Fine Bibles and Tradeoffs
The very first fine Bible I got my hands on was the Schuyler Quentel NIV. This Bible seemed too good to be true. When I opened the box, I was greeted with the delightful rich smell of leather. The layout was astounding because it was so readable. At first glance, you might assume that the Bible is so readable because it has no cross references. In double-column Bibles, the references are almost always in a thin column between the two columns of text. The Schuyler Quentel does have cross references, but it removed the references column and placed the references in the footer. You have access to the references when you need them, with a much more clean and readable page. The Quentel is my favorite layout for a double-column reference Bible.
With so much to love about the Schuyler Quentel, there was one thing that disappointed me about it. The Bible just seemed a bit too big or bulky. It felt to me like a Study Bible. (These kinds of critiques are often unfair. A smaller Bible will be critiqued because the pages are too thin and the writing shows through the pages, which is what allows the Bible to be small. Or, it will be critiqued because the font is too small, making it hard to read. And a Bible with a more readable font and thicker pages that don’t show the text on the opposite side of the page as clearly is criticized for being too bulky, when a larger font and thicker pages requires a larger Bible.)
Choosing a fine Bible is, in many ways, about tradeoffs. I am frequently asked by readers to recommend a Bible. And my response is always a question, because there is not one Bible that is straightforwardly perfect. How do you rank the variety of variables in a Bible? Do you have a strong preference for a particular translation? How important is font size (this is an essential factor if you simply cannot read below a particular font size)? Are cross references a requirement? How important are other design choices (such as single column versus double column)? What is your budget? Is there a particular kind of leather that is essential for the cover? Or color?
All of this is to say, as much as I loved the Schuyler Quentel, I couldn’t help feeling like it was just a bit too big.
Enter the Schuyler Personal Size Quentel
Schuyler’s Personal Size Quentel has the exact same layout (as long as you are comparing the same translation) as the Quentel, but in a smaller format. This means that if you compare the NIV Quentel to the NIV Personal Size Quentel the same words are in the same place on the same page. I love this feature, because it means that you get to choose between ease of reading in a large size or portability with a smaller font. (Another advantage is that someone could buy both and have the best of both worlds.)
The folks at Schuyler were kind enough to send me a Personal Size NKJV in black calfskin leather. The Schuyler Quentel I have in NIV is roughly 10” x 6 3/4” x 1 3/4” with the pages being 9.1″ x 6.1”. The Personal Size Quentel I have is roughly 7 3/4” x 5 1/4” x 1 1/4” with the pages being 7” x 4.7″. The Personal Size Quentel is still fairly thick. I really like the way it feels in the hand. I think the balance between page size and thickness is great. The size and feel is similar to reading a mass market paperback book (slightly bigger).
I was excited to get my hands on a calfskin binding because they have one significant advantage over a goatskin binding: they are significantly more affordable. I believe the difference in price is typically $185 for a goatskin edge-lined binding and $120 for a calfskin paste off binding. The difference in price has more to do with the quality of the binding than the quality of the leather. Edge-lined bindings are widely considered to be the most durable, with paste off bindings being less so. (I’ve explained this in more depth in my review of Cambridge’s NRSV Reference edition.)
The calfskin cover is great! It has a very smooth texture. It is noticeably different than a typical goatskin cover, which usually has a more pebbly and textured grain. (Another matter of personal preference in deciding which Bible to buy!) It feels great. Buttery is a word commonly used to describe the feel of a cover like this. The stiffer cover on a smaller Bible designed to take with you may be an advantage in helping protect it. Considering the difference in price, I would choose the calfskin over the goatskin for the Personal Size Quentel.
Another great feature of both the Schuyler Quentel and the Personal Size Quentel is that Schuyler has committed to this format across translations. They have published each format in ESV, NASB, NKJV, and NIV. Availability varies, as Schuyler is one of the most popular producers of fine Bibles and their print runs tend to sell out fairly quickly.
One of the most surprising things to me about the Personal Size Quentel is how readable it is even in the smaller version. Schuyler says the Personal Size Quentel comes in an 8.5 point font size. For comparison, the Quentell is 11 point font.
The two most obvious comparisons of this Bible are the Cambridge Pitt Minion and the Cambridge Clarion. Like the Schuyler Personal Size Quentel, both of these Cambridge Bibles are available in a wide range of translations. The Pitt Minion is the smallest of the three (it is particularly thin in comparison to the Personal Size Quentel and the Clarion.) However, the 6.75 point font in the Pitt Minion is noticeably smaller than that of the Personal Size Quentel. The Clarion has a slightly larger font size and is a single column layout. (For photos of the text and layout, see my reviews of the Pitt Minion and Clarion above.) It is also noticeably thicker than the Personal Size Quentel. When comparing the three for this review, I was surprised at how well the more affordable calfskin stacked up against the significantly more expensive Cambridge Clarion goatskin.
The Schuyler Personal Size Quentel is a fantastic Bible. I’ve spent a lot of time with the Schuyler Quentel I got several years ago. The Personal Size Quentel is what I hoped it would be, particularly as far as my initial sense that the Quentel just felt a bit too big. I am grateful I have both because I would really struggle to choose between them. If forced to choose, I would go with the Personal Size Quentel because I can envision taking it with me when I travel and it is still very readable with my current vision. Highly recommended!
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. Schuyler generously provided a copy of this Bible in exchange for my honest review.