Monday, February 15, 2010

Selecting a Bible, Part 1 (What You Should Know)

Today I'm going to share the first of an excellent four-part series of articles by Wayne Goforth, who examines the physical construction of Bibles, and their pros and cons. If you're considering purchasing a new Bible, read this series beforehand! It introduces you to terms you should know when shopping for a Bible, and looks at the various quality levels to choose from, depending on your needs and budget. 

Selecting a Bible, Part 1
*This article is posted with permission from its author, Wayne Goforth, and was published in Preceptor Magazine. 

Many articles have been written over the years concerning various translations of the Bible available. Which ones are good and reliable, which should be avoided like the plague, the specific errors or positive qualities, etc of each. This series, however, views the physical construction of Bibles and the pros and cons of them. This is the result of research, interviews with the publishers themselves, having a book binder to examine samples, and examining or even dissecting scores of various editions that were generously supplied to better understand the process of the manufacturing of Bibles in order to help others find the Bibles that meet their individual needs. Delving into this was limited to only certain translations, to insure a true comparing of apples-to-apples…KJV, NKJV, NASB and ESV.

There is a separate vocabulary when it comes to discussing the physical construction and features of Bibles. These terms are frequently used of the descriptions on the package, catalogs and on the website concerning Bibles. This will help to decipher what is meant as well as familiarizing one with what is available.

Anglicized Text: Common with the Bibles printed in the UK is the British spelling of some words differently than in our Americanized English, such as “baptise” rather than “baptize”.

Art-Gilt Edges: As opposed to the standard gold gilt (sprayed on gold paint) we are used to seeing. In this, the edges of the paper are first dyed red; gold foil is then MELTED onto that. Thus the gold looks more orange gold and stays put longer. This is sometimes referred to simply as “red under gold.” Generally found on premium grade Bibles only. Due to the fact the gold foil is melted on, the pages often wil be slightly stuck together. Simply carefully pull the pages apart. This is not a defect. Carefully fan the entire bible with your thumb to break the pages loose. Some Bibles not art-gilted as such still have gold foil gilt.
Bible Types: Text: The Bible has only the text without any references or notes helps, etc. Reference: Shows where this subject may be found elsewhere in the Bible. References may be in the center, at the edge of a page, at the bottom or even under the verse. Wide Margin: Wider blank margins for placing your own notes. Usually the paper is thicker so it doesn’t bleed through as much when writing. Study: Containing various study notes, comments and helps. (My personal thought is that most study Bibles have a particular denominational slant in their notes. The “helps” are generally too brief to be of substantial help, and only help to make the Bible thicker and heavier. I would rather have separate helps that could be in depth enough to be beneficial).

Bonded Leather: Waste scraps of leather that is ground and mixed with latex and made into sheets that resemble the texture and feel of leather. Berkshire Leather: Pig Skin leather. This is what is most used when a Bible generically says “genuine leather”. Calfskin: Least expensive of the premium leathers. Attractive, durable and will soften more with use. French Morocco: Split cowhide made to look like goat. Not to be confused with true Morocco which is goatskin. Soft and supple out of the box, though thinner than other premium leathers.  
Goatskin: Most supple and durable of the bindings, also the most expensive.
For the most part, the larger the Bible, the softer the leather will seem as the weight of the paper will be supported less and thus seem more “floppy”. Conversely, the leather of a smaller Bible will feel less supple.
Paper: Bible paper up to 27 lb bond. India paper under 20 lb bond
Obviously, the thicker the paper, the thicker and heavier the Bible, but also less “bleed through” (ghosting) and better for note taking.
Paragraph Style: Text is arranged into paragraphs rather than each verse beginning a new line. May take some getting used to, but is becoming popular and seemingly liked.
Red Letter/Black Text: Whether or not the words of Christ appear in red. In high end Bibles you tend to see the red letter editions less, as the fear that some would only consider the red words as important. Too, there are some verses where it is interpreting on the part of the red letters to say that it is Jesus or the Gospel writer who is speaking.
Self Pronouncing: Bibles where the text uses the diacritical markings to aid in the pronunciation of words. More commonly found in the KJV.

Smyth Sewn: Smyth (pronounced as “Smithe” with a long “I” sound) is the name of a particular brand of sewing machines for books. Smyth sewing will have the Bible printed in sections, called signatures, which resemble booklets that are then all sewn together. The most durable Bible will be sewn, not glued nor the hybrid “glued and sewn”.
Yap: The amount of leather on the cover that extends beyond the edge of the pages. This is to protect the paper from being dirtied by your hands when carried or the pages scuffed or creased against some object. Some offer "Full Yap" where the leather is long enough, that when you put your hand around it, the leather folds totally over the pages. This provides for its own Bible case this way. Generally this is only an option on higher-end Bibles.

Care and Preservation of Your Bible:
* Use mink or neatsfoot oil on real leather covers when you first get your Bible, then about once a year thereafter. Apply the oil and rub in with cloth and allow it to soak in overnight. It will feel sticky at first, but will be absorbed.
*To “break-in” a new Bible, lay it on a flat surface. Open to about the first hundred pages or so of the Bible and press firmly but slowly, running fingers up and down the gutters. This allows the stitching to stretch. Do the same with the last hundred pages of the Bible as well. Then the next hundred pages towards the front, the next in the back, etc. until you have gone through the entire Bible. This will add years to any book and is commonly done in libraries.
*Do not leave your Bible exposed to heat (i.e., left in your vehicle as is commonly done…on dashboards no less!).
*To prevent your ribbon markers from fraying, with a match or lighter, burn the end of the ribbon then quickly pinch the ribbon with your fingers (if it is acetate). Some use Fray-Check on the end of the ribbon on silk markers.

Vinyl Bindings
If you had asked about vinyl Bible covers/bindings even last year, most Bible enthusiasts would have scoffed. However new manufacturing processes have allowed for a high quality variety of vinyl that feels very much like calfskin. Durability would probably be on par with bonded leather, but even less expensive. These can come in a variety of colors, even multicolor, duo-tone, etc. Amount of heat applied to this material will give it different shades and colors so that it is possible to have multi colors out of one uncut piece. Each company has its’ own name for the material, whether it be Kirkbrides’s “Kirvella” or Crossways’ TruTone. With this, you can get the high end Bible content but at a much lower price. Just make sure that it still specifies Smyth sewn. Since the man made material cannot absorb oils, these will not last as long as genuine leather, but still quite durable and attractive and a wonderful tactile feel to it.

Purchasing Bibles
Purchasing Bibles will naturally inhere certain tradeoffs. It will come down to what features you desire or need the most, in the price range you are willing to spend. For example, perhaps you want a thinline Bible, but you need large print. Chances are that’s not going to happen. Maybe the font size is fine, but you don’t like the thin paper that shows the lettering on the next page. Well, you’re not going to get a thinline that has thicker paper. Or, you want a wide margin but you need a personal sized Bible. Again, not likely. You want a lifetime Bible, but on a budget. Perhaps instead of the $200 premium Bibles you have to stick with a $50 Nelson that will wear out in five years but has a lifetime warranty. Decide what you need the most out of a Bible (be it size, price range, particular translation) and what features you are willing to do without.

Search the internet for prices that are better than the retail, since there is around a 40% markup on Bibles. The easiest way to do this is to find the actual ISBN number from the publishers’ website of the Bible you are interested in and google that particular ISBN number. You can frequently find “seconds” and clearanced at reduced prices as well along with various sales and discounts.

Having Your Bible Rebound
Many want to have their favorite Bibles rebound. Others may take new Bibles and have a special leather binding placed on it that was not available from the manufacturer. Make sure the Bible you want to have rebound is sewn rather than glued. If it is glued, the rebinder will have to stitch it first and you will lose ¼ inch of inside margin. In many Bibles, they would prevent you from being able to read the last of each sentence. In the very least, make sure your margin has ample room to allow for this if your glued Bible has to be rebound. You do not have to wait for a Bible to wear out to have it rebound. Perhaps there is a particular text type that you like but only available in bonded leather. You can have it rebound with any leather you like, including kangaroo!

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