Crossway’s ESV Heirloom Study Bible is unique in that it combines all of the research tools of a Study Bible with the material and craftsmanship of a premium Bible. Before seeing this Bible, I would have assumed that it would be impossible to pull off a Study Bible that is of the same quality as the kind of Bibles I’ve reviewed here in the past. After having spent quite a bit of time with this Bible, I can’t even remember why I thought that. This is a great Bible!
The ESV Heirloom Study Bible has a black goatskin cover with edge-lined binding. The cover feels very similar to other Crossway goatskin covers I’ve held. It is a bit less glossy with more a matte finish than the Crossway ESV Heirloom Thinline Bible I recently reviewed.
The cover has a fairly low profile, which I like given how large the Bible is. The front and back covers do not have any writing. The spine has gold lettering with bands that in my view perfectly fit the profile of the Bible. I really like the cover on this chunky Bible.
The layout of Crossway’s ESV Heirloom Study Bible is identical to the ESV Study Bible in other bindings. The outstanding feature of the layout of this Bible is that it is single column. Study Bibles are often double column because it helps get more words on each page. The notes are double column in this Bible, but the text of Scripture is single column. This is a great design choice, as it creates a very clear visual difference between Scripture and commentary on Scripture.
As I would expect in a Bible that is nearly 3,000 pages, the paper in this Bible is quite thin. I would not want it to be any thicker, as this Bible is already very stout. (I measured mine at 2 3/8” thick.) Because of the thinness of the paper, there is a fair amount of show-through. I find it acceptable, given what this Bible is. Despite this, I really like the paper in this Bible, particularly compared to other Study Bibles. It has more of a matte than glossy finish. The color on the 240 maps look great as well.
This Bible has the features you would expect in a Study Bible. There are more than 2 million words with 20,000 notes to guide your study of Scripture. The ESV Study Bible also has extensive cross references, which I always appreciate. The Bible has art-gilt page edges, which are very nicely done. I really like the look of the art gilding on such a thick Bible. While most premium Bibles have two or three ribbons, this one has four ribbon markers. This was a great design choice, as the addition of a fourth ribbon works well proportionally with the thickness of this Bible. I do wish the ribbons were half an inch longer. They look short to me and barely reach the corner of the page.
Fine Bibles are expensive. And so they already have a pretty specific target audience. I suspect that this Bible may have the most specific audience of any Bible I’ve reviewed. The retail price of the ESV Heirloom Study Bible is the most expensive I’ve seen at $375. It is typically significantly discounted by online distributors. (It was $236.71 on Amazon as of this writing and has often been offered for less than $200.) All this is to say that I suspect that this Bible is most likely to be bought by someone who has previously owned an ESV Study Bible and is an enthusiast of that specific Bible. That has made me wonder if this Bible was riskier for Crossway to commit to publishing. I love that they took the risk. They have created a Bible that is exceptionally crafted and has serious tools for studying Scripture. If you are a fan of the ESV Study Bible, I highly recommend Crossway’s ESV Heirloom Study Bible.
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. Crossway provided a review copy of this Bible in exchange for an honest review.