Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cambridge Heritage BCP and KJV - a review

The Book of Common Prayer + the King James Version = The Heritage Edition

To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible, Cambridge University Press has published the Heritage Edition, which brings these two treasures together in one beautiful book.

A key event in the English Reformation was the publication in 1549 of the first Book of Common Prayer.  It was then revised several times until the final version was published in 1662, and this is the edition from which all other Anglican prayer books descend.  The Christian faith expressed throughout this classic work is eloquent and passionate; the clarion call of the gospel rings out on every page.  Cambridge has published the BCP since 1628 and in 2004 reset the book in a modern, clear font, with an elegant page design.

This shows the different font sizes in the BCP and the minimum of show-through.

The Heritage combines the Enlarged Edition of this new setting of the BCP with the just-published Second Edition of the Pitt Minion Reference Bible. This differs from the original Pitt Minion in three important ways: the text is printed in paragraph style rather than verse-by-verse; black letter rather than red letter is used for the words of Christ; and, like the new editions of the BCP, it has been reset in a font called Lexicon Number 1.  For those of us familiar with the older editions of the BCP and the KJV Pitt Minion, the reset editions look both new and timeless - as if the family silver has been polished for the first time in years!

Here you can see how the KJV Pitt Minion prints book titles, prose and poetry.

I think good paper stock is crucial in anything as important as a prayer book or Bible.  The reader doesn’t want to be distracted by the words on the other side of the page.  The Heritage is printed on relatively opaque 45gsm Primapage paper made by the French company PDL (Papeteries du Lemain) and bound in Italy by L.E.G.O. SpA, Vicenza.  There is no page-curling and very little show-through.  In the BCP the font size is 11.6 point; in the KJV it’s 6.75/7 point.  

The stand-alone Enlarged Edition of the BCP is printed on similar if not identical paper, but the new separate KJV Pitt Minion uses the thinner 27gsm Indolux paper - so anyone eyeing a Pitt Minion might be tempted to buy a Heritage for the sturdier paper, not to mention the inclusion of a BCP!

The Second Edition of the KJV Pitt Minion found in the Heritage is a wonder of compactness: the entire Bible in a double-column setting, with thousands of cross-references, runs to just 969 pages.  (By comparison, the single-column Cambridge Clarion prints the same content over 1826 pages; it uses the same font, but in 8.75 point.)  

Though the Pitt Minion’s print is small, it’s sharp, clear and even.  The references run down the center of the page between the two columns, there are no section headings to interrupt the biblical text and it is printed with good line-matching.  Each book begins where the last one ended, not at the top of a new page.  Also included: The Epistle Dedicatory to King James and two blue ribbons.

The Heritage comes in a choice of three bindings: black calf-split, purple calf-split and hardcover.  The leather is at the stiff-and-slippery end of the spectrum, not soft-and-supple, but this gives the Heritage’s many pages good support.  This thick, compact book (5 1/4 x 7 7/16 x 1 7/8 inches) fits the hand nicely and is ideal for prayer book services and private devotions.  It is so convenient to have a BCP and KJV in one place - and the cardboard slipcase will protect it well.  

I’m trying to think of something I don’t like about the Heritage Edition!  Ah, here it is: the words “Calf split leather” look wrong - too large and in a non-matching sans-serif font.  This is much better done in the Clarion.  

The Clarion, on the right, prints "Calf split leather" in a more dignified font.

With the Heritage, Cambridge has brought together two beautiful editions of the two greatest books ever published.  If I had to spend the rest of my days alone on a desert island, and could only have one book, this would be it.

I am grateful to the Baker Publishing Group for supplying a copy of this book for the purposes of this review.


  1. Thanks for this review! I have been wanting to see this edition for sure

  2. Thanks again for the review. I just purchased this edition based on your review. I was looking at getting a KJV Pitt-Minion, but I changed my mind after reading your comments about the paper upgrade in the KJV/BCP edition. I will be using this as my visitation Bible, so it was also good to here that the print is crisp.

    I have one question. Are the paper specs printed inside the Bible?

    Be Encouraged:-)

  3. Dear Isaac,

    Thank you for your kind words. No, the paper specifications are not printed in the Heritage Edition; they were given to me by Cambridge University Press.

    I'm glad to hear that you have just bought one. I hope you like it as much as I do!


  4. Does this Bible contain the Apochrypha? If it does not, then it is not very useful for use with the lectionary.

  5. Dear Michael,

    No, the Heritage Edition doesn't contain the Apocrypha - so, as you point out, it can't be used to follow the BCP lectionaries perfectly since they have some readings from those books. In fact, CUP hasn't yet created a digital edition of the Apocrypha, though they are considering how best to do this.

    1. Glad I read this- exactly my question as without the Apocrypha this is not an Authorized Version of the King James. I will purchase once it is included. Thanks