Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Single-column Bibles

I have always loved single-column Bibles, and have hardly ever used anything else.  A single-column Bible just looks like it was meant to be read!  However, single-column Bibles have two special requirements beyond the needs of traditional double-column editions: the text needs to be larger and the paper needs to be better.

The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible has about 70 characters per line, which is just about right.  If there are more than this, it’s hard for your eye to find the start of the next line.  So, if a publisher is going to keep each line to about 70 characters, this rule must be followed: the wider the line, the larger the font.

There is a greater need for relatively opaque paper in single-column Bibles than in double-column ones.  This is because they more often have text which is not backed by text on the reverse side of the page (this happens especially in sections that are printed in verse, such as the Psalms).  Your appreciation of all that white space is marred by seeing the words printed on the other side.  One simply notices show-through more when reading a single column Bible!

In an earlier post I complained about the translucency of the paper that is used in the Revised Cambridge edition of the NCPB.  However, their Cameo edition uses even thinner paper (the same stock used in the Clarion Reference Bible) but, because the Cameo is printed in double-columns, the show-through is not as obvious as it is in the Clarion or the NCPB.

A single-column setting makes almost any Bible a pleasure to read - as long as the font is big enough and the paper is thick enough!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

KJV Clarion Reference Bible vs. NCPB

In 2011, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the KJV, Cambridge University Press published two new personal-size, single-column, paragraph-format, black-letter King James Bibles: the Clarion Reference Bible and the Revised edition of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible.  It might be useful to compare and contrast these two editions.

Biblical text
Clarion: Standard 1769; words that have no equivalent in the original text are printed in italics.
NCPB: 1611, but with modern spelling and punctuation; no words are in italics.

Clarion: Not included.
NCPB: Available with or without the Apocrypha.

Also on each page
Clarion: Cross references in the outside margin.
NCPB: Marginal notes in the inside margin.

In both editions
Epistle Dedicatory.
The Translators to the Reader.

Also included
Clarion: Reader’s Companion (a combination concordance and dictionary) and 15 maps.
NCPB: Editor’s Introduction.

Clarion: Lexicon No. 1, in 8.75 point.
NCPB: Swift, in 10.9 point.
Despite the different font sizes, the type in these two Bibles appears to be similar in size.

Page size
Clarion: 5 x 7 1/16 inches.
NCPB: 5 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches.

Printed text (not including cross references or marginal notes)
Clarion: 3 1/2 x 6 1/16 inches.
NCPB: 3 3/4 x 7 1/8 inches.

Lines per page
Clarion: 42 (5.946 lines per vertical inch).
NCPB: 48 (5.818 lines per vertical inch).
There is slightly more space between the lines of the NCPB than in the Clarion.

Books begin...
Clarion: where the previous one ended.
NCPB: almost always at the top of a page, and usually on a right-hand page.

Text sample

Paper stock
Clarion: Indolux India paper
27 grams per square meter
Thickness 30 (1690 pages per inch)
Opacity 79.5, Whiteness 87


OP Opaque Bible paper
31 grams per square meter
Thickness 36.5 (1390 pages per inch)
Opacity 81, Whiteness 83

As defined in the Cambridge Glossary, India paper weighs less than 30 grams per square meter and Bible paper weighs at least 30 grams per square meter.

Bindings available 
Clarion: Black or brown leather.
NCPB: Hardback or black leather.

Friday, March 16, 2012


To me, the most important feature of a Bible is the paper.  And the most important specification of the paper is its opacity.  Because of their length, Bibles are printed on thin paper.  How well the paper shields the reader from what is printed on the other side, not to mention the next page, is crucial.

Every edition of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible is printed on different paper stock.  Let me review them, from best to worst.  Though I haven’t seen it, I will assume that the two-volume Folio Society edition, which is printed on Abbey Wove paper, is the best.  At $975, it should be!

The single-volume Folio Society edition must be next.  The publisher says it has thicker paper than most other Folio Society books - which is great, but it costs $150.

Among the affordable editions of the NCPB, the cheapest one has the next best paper.  The Penguin Classics edition, a two-inch thick paperback book, uses a sturdy paper that keeps glimpses of upcoming pages to a minimum.

Slightly less opaque is the paper used in the First Cambridge edition, now sadly out of print.  The decent paper stock and the printer’s careful line-matching ensure that you really only notice the text that is printed on the reverse side of the page when reading the poetry sections.

Last, and I’m afraid least, is the Revised Cambridge edition.  This is especially unfortunate because it is the only affordable edition of the NCPB published in hardback or leather bindings.  And it’s the only edition available either with or without the Apocrypha.

I suppose only the paper in a lectern Bible is truly opaque (even the picture of Judith 16 in the two-volume Folio Society edition reveals some show-through) but the closer one can get to that ideal in a personal-size Bible, the better.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In the middle

Every edition of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, except the one published by Penguin Classics, includes the original marginal notes of the 1611 KJV, as well as notes that were added in later editions.  One of the innovations of the NCPB is the printing of these notes along the inside margin of each page.  This arrangement may have two possible drawbacks: it makes it difficult to write in the unused space of this column because the pages curve down into the gully of the book.  And, secondly, it might be distracting for your eyes to have to pass over two columns of marginal notes when crossing from the left-hand page to the right.

However, these two disadvantages are more than compensated for by one great advantage: the KJV text, printed far from the gully, always lies flat - something that rarely happens in other Bibles.  Even the distance this layout creates between the two columns of text could be seen as an advantage: when reading one page, the text on the other page is far enough away that it never catches your eye.  The marginal notes, because they are printed in a smaller font, can be easily ignored.

This brilliant concept was quickly adopted by Crossway in all their single-column reference editions of the English Standard Version: the Single-Column Reference Bible (now, only available in an Allan’s edition), the Personal Size Reference Bible, the ESV Study Bible and the forthcoming Verse-by-Verse Reference Bible - and by Zondervan in their NIV (2011) Single-Column Reference Bible.

Marginal notes in the middle of the book - what a great idea!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On the right

I like it when each book of the Bible begins on a new page.  As wonderful as my Cambridge KJV Large-print text edition is, only 20 of its 66 books start at the top of a page.  Joshua, 1 Samuel, Acts and Romans begin at the bottom of the page - it just doesn’t look right.

This is something the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible almost gets right.  Not only do most books begin on a new page - they start at the top of a right-hand page!  Very classy.  In the Cambridge First edition and the Penguin Classics edition, 25 of the 80 books end on a right-hand page, requiring the next (left-hand) page to remain blank so the next book can begin on the right - a lovely indulgence.

It is only near the end of the New Testament that this wonderful practice begins to slip: 2 Peter and 3 John start on left-hand pages - and, what's worse, 2 John begins in the middle of a page.  What a shame.

In addition to these three books, the Cambridge Revised edition also demotes five more books to a left-hand page start: Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Manasses, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.  One assumes the publishers did this to save four pages, but then why did they insert two blank sheets of paper at the end of the Old Testament?  This wasn’t done in earlier editions and it offsets exactly the savings these changes were presumably meant to make!  How much better the Revised edition would have been if Cambridge had added just three more sheets of paper to the New Testament and started all 80 books on the right.