When I became a Christian, I immediately began to have a reverence for the Bible. My attitude for the Bible was not just reverence for the message of God itself, but also respect for the Bible as an object. Because the Bible is the printed record of God’s Word, I have, since my conversion to Christ, sought to treat my copy of the Scriptures with special care.
This respect for the physical copy of Holy Scripture led me early on to want a nice, quality, well-designed copy for myself, which I could read and study for years to come. So, within a year of coming to Christ, my father told me to pick a new Bible for myself, and he’d buy it.
So, when I was 15 years old, I started doing research on what I wanted to get. I knew I wanted a black wide margin KJV with no study notes or red letters. And most of all, I wanted a quality leather cover that would last me for many years. And I found all of the details I wanted in a Cambridge Wide Margin in Berkshire leather – thick Berkshire leather.
That was 1986, and more than 20 years later, I still have and still regularly use that Bible. It was my preaching and reading Bible for most of those 2 decades. Although I have had to reattach the cover 3 or 4 times over the years, the cover itself is still amazingly tough. So good is this cover that this Bible will never see another. In fact, it’s at the rebinder’s shop right now getting it reattached, I suspect for the last time it will ever need it.
My love for quality Bibles has not subsided, in fact it has grown more intense. As nit-picky as I ever was, I have now become even more so when it comes to a Bible purchase. As a pastor, the Bible is my life, so to speak. It is my main tool for ministry that I use every day. Because I do, I am no longer happy with just any Bible, or with just a few Bibles. Like a mechanic, I want good quality tools that will last a long time, and I want a bunch of them.
The problem is that you have to hunt the far reaches of the earth to find really high quality Bibles, and when you find them, you usually have to pay a premium for them. But I’m OK with that. I don’t mind doing the searching, and I don’t mind saving up for a purchase I know I’ll be happy with for a very long time, especially when it comes to a copy of Scripture.
Unfortunate is the fact that you have to search so hard for high quality Bibles. Bible publishers today have not been very prone to offer editions with high quality leather covers and sewn bindings. As time passes, the “leather” covers have gotten thinner and stiffer, and the bindings have gone from sewn to glue. And most of what they market and sell only comes in these inferior bindings.
I’ve got a few of these lesser-quality Bibles, but usually it’s because someone has given it to me, or there’s something else unique about it like it’s study notes or it’s format. But, to be honest, I tend to use them a lot less. In fact, you’ll never see me carrying one. They live on my shelf until they’re needed.
I like to hold a quality Bible in my hands, to smell and feel the supple leather on the palms of my hands, and enjoy the way it lies flat in my hand, due to the limpness of the cover and spine. I like to hold a Bible that is a pleasure to hold.
To me, it is a matter of pleasure and respect for a book that is much more than a mere book. It is a quality-crafted, carefully adorned pleasure to both body and soul. In this way, it becomes an object of beauty and delight in more way than one. And I think that’s the way it ought to be. At least, that’s the way I want it to be.
I’ve shared a picture and comments on my humble collection and a review of my Greek New Testament I had rebound in calfskin over at my friend Mark Bertrand’s Bible Design and Binding blog. Mark’s in-depth reviews and photos have begun to rally a nice little community of people who share the same passion for high quality Bibles. You’ll also find there information on where to find the best Bibles as well as the best rebinders.