What better gift could you give for Christmas than a nice copy of God’s Word? There are lots a good quality Bibles to choose from and making a choice can be extremely difficult. To help make a choice I’ve compiled my list of 12 Bibles that I think make the best gifts. Prices range from around $30 to over $200. They’re in no particular order.
The Cambridge Clarion is a candidate for the most beautiful Bible layout. It presents the text in a single-column paragraph format with references in the outer margin. It’s a hand-sized Bible with close to a 9-point font. The focus is on readability. The text uses line-matching to improve readability. Poetry is set in stanzas and all but the KJV has section headings that create a lot of white space on the page, which helps add to the beauty and usability.
It’s available in KJV, NKJV, ESV, and NASB. In 2016 it will be available in NIV. Covers include paste-down, calf split, calfskin with art-gilt edges, and edge-lined goatskin. The overall size = 7.5 x 5.5 x 1.5.
Cambridge’s Pitt Minion is a full reference Bible in a pocket-sized edition. It has references, footnotes, a concordance, and maps with an index. They’re printed in double-column paragraph with center-column references. At 6.75 x 4.75 x .8, it’s a small Bible that’s easy to carry. The font is small (6.75-point) but dark and sharp. If you can read the small print then the Pitt Minion is a winner.
It’s available in several translations (KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, NLT, and NIV). Covers include paste-down calf split and goatskin.
It’s best for reading, carry, and study. Here’s the review: KJV
The Cambridge Concord is a setting from the 1950’s. It’s a reference KJV Bible with concordance, dictionary, glossary, maps, and an index to maps, etc. It has a clean and bold typeface that’s free of distractions and a joy to read. It’s a thin hand-size Bible that’s perfect for multi-use. The Concord is often considered Cambridge’s flagship Bible.
You can get it in paste-down calf split and edge-lined goatskin. It’s also available in personal size and wide margin editions. The overall size = 5.5 x 8.25 × 1.25 (regular), 7.75 x 9.6 x 1.6 (wide margin), and 5 x 7.25 x 1.5 (personal size).
The Cambridge wide margin line has wide margins on all four sides, 38gsm paper that’s perfect for writing, and plenty of blank and lined pages in the back for notes. All are double-column editions with center-column cross references. Most have the same layout as the Pitt Minion. Once you’ve read your Bible on this 38gsm paper it’s hard to be satisfied with anything else.
The Concord edition matches the regular Concord but without the dictionary. It has more pages for notes than the other editions. All other editions match the Pitt Minion. The fact they match makes for a great carry/study combo.
It’s available in several translations (KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, and NIV). Covers include hard cover (except KJV), bonded (ESV only), calf split, and edge-lined goatskin. I consider the Cambridge Wide Margin Bible a must-own. The overall size = 7.75 x 9.6 x 1.6 (KJV), and around 7.75 x 9.6 x 1.4 (the rest).
The TBS Windsor is the cleanest text-only edition available in KJV. The verse-by-verse double-column format is completely free of distractions. The typeset is a gorgeous and sharp 9/10 with line-matching and the paper is creamy and opaque. The calf skin is stiff and lays flat in the hand. It contains a pronunciation guide, glossary, and a 2-year reading plan (the actual plan my family uses for out nightly reading). It has 2 ribbons. This Bible was made for reading and I can’t think of a better choice at 3 times the price. This is my personal favorite text-only Bible.
It’s available in imitation and calf skin. It’s only around $35 for a calf skin leather edition. The overall size = 7.5 x 5.25 x 1.
It’s best for reading, carry, and preaching. Here’s the review: Windsor
The Westminster KJV Reference Bible has 200,000 cross references, translators’ notes, and glossary in the margins – all next to the verses they correspond to, making a functional layout. In the back it has pages for notes, a pronunciation guide, 2-year reading plan, extensive concordance, and maps. It has 4 ribbons. It has creamy paper and an elegant font. This is without a doubt one of the best KJV’s ever produced. It’s my personal favorite reference KJV and for the money it’s hard to beat.
The TBS edition is available in hard cover and black paste-down calfskin. The Schuyler edition is available in edge-lined goatskin with several colors to choose from. It also has art-gilt edges and 4 elegant ribbons. The overall size = 8.5 x 6 x 1.5.
If the Clarion isn’t the #1 most beautiful layout, it’s probably because the NLT Select is. The same basic layout is there: single-column paragraph with references in the outer margin. The Select is taller. The verse numbers are slightly bolder so I can find them easier. The section headings stand out just a touch more. It has more room in the inner margin which brings the text further out of the gutter. Footnotes are marked with an asterisks and parallel passages have // in the margin. It was designed in-house by Tyndale. Well done, Tyndale design team!
The Tyndale edition is available in black edge-lined goatskin with art-gilt edges and 2 basic ribbons, and in calfskin with gold gilting. It also has art-gilt edges and 3 elegant ribbons. The Schuyler edition is available in edge-lined goatskin with several colors to choose from. The overall size = 5.25 x 8.25 x 1.5.
It’s best for reading and carry. Here’s the review: NLT Select
The Schuyler Quentel was designed to be elegant and it sets the bar high. It has a double-column paragraph format with references and footnotes in the footer. It has a large 11-point print with 38gsm paper and line-matching. It’s about the size and weight of a study Bible with the focus on the text. This layout is a beauty to behold and the double-column is easier on my bifocals than single-column editions. It includes an extensive concordance and lots of maps. Even though it’s large I prefer this font and paper for reading.
It’s currently available in NASB and ESV, and will soon (in 2016) be available in NKJV. It has edge-lined goatskin with several colors to choose from. It also has art-gilt edges and 3 elegant ribbons. The overall size = 6.5 x 9.75 x 1.87.
It’s best for reading, study, highlighting, and preaching. Here’s the review: ESV
The Allan Longprimer is R. L. Allan’s printing of the Oxford Long Primer and is considered the Rolls Royce of Bibles. It’s an older double-column setting with a 10-point bold font and 100,000 center-column chain references. It’s printed on opaque 32gsm paper. It has an extensive concordance, name index, topical index, and Oxford maps. It even has 32 ruled pages in the back for notes. There’s another edition called the Sovereign that has 38gsm paper and 1” outside and bottom margins.
It’s available in several covers including calfskin and goatskin with a yapp with multiple colors. It has 3 elegant ribbons. The overall size = 8.75 × 6 (plus yapp) × 1.5.
It’s best for reading, carry, study, and preaching. Here’s the review: Longprimer
I’m calling the Omega Heirloom the ESV equivalent to the Longprimer. It’s roughly the same size and has a similar layout. In reality its layout is cleaner. It has paragraph instead of verse by verse, and references are under the last verse on the page instead of in a center column (which gives the focus on the text). It has a nice concordance and 8 pages of color maps. Being a thin-line it’s easy to handle.
It has edge-lined goatskin in black or brown with a yapp and has art-gilt edges and 4 thin ribbons. The overall size = 6 5/8 x 9 ¾ x 1 1/8.
It’s best for reading, carry, study, and preaching. Here’s the review: Omega Heirloom
The Single Column Legacy was designed with the idea of the perfect page in mind. The page proportions use design principles from the renaissance. It has a wide outer margin where the section headings are placed. It doesn’t have references. You could use this as a wide margin Bible if you wanted to.
The Heirloom edition has edge-lined goatskin in black or brown and has 4 ribbons. The paper is 28gsm which makes this edition thinner than the regular edition. Other editions include TruTone and genuine leather. The overall size of the standard edition is 9 x 6 x 1.5, and the Heirloom is 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.25.
This is a single-column setting with a 2” outer margin that’s lined for writing. The paper is very thick and opaque and has deep cream color that’s close to yellow. Each edition includes section headings. The ESV, HCSB, and NKJV have paragraph and KJV is verse by verse. It has a 7.5 font and red letter. There are no references in the text.
Thoughts on Design and Quality
Verse by verse layouts place function over form in making each verse easy to see, whereas paragraph layouts place reading first. The one you need depends on how you plan to use it. I love paragraph Bibles for reading, but I find verse-by-verse easier to preach from. I prefer paragraph formats if the verse numbers are easy to find because paragraphs help keep passages together in complete thoughts.
Single column editions have the advantage of having more space on a line. This means fewer words that are too close together, no awkward spaces between words, and fewer hyphens. For editions that place poetry in stanzas this gives more room per line which makes the poetry prettier. Verse numbers are typically harder to see. I prefer this for reading. Some publishers have slightly bolder verse numbers. When this is the case I would prefer the paragraph setting for general use.
Wide margin editions are great for study and preaching. I personally think everyone needs a wide margin Bible, but Bible students and preachers especially need them.
The Bibles on this list represent high quality materials and design in virtually every price range. Most of the newer editions use line-matching to improve readability. The older editions rely on the opacity of the paper to help with readability. Most of my favorite editions were printed in the Netherlands by Jongbloed and designed by 2K-Denmark. When you put these two together on a Bible project you’ve got an elegant edition of God’s Word that you will cherish for a lifetime.
Did I leave out your favorite? Is there a Bible you would like to give for Christmas? Let us know in the comments.