Crossway’s Wide Margin Reference Bible ESV in Black Genuine Leather – Review

It doesn’t take much time on this website to find that I have a deep affection for wide-margin Bibles. Wide-margin Bibles draw me into the Bible, asking me to interact with it by writing my thoughts next to a passage of Scripture. Wide margins are one of the greatest tools for interacting with Scripture, and this interaction is one of the best ways to grow deeper in God’s Word. Crossway’s latest edition, the Wide Margin Reference Bible, provides one-inch margins to interact with the Scriptures and still provides other tools to support that study: cross-references, a concordance, and maps in genuine leather at an affordable price. There is enough here for this to be my ‘one Bible’.


  • Wide margins
  • Large font
  • Thick paper


  • No extra pages for writing


  • ESV
  • Family information pages
  • Genuine leather
  • Sewn binding
  • 1 inch margins
  • 9-point font
  • Red-letter
  • Line matching
  • Cross-references
  • Footnotes
  • 61 page Concordance
  • 8 Maps
  • 1 ribbon marker
  • Gilted edges
  • 9 5/8 x 7 x 1 3/8
  • ISBN: 9781433544156
  • SRP $89.99

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Cover and Binding

The cover of my review copy is black genuine leather with a paper/vinyl liner. The cover has the grain and stiffness that I like. I can hold it open and it will lay flat in my hands with ease. Floppy covers are nice and elegant, but I prefer the stiffer cover with more structure. It looks and feels nice. It’s built well. It has a sewn binding and lays flat with no problem. This should be the standard construction for any Bible.

Paper and Print

The paper is perfect for writing. I’m not sure of the gsm, but it’s thick and opaque. It has line-matching which makes it look even better. It has a white tone. I wish every Bible had this paper. The font is a 9/10 and looks nice and sharp. To me it looks like the same font used in the Clarion (one of my all-time favorite fonts). It’s maybe a semi-bold. The red-letter is about a medium red. It is very readable.


This is a two-column, paragraph format. The standard textual layout is here: poetry set to verse and OT quotes are offset to make them easy to identify. The references are under the last verse on the page and the notes are placed in the footer. The verse numbers are just enough bolder than the text to make it easy to quickly find the verses you’re looking for. Section headings are in bold italics. It has one-inch margins for writing. One inch margins might not seem like much but if you write succinctly you will be able to get enough in there to be useful. Each book starts on a new page. I love this because it gives a few pages here and there for writing. This is something that I find is extremely important in a wide-margin Bible.

References and Notes

The references are based on systems from Oxford and Cambridge and are quite extensive. Types of references include keywords, specific themes, similar themes, and direct quotes. There are 21 verses for Genesis 1:1. They are placed under the last verse on the page, with the verse they apply to in bold, and are keyed to the text with letters. The footnotes are placed in the footer of the page and are only keyed with numbers. Types of footnotes include alternate renderings, Hebrew and Greek explanations, general explanations, and technical notes about difficult passages. I find the footnotes to be very useful in Bible study.


The concordance is 61 pages with three columns per page. That’s not a lot of pages but with three columns it still has a lot of entries. It says there are 2400 entries and 10,000 references. There are 52 entries for God. The entries are in bold and the verses are placed on individual lines, making it easy to use.


There are eight pages of maps that are printed on heavy coated card stock. The paper is the type I prefer for maps- not shiny. The maps colors lean more to the earth-tones, which I also prefer. They could be a little more colorful or bold, but that’s just me being picky. They’re fine the way they are. I do wish they would have included an index, but the maps are labeled well enough that it’s easy to find what I’m looking for.

Comparing with the Clarion


Crossway’s ESV Wide Margin Reference Bible is a true rival to Cambridge’s ESV WM and in my opinion, even surpasses the Cambridge Wide Margin with a larger print and better layout with the references located under the last verse on the page. Some may be put off by it being made in China, but to be honest this is the highest quality Bible I’ve reviewed that was made in China and I wouldn’t have known it if they didn’t tell me. If I could add two things it would be paper in the back to write on and at least one more ribbon. This could easily be that ‘one Bible’ that you could study from, study in, read from, and carry with you. If you don’t want to write in your Bible it even makes a great reading Bible. Highly recommended.

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Crossway provided this Bible free for review. I was not required to give a positive review- only an honest review. My opinions are my own.

About The Author

Randy A Brown

WordPress writer by day, Bible reviewer by night, pastor all the time. And there's also that author thing.


  1. Don Denison

    Dear Randy:

    You have done another fine job. For those who prefer this translation, and like to write notes on the pages of their bibles, this appears to be a good option. I once wrote notes in my books and bibles and have repented of it, others find it a helpful study aid. I have not looked at the ESV other than to know that it includes the Critical Text as a part of the translation, I understand that the ESV is popular now, but because of the inclusion of, to me, questionable documents in making its translation, it is not for me.

    Those who like the Translation and use their bible for taking notes should really like this offering, The workmanship, materials and layout all appear to be excellent. I wish Crossway good luck with the marketing and sales of this bible.

    Yours in Christ

    Don Denison

  2. norm

    Thick and opaque paper that’s good for writing in a Bible? And all for the grand total of $90, $60 if you go with the imitation leather, and around 30% off if you buy it online or direct from Crossway? This goes to show you that paper is not a huge factor when it comes to the expense of publishing Bibles. In my opinion every bible should have paper this opaque.

    • Don Denison

      Dear Norm:

      I believe you are correct in your thinking regarding the relative cost of different kinds of paper. In a market that gives little wiggle room in pricing and profit, publishers sometimes cut on things that they shouldn’t. I have a very fine bible with thin, opaque paper with a nice color tone and finish that requires extraordinary attention lest pages become rumpled or creased, I can think of no other cause except the paper. I don’t think that it is the thickness alone as I have other bibles with equally thin paper that do not have this difficulty. Sometimes I think that it is the labor pool that causes these problems; experienced and discerning employees that can make balanced decisions about these kinds of issues are getting more and more difficult to find. Perhaps Crossway’s supplier was just lucky, and has someone available who has all the ability it takes to make the many decisions that are necessary in publishing a bible.

      Having been married to a woman who was a skilled graphic artist and a publisher/editor, I learned that paper comes in endless varieties, and while price is a definite factor, the experience and ability of those making the decisions on what to use, and even where to look for the material, is the most important single factor. People like Suzanne, my late wife, are becoming more and more difficult for an employer to find. It takes years of experience, intelligence, taste, and the knowledge of how the product will be used, (or just blind luck) to get a quality paper that will serve its intended purpose properly at a good price. These details are important, and often the latest generation don’t even know what the issues involved in making these decisions are, let alone the ability to make appropriate ones. Often they don’t know the questions, let alone the answers to them. Paper used in a bible is important if it is to serve well in its intended uses, price of the material is significant, but not to the extent one might think, the cost and availability of the skilled artisans that make these decisions are perhaps the most significant factors. The number of possible products is overwhelming if the person selecting them is not sufficiently knowledgeable.

      Yours in Christ

      Don Denison

  3. RCal

    I wish Crossway would consider some facts, and consider publishing KJV and NKJV bibles like this wonderful wide margin bible.

    The early church fathers such as Irenaeus and Hypolatus quoted from the last 12 verses of Mark in the 2nd century that aren’t in the UBS/NA manuscripts, but are in the Textus Receptus(KJV/NKJV), the Syriac Peshitto(2nd century) and the Curetonian Syriac(3rd century). Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are 4th century manuscripts(2 centuries later after Ireanaeus and Hypolatus quote from these verses!), and Sinaiticus was “discovered” in a Greek monastery in the trash can. These “older” manuscripts refer to the age of the document, not the accuracy. The reason they still exist is because they weren’t used, but were set aside as corrupt or inaccurate, and therefore did not wear out.

    Irenaeus states concerning the Gnostics, “Wherefore also Marcion and his followers have betaken themselves to mutilating the Scriptures,…which they themselves have shortened.”

    If this weren’t enough Westcott and Hort were unbelievers who didn’t believe in the deity of Jesus Christ nor the Bible, who further changed and edited the already corrupt sinaiticus/vaticanus for their Greek NT.

    In a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Westcott wrote: “No one now I suppose holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal history – I could never understand how anyone reading them with open eyes could think they did.” – Life of Westcott, Vol. 11 p.69.

    Hort said, “the true lesson is that the language which speaks of a ransom is but figurative.” -F.J.A. Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter, p.77, 80.

    Hort wrote in April 3, 1860: “But the book which has engaged me most is Darwin. What may be thought of it, it is a book that one is proud to be contemporary with. My feeling is strong that the theory is unanswerable.” – F.J. Hort, Life of Hort, Vol. 1 p. 416

    Hort denies heaven as a literal real place commenting on 1 Peter 1:4 ‘reserved in heaven’: “It is hardly necessary to say that this whole local language is figurative folly.” – F.J.A. Hort, The First Epistle of Peter, p.39

    Westcott admits, “How certainly I should have been proclaimed a heretic.” – B.F. Westcott, Life of Westcott, Vol. 1, p.233.

    Here’s just a few of the many scriptures edited by Westcott and Hort:

    Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. – “the Son of God” deleted.

    Ephesians 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – “of our Lord Jesus Christ” deleted.

    Colossians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – “and the Lord Jesus Christ” deleted.

    Acts. 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest, and he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. – “and he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” deleted.

    This is just a very short summary. Crossway publishes such high quality bibles, I would really like them to consider publishing KJV and NKJV Bibles.

    • Don Denison

      Dear RCAL:

      I have looked carefully at the issues of texts from which various bibles have been translated. As you know, I am not enamored of the documents included in the Critical Text. I had not intended to begin a controversy, indeed if someone chooses something different than my preference, I am happy that they are reading the bible. I have my own definite ideas about what is best, but far be it from me to criticize someone for choosing not to read the Authorised translation. The fact that the bible is being read, and that I don’t have to read any particular version, is all I ask. Of course I believe I am right and the others wrong, but it is not worth fussing about.

      Yours in Christ

      Don Denison

    • Don Denison

      Dear RCAL

      I nearly forgot, if you would like to read scholarly articles written in support of the Authorised(KJV) translation, go the the website of the Trinitarian Bible Society, listed on this Blog as TBS, you will find many of these, most of which are available for download (those not available for download can be had by request. I have learned a great deal from these articles, they also have many products and first rate Bibles for sale as well.

      Yours in Christ

      Don Denison

    • norm

      RCAL, I’m curious about your background and the source of your material. Here’s a little information in regards to your sources that you may or may not be aware of:
      The root of King James Onlyism can be traced back to a book written around 1930 by a Seventh Day Adventist theologian and professor who did not like the way the Revised N.T. translated Acts 13:42. It’s a shame that most Christians aren’t aware of the source of King James Onlyism, however the men and women who continue to perpetuate this movement are very much aware, since many of their books used the 1930 book as a source.
      Comparing the scripture below you’ll see one reason why Seventh Day Adventists did not approve of the Revised Version and preferred the rendering of the KJV/AV. The RV does not uphold their proof text or what they use as a proof text for Gentile legalistic Sabbath keeping, nor do any of the modern translations except for the NKJV.
      KJV/AV Act 13:42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
      RV N.T. (1881) Acts 13:42 And as they went out, they besought that these words might be spoken to them the next sabbath.
      Interesting this author also attacked the integrity of Wescott and Hort as you have, but most people who have bought into the whole King James Only philosophy either do not know or know and do not care.
      This is only one example of why it is important to consult the Hebrew and Greek and not prop up any translation as a standard by which the Scriptures are judged. Also, about a year ago I got into a debate with a legalistic sabbath keeper and I noticed he quoted only from the NKJV. He basically believed the Law was still in affect and that it even applied to gentiles accept for the sacrificial system. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I wonder if he felt the same way about the death penalty for adulterers and suffering a witch not to live, he was definitely against eating anything that wasn’t kosher.

  4. Brian

    Someone always finds away to make a young christian doubt Gods word. You really have to say things that God doesn’t say? Such as the outdated English bible, changes what God originally said because so many words literally do not come close to what they meant 400 plus years ago,is the bible God wants us to use? Breaking the commandments of God to keep the tradition of men.

  5. Derek R

    I already don’t like it. They combined Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 and treated it as one thought. Genesis 1:1 is a complete statement. Genesis 1:2 is a condition that happened to Genesis 1:1.

  6. Jordan D Woods

    Do you prefer the genuine leather to the top grain leather?

    • Randy A Brown

      Hi Jordan. I would need to see it to compare, but I do like most of the top grain ESV editions from Crossway. Some have a stiff tab and are more difficult to keep open in Genesis 1. I’m just guessing, but I would probably prefer the top grain in this one.

  7. jane

    Hi, thanks for your review. Do you still recommend this Bible? I am looking for a bible with wide margins to write in, highlight, cross references and single column. Looks like this is the closest one without the single column, do you have any other recommendations? Thanks.

    • Randy A Brown

      Hi Jane. I do recommend this one. The only single column editions with wide margins are the Preaching Bible (which isn’t just for preachers and preaching) and the Legacy (which as thinner paper that’s not ideal for notes). I like all three choices, but the wide margin reference is the best option if references are the goal.

  8. Daniel Sturgeon

    Hi Randy,

    Thanks for this review. I’ve got a slightly niche question: I’m looking for a wide margin Bible, and I’m drawn to the Cambridge WM + Pitt Minion pair because I think I’d get a lot of mileage out of having the same layout in a pocket size and desk size edition for study — but I much prefer the look and layout of the Crossway WM. Do you know whether there’s another edition with the same text layout as this, but in a more compact form factor, Pitt Minion style? Even a thinline instead of a pocket edition would work.

    • Randy A Brown

      Hi Daniel. I don’t think there is another edition with that layout. That’s a great idea, though. I’d love to have that combo myself.


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