The following is a review of Crossways ESV Single Column Reference Bible (SCRB).
I have this bible in my fleet of Crossway publications and it has quickly become my all time favorite version to use in my daily devotional and study time. I plan on laying out for you here why it is this bible has not only become my favorite, but list a few of its downsides as well. I want to review this bible in 3 separate categories; binding, layout, and size.
Crossway’s black tru-tone series has quickly won me over as their best binding material short of their calfskin versions. The feel of this material is absolutely glorious and has the perfect texture in the palm to keep it from sliding about. Its feel is what I have come to describe as banana peel-like. I have no other way to describe it other than that. The closest other binding I know of you may be familiar with are moleskin notebooks…just a little smoother.
Though Crossway offers tru-tone in other formats and styles, their straight black series is by far the most supple and flexible. Any of their bindings in this cover are the most flexible you can purchase from them. For some reason, perhaps because of different backing material the tru-tone is adhered to, other versions with different colors and styles of tru-tone are not as flexible as the black.
These black tru-tones are what I have come to refer as the “blue collar goatskin”. The look and feel of these bindings rank equal, in my opinion, to that of the ultra high end bible bindings…just ALOT cheaper.
Another great feature of the SCRB is it’s absolute fluidity, i.e., it practically conforms to the hand when held. A simple test I have developed rates bibles in my own collection in this fluidity. Simply pinch a corner, and watch what happens:
It practically bends over on itself. This is usually a trait one usually only finds in supple, high end goatskin bindings.
Another desirable characteristic of the SCRB is its ability to lay open flat with no prodding at all:
Below are some more pictures of its characteristics:
Here’s a close up of the tru-tone:
Unfortunately, this version of the SCRB does not have a sewn binding, it is glued. I handled a few of the other SCRB’s in the bookstore, and it appears they are all glued. Oh well, I suppose.
At first, I thought this version was going to be a bear to read. I mean, after all, every verse is a new line! But boy was I wrong.
I was amazed how easy and comfortable it was to read in this manner. What I found was that as you read and come to the end of a verse, there is a break in the text, forcing the eye to move down to the next verse. What I found was that instead of just reading sentence after sentence after sentence, there was a split second where my mind sort of digested the text that I had just read before my eyes moved onward. Sort of like how a golfer may approach a golf ball on a tee. The verse is laid up on a “tee” where you approach it, your eye takes it in, and there is time to “let the verse in” to your mind before you feel like you have to move onto the second verse. It’s actually quite amazing, especially if you aren’t familiar with this layout. It’s very reader friendly.
Often, when I read my bible, I tend to approach it as sentences to be read, like an ordinary book. However, where the bible is different than, say, Moby Dick, is that each verse is to be savored, mulled over, mediated upon, and digested. This version actually helps in that whole process. Remarkable. The downside to this format is it makes for a pretty thick book (more on that later).
Though it isn’t considered a true wide margin bible, I would say it is….barely. It’s margins are 1 1/8″- 1 1/4″ on the sides, 3/4″-1″ on the top, and 3/4″ on the bottom. Plenty of space for some margin notes.
I think it is also worth saying that the typeset used is very easy on the eyes. The letters on the page are very crisp and distinct making for comfortable reading. If you wear glasses, this may be a great bible for you.
Finally, the obvious advantage of this layout is that it is very easy to find a verse on the page. Though I am no preacher nor pastor, I have a feeling this might be a good investment for those referring to many verses at any given time or the layperson wanting to keep up with Sunday morning preaching.
I felt size needed a separate category because as it stands, the SCRB is the largest bible currently in the Crossway stables measuring in at a whopping 6 1/2″ x 9 1/4″ x 1 3/8″. It’s truly a beast of a book. The only bible larger that that published by Crossway is going to be their new ESV Study Bible and that’s only going to be thicker.
Below are some pictures for comparison. On top is the ESV New Testament, followed by the Personal Size Reference, a moleskin, Thinline, and finally the SCRB.
Here’s the largest and the smallest:
If you’re interested in large bibles that you can interact with (see this post), then the SCRB is your bible. Though the wide margin edition does indeed have larger margins, the type is much smaller and is only available in a double column format (yuck).
On a scale from one to ten, I’m giving this bible an 8 and that’s only because of its massive size. But considering all that it can do, it’s a trade off that is worth it.
If you want a convenient bible, this isn’t your book. But if want a bible you can live in, the SCRB is your bible.