I love books. I love the way they feel. I love the way a well-designed book looks. I even love the way books smell. I said this recently to my family, and one of my children just stared at me and said, “You’re weird.” That is probably true.
Despite the digital revolution, the physical aspect of reading is still extremely important to me. I want to be able to hold a book in my hands, feel its weight, turn pages, and see progress in reading the book as the weight is transferred from the right to the left.
So it has been with joy and delight that I have discovered the growth in interest and production of high quality Bibles. I am very much late to the party, but I’m glad I made it! Over the course of this summer I hope to review a broad range of what is available from various publishers and translations of Scripture in bindings that are made to be used and to last long term. I hope you will enjoy learning about these books as much as I have!
I would like to briefly address to objections that I anticipate: First, these Bibles are expensive. If you think it is wrong to spend more than $50 on a Bible, then these posts will not be for you. I may write about why I think these are a worthwhile investment at a later point. That is not my purpose here. Second, I have intentionally tried to gather a range of translations for review. I am not going to spend a lot of time here discussing the various translations. If you are interested in the advantages and disadvantages of various translations and the difference between formal/literal equivalence, functional/dynamic equivalence, and paraphrases try some basic google searches and you will find a host of forums for these discussions.
Schuyler Quentel NIV
The Schuyler Quentel NIV is one of the Bibles I kept coming back to over and over again as I began learning about fine Bibles. Schuyler has published the Quentel in a variety of translations (availability changes as these Bibles are produced in small batches). The Quentel is a reference Bible in a two-column setting, as is traditional for most Bibles. But there was just something about this Bible that made me keep coming back to it.
I would not be able to overstate how excited I was for this Bible to arrive in the mail. When it arrived, I stopped what I was doing and spent the entire evening looking through it and reading it after the kids were in bed.
The Bible arrived in a package that gave me immediate confidence that this was a Bible crafted with attention to detail. The shipping box contained a thick and elegant box that was wrapped in bubble wrap and included packaging peanuts surrounding it. The Bible itself was further wrapped inside its box to protect it. It arrived in excellent condition.
To be honest, my expectations were so high that I was initially slightly disappointed with the Bible itself. The Quentel was bigger than I thought it would be. I think this was mostly because I had not realized that the measurements on the website are the dimensions of the pages of the Bible, not including the binding (cover). The cover is “semi-yapp” which means that the cover goes beyond the pages (I measured 3/8 of an inch on mine). The binding also adds a fair amount of thickness. The measurements on the website are 6.1” x 9.1” x 1.4” The actual Bible measures 6 5/8” x 9 7/8” x 1 3/4”. The difference is not huge, but I was initially surprised by the thickness and size. It is the same thickness but wider and longer than the NIV Study Bible I received as a gift back in high school, which measured 6 1/8” x 8 3/4”.
A Deeper Look
I don’t want to overstate my initial reaction. The truth is I could not stop touching this Bible and flipping through it. The cover is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I ordered the “Antique Marble Brown” goatskin. Mine does not show as much texture in the color as the one in the picture appears to show, but I really like the brown color. The NIV Quentel is also available in a variety of other colors. Goatskin binding are $200 and calfskin bindings are $130. (I warned you that these are not cheap!) The gold lettering on the spine looks elegant and dignified. I also really like the texture added by the raised bands on the spine.
If you have never owned a goatskin Bible, I am not sure I can adequately describe it. They are often described as supple and that is exactly the word that keeps coming to mind as I handle this Bible. The goatskin cover also has a full leather lining (the interior of the cover). The most impressive thing about the cover is its flexibility. You can roll it up and it springs back into place.
Holding this Bible is simply unlike any Bible, or any book, I have ever held. The quality of the book makes you want to touch it and read it, which is an ideal quality for a Bible!
The pages are listed as 36 GSM paper, which is thick for Bible paper. To give you an idea, the Schuyler Quentel is the same thickness as my NIV Study Bible, which has more than 500 more pages. Of course, it is still thinner than the pages you’d find in a typical book. Schuyler also uses line matching, which means that the text is much less visible on the other side of the page.
The layout is what I think most sets the Quentel apart. There are three things that I think are particularly worth mentioning. First, the text is clean and as unencumbered as a reference Bible could be. The experience of reading this Bible is as ideal as a two-column setting could be. The font is 11 point, which is quite large for a Bible. Second, red ink is used in subtle but helpful ways. Each chapter number is red, the cross references chapter and verse numbers are also in red, as is the line separating the text from the footer. Third, all of the cross references are in the footer of the text, instead of being in the center column, which is typical of two-column settings in reference editions. This is my favorite part and I think what made me really want this Bible. Moving the cross references to the footer keeps your focus on simply reading the text. The fact that the chapter and verse for the references are in red is another stroke of genius, because it helps to quickly locate the specific reference in the footer.
Aside from the 54,000 cross references, this Schuyler Quentel also has the NIV concordance. It is a red letter edition. It also has three very nice ribbons. The page edges have art-gilt edging (red under gold in my edition, which looks fantastic). The pages are Smyth Sewn, which means the pages are sewn together in booklets instead of glued together, allowing the binding to last longer and be significantly more flexible. The Bible includes 12 pages of lined paper and 12 maps designed exclusively by Schuyler.
Longing to See the Personal Size Quentel
I have spent at least five hours reading and looking through this Bible. The only question I have about it at this point is whether I would like the smaller Personal Size Quentel (PSQ) better. If you are looking at the same translation, the layout from the Quentel to the PSQ is exactly the same, which allows for easy transition from the larger to the smaller one. The NASB PSQ is listed as 4.7” x 7.1” x 1.1”, which should be compared to the textblock specs for the Quentel for consistency. The PSQ has a smaller font (8.5) and thinner paper (28 GSM) so there are tradeoffs. I am hoping to get my hands on a Personal Size Quentel someday to compare them. I am told that the PSQ will be available in the NIV in early 2019.
The Highest Quality NIV on the Market?
Schuyler markets the Quentel as “the best all around classic reference NIV on the market.” This is indeed a fantastic Bible. There are not as many NIV Bibles of this quality as you might think, given the popularity of this translation. If you are a fan of the NIV and you appreciate the experience of holding and reading extremely well-made books, you cannot go wrong with this Bible. The Schuyler Quentel would also be an excellent gift for your pastor, or even for a high school or college graduate.
The Schuyler Quentel is a Bible made with care and attention to detail at every level. I will enjoy using mine for years to come!
The folks at Schuyler generously provided this Bible for review. I was not required to give a positive review of this Bible, only an honest one. For another take on this Bible, with photos of the Imperial Blue cover, check out the Bible Design Blog.
Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you.