. Thanks for reading.


I think you'll like this: ISBN-13: 978-1418543112
It's due to be released in a couple months; see here:

Our man Bertrand gave it an inside look back on Sept 21.

I'm waiting to see how they format the poetry sections. There's also a NKJV that might be better in that regard while only a little thicker. See the sample pdf; I can't say I'm crazy about the way Nelson's got the KJV handling quotations.

And of course I'm hoping for opaque paper!

Chris Bloom

Wow, times ARE tough ... even the spambots are out of work!


the spambots love bible design. They've been all over this thing.

Martin B.

A Cambridge Single Column, Paragraph format, ESV bible - The perfect Bible?

At EvengelicalBibles and Amazon, they are showing that it looks like Cambridge announced yesterday that it will be shipping an ESV Clarion Reference Bible that is Single Column, Paragraph format, 9 point font, in Calfskin and Goatskin in November 2011.

I WILL absolutely be purchasing one of these - this may end my "perfect" bible search (then again maybe not).


Martin, great catch, and EB even has a sample page! Huge improvement over PSR!!! To my eye, just the right number of words-per-line and a highly-pleasing, tasteful font. Now if it were true octavo 6x9 in 10pt type with the versification/apparatus gone or in the gutter with the refs, I'd be ecstatic! Still I'd better start saving my pennies; this is a must-buy.

The Baker/Cambridge site says it's all-black text and the refs are in the outer margins, not inner as in the PSR. I suppose that's better for note-taking and as long as a sewn binding permits easy opening, may make transitioning pages when reading less obtrusive.

And I'm surprised Crossway/ESV.org has nothing in their "Coming Soon" remotely like it. It appears that with the ESV at 10 years old (older if you consider it just a slightly-modified RSV) the parents are letting it out of the house unsupervised a bit more. I guess if you pay your royalties, you can now do what you want with the text.

Start looking for the ESV For Horse-loving Little Girls in pink suede at a grocery store near you!

John S

Crossway does have a new single column due in early 2012. It's text only. Their site does not specify if it is paragraph or verse, but I'm assuming/hoping it's paragraph format.



Nice catch, John S. Hmmm, that didn't show in their Coming Soon list.

It's also 9 point, like the Cambridge Clarion, although the typeface isn't noted. But playing with the dimensions and the page count makes me wonder if it's not the same general layout, but with 20% more lines per page, taking up an extra inch in height, and instead of references on the outside, there's a full inch of wide-margin with the same in the gutter as well. (The note takers may love it, but I don't find a lot of white space pleasing to the eye.)

Now if they really want the "Renaissance ideal" they'd leave out the versification! Unless by that they mean to add filigree, fancy initials, etc to "illuminate" the text and take up space. I could dig that, but it would be quite a change from Crossway's rather stark layouts. The obvious exception of course being Fujimura's glorious setting of the gospels per

Guess we'll have to wait and see what the "Legacy" ESV really involves.

John S

It appears that this new Crossway ESV Single Column Legacy Bible will have a slightly smaller page size that the ESV Single Column Reference bible. I was wondering at first if they were just pulling the references out of the SCR to make the SC Legacy bible, but it is almost 200 pages less so I'm hoping that means it will be a paragraph format.


John S, I'd forgotten about the SCR. I suspect Crossway considers the SCR a marketing failure since it didn't get much of a production run. That, and the illusion to "Renaissance perfect page design", or however they said it, makes me suspect it's not verse-by-verse as the SCR.

However if all the verses are just run together as was common back then, I'm not sure us moderns would call it "paragraphed" either.

Would love to hear more.

Chris Bloom

This is what a few minutes of Google found me on "the perfect page": http://retinart.net/graphic-design/secret-law-of-page-harmony/. Something tells me there won't be a big honkin' lower margin like that, but I could be wrong. ;)


Thanks, Chris. I believe the ancients intended that the lower, outer regions be filled with artwork & filigree, "illuminating" the text. Even after the invention of movable type, the artwork was individually hand-done for decades. However, market demand usually meant the volume got rushed to an eager buyer before many of these finishing touches got added to the text.

Examples of the Mainz and Gutenberg Bibles at:

Might the SC Legacy have such a "perfect page"? If so, will the empty space be graphically filled or left blank for notes? I'd love it if they took the artistic approach, but that would probably require thicker paper, bulking up the 1600-page volume to over 2" thick, the limit of most Smyth-sewing machines. Also, I doubt the market would respond well to that thick a volume. It all seems to be about Thinline now-a-days, which is why we're stuck with such thin, transparent paper.

John S

Here's the layout for the ESV Single Column Legacy Bible. Personally, I really like the look of it. I think that putting the paragraph headings in the margin is a nice touch. It is paragraph as I had hoped.



Great find, John S. I don't see any more about it yet in either Crossway's New or Upcoming sections. Yes, it's definitely "inner, upper" layout per the ancients' "perfect page" ideal, and the typeface is gorgeous to my eye, the best Crossway has done to date. It's fewer words-per-line than the PersSizRef or LitStBib editions which seemed too long to me, though still slightly more than the original New Cambridge Paragraph KJV, which is the Gold Standard in my mind for readability. In fact, the font and general layout bears quite a resemblance to the NCP.

Do we know the trim size? The pdf sample makes it appear to be at least 6.5" x 10", or about 10-point fontsize, again similar to the original NCP, but which I'm afraid the market will consider a brick. I actually hope Crossway errs on the side of readability instead of portability but I'm only wishing at this point.

As far as artistic flourishes in the dead space, I agree the italicized subject headings in the outer margins are a stroke of genius. I'm sure this will make the Bible a whiz to locate things. But I find the "big honkin' lower margin", in Chris Bloom's words, leaving me cold. The fact they put the translation notes below the text there only makes it look more awkward. Perhaps the rabid note-takers will find a use for it, but to me it looks unfinished, like those early printed Bibles that were rushed to "market" with only some of the pages finished!

But all in all, a very readable ESV. Now if only Crossway will print this on thick-enough paper to prevent a ghosting horror, they'll have a winner.

John S

Crossway has the trim size listed as 6" x 9" with a 9 pt font. I forgot to add earlier that this will be black letter throughout as well.

Chris Bloom

As a "rabid note-taker", I think it looks just swell. I agree that the BHLM does look a little odd at first, but it's growing on me. I'm also hoping beyond hope for some decent paper; with Crossway, it could go either way.


Thanks, John S. The 6x9 and 9pt info was in your original link, sorry. The pdf is just a bit over-scale. It made me hope it was more like 10pt but it's still a half-point larger than the LitSB and a "bolder" typeface which should help readability a lot.

If you search the crossway site for "legacy" they're showing 4 binding styles due to be released next January.

hank roberts

Is there any premium leather bible that is text only and a large print (10 pt).And not too large.
I have a Crossway ESV personal size reference with Lambskin and the type is too small. I am hoping for an Allan.
I prefer ESV or KJV

John S

Hank, if you are looking for text only (no cross-references) then your options are limited with the ESV. The ESV Large Print is available in calfskin and it is text only with a 12.5 font. If you don't mind cross references, the Allan Reader has a 10.3 font.

Local Church Bible Publishers has a large print bible that is text only. If you want an Allan, the longprimer is the way to go but it has cross references.

Scott D.

If you get out your ESV Study Bible (the original one) and turn to page 839 (Nehemiah) you can get a pretty good idea of what the Legacy will look like in print. Take out the inner references, slide the text over to the gutter and I think this approximates the ESB Legacy. The ESB SB dimensions are 9 1/4" x 6 1/2" ~ the Legacy is listed at 9" x 6 ". The font of the Scripture portion of the ESB SB is a 9 pt. Same as the Legacy. I personally was hoping for a 9.5 or 10 pt font, but given that the form factor is what I have been looking for in the "perfect" Bible layout (all black letter, paragraph style, wider margins, NO references, Smythe sewn) I suppose I can compromise with a bit smaller font ~ maybe. The biggest issue with Crossway's printings (for me) is the spacing between sentences. It is too narrow causing (for me) eye strain and fatigue as I have to fight staying on the right sentence. I have an NRSV pew Bible with an 8 pt font that is much easier to read than the 9 pt font Crossway uses and it's because of wider spacing between the lines. Larger font size doesn't necessarily equal easier reading. That having been said, however, I am looking forward to getting my hands on this new ESV Legacy to see if it, indeed, is the almost "perfect" Bible.

Scott D.

Chris Fodera

I would really like to find a 1984 NIV Single Column (wide margin as well would be nice) Text Bible. I saw this review (http://www.bibledesignblog.com/2008/12/cambridge-niv-singlecolumn-text-bible.html) a couple months back and now that I am getting around to going for it, I can't find this bible anywhere. Does anyone have another suggestion and/or know where I could find one? Thank you very much.


Chris, I initially thought you weren't trying hard enough when you said you couldn't find any more of the nice Cambridge single-columns around! But the Baker/Cambridge site lists NONE of them and as far as in-stock holdings, both CBD and Amazon only lists the 2-tone imitation brown
There are still some of the nice ones available from Amazon resellers and if you search by ISBN you can probably find other options.
There are also some Zondervan large-prints in single -column layouts still available too out there though not of the Cambridge quality class.

A lot of 2-column NIV 1984 editions are being discounted too it appears to me. IBS and Zondervan may finally pulling the plug on the original edition.

Yvonne Wilber

I have been looking for a small single column bible for quite some time. I was so happy to run across this blog (I'm an ex-graphic designer, now librarian/theology grad student).

I am putting in an pre-order for the Cambridge ESV Clarion Reference in brown calfskin.(Unless I can find it at the ETS Annual Meeting next week.)
I'm so excited. (And I just can't hide it.)

Here and here are images of the page layout courtesy of EB.

Yvonne Wilber

Whoops, that last one was from you guys! Courtesy of Bible Design Blog, huh?


A nice little writeup with pictures of early bound books at:

Almost all have the Legacy ESV's perfect page design. But none seem to have the filigree or artwork in those open areas that I claimed above were only missing in the early Gutenberg Bibles due to a 16th century rush to market. So truly there might be something else going on. Frankly, I don't find the open area pleasing.


Now that Mark's published some actual photographs of the ESV Legacy in his 1/11/12 posting, I'm being won over. There's something about the white space at sides and bottom that is somewhat peaceful, for lack of a better word. I can think of 3 single-column editions of the NIV84 that look good as on-screen pdf's, but are produced with 1/2" or smaller outer margins and it makes the text just seem cramped onto the page when you actually get your hands on one. Overly caffeinated, so to speak. Even the Cambridge KJV Clarion somewhat gives this impression. I'm not much of a note-taker in Bibles, but I'm beginning to believe there might be good reasons for generous margins just as there is for generous "leading" in line spacing. But you pay the price in bulkiness and I don't know how the market will respond to 2" thick Bibles, even if they're highly readable.

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  • J. Mark Bertrand is the author of Back on Murder, Pattern of Wounds, and the forthcoming Nothing to Hide, crime novels featuring Houston homicide detective Roland March. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston and lived in the city for fifteen years. After one hurricane too many, he and his wife moved to South Dakota. Mark has been arrested for a crime he didn't commit, was the foreman of a hung jury in Houston, and after relocating served on the jury that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead.

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