The King James, or Authorized, Version of the Bible is widely regarded as the most influential book in the history of the English language. While it is less popular in some parts of contemporary Christianity, it continues to be the preferred translation for many Christians. The popularity of the KJV by contemporary Christians is seen by the variety of fine editions you can find in the King James Version today. Today’s review is the best KJV Bible I’ve seen to date.
The Cambridge Turquoise Reference Bible is available in a black goatskin edge-lined binding and a black calf split paste-off binding. Edge-lined bindings are more durable and more expensive. I am reviewing the black goatskin in this review.
The goatskin on this Bible has a beautiful grain that has a lovely feel to it. This cover is closer to a matte than a glossy finish, which I love. The first impression of this cover is that it is the highest quality leather binding you can find on a Bible. The front cover has a simple gold-letter stamp of “HOLY BIBLE.”
The spine has gorgeous raised ribs. One of the unique features of a Cambridge KJV is that it has the Royal seal, as Cambridge University Press is the Queen’s printer. This adds a nice elegant touch that you cannot find on any other publisher of the KJV.
The goatskin cover and design are exceptional. Of all of the KJV Bibles I’ve had, this cover is by far my favorite.
The Turquoise Reference Edition is a double column Bible that has verse-by-verse layout. The advantage of this layout is that it is easy to scan the page for particular verses. This is particularly desirable when preaching or teaching, though it is largely a matter of preference. The disadvantage of this layout design is that it makes for a less immersive reading experience than a paragraph layout.
This Bible is a reference edition and has extensive references and notes from the translators in the center column of each page. The references are adequate for studying a passage and its connection to other parts of Scripture, which is essential for studying the Bible.
I found the system to initially be confusing and actually spent some time searching around online for an explanation of how the references are used, which I did not find in the Bible itself. Because the references are in the center column, I was confused about how to match up the keys in the text to the references. Here’s how they do it: The keys go from left to right across both columns. This keeps the center-column references close to where the keys occur in the text. I initially found this confusing because if you are scanning down one column of Scripture, the keys are not necessarily sequential. “A” might be in the left column and “b” and “c” might be in the right column. This ends up not being a real problem because most people would intuitively look for the reference in the center column and they would find the correct one. Nevertheless, I would have appreciated a short explanation of the system of references (which are identified with letters) and translator’s notes (which are identified with numbers) in the front matter of the Bible itself.
A pet-peeve of mine for fine Bibles is when new Books of the Bible are not given a fresh page. This a design choice that saves pages and thickness. But from my perspective, the payoff is marginal and does not offset the benefits of a cleaner layout. While this is ultimately a fairly minor concern, it is one of the very few criticisms I have of the Cambridge Turquoise Reference Bible.
At this stage, you may think that my general feeling of the layout of this Bible is strongly negative. That is not at all the case! The quality of the ink and paper, and the size of the font make this Bible easy to read. Physically, the Bible feels a bit taller and narrower than Bibles I would put in the same class. The cover is roughly 9 ¾” by 6 ½”. It may be that it seems taller than most Bibles because it is actually slightly narrower. Either way, I really like it. At 1 ½”, it is the perfect thickness for my taste.
The Cambridge Turquoise Reference Edition includes both the original dedication and preface from the translators. Because of the history of the King James Version, I think every edition of the KJV ought to include both of these. Cambridge made a great choice here.
One feature I don’t remember seeing in other Bibles I’ve reviewed is that the chapters are numbered consecutively throughout the Bible. So, for example, next to chapter 1 of Jeremiah is “746]”. I would generally put this in the category of interesting trivia, but not necessarily something I would be likely to refer to much. (The design is subtle enough I didn’t even notice this immediately.)
The Bible also includes a presentation page and family records section. It includes a substantial concordance and maps in the back matter. There are two ribbon markers. And the Bible has Cambridge’s beautiful art gilt page edges.
The goatskin retails for $320 and is available for $195.76 as of this writing. The cheapest it has been available on Amazon that I can find has been $172.15, about 7 months ago.
The calf split retails for $210. The price does not tend to change much on Amazon. It is $138.08 as of this writing and looks like it has been that price for 9 months. The cheapest it has been on Amazon that I can find was $137.26.
This Bible feels substantial both in the hand and laid open while reading. It possesses the supreme virtue of fine Bibles: It is of such excellent quality and craftmanship you want to hold it and interact with it. This is a great example of the attention to detail and premium materials from start to finish that are consistent hallmarks of Cambridge Bibles.
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. Affiliate links used in this post. Cambridge provided a review copy of this Bible in exchange for an honest review.