Review of TBS Windsor Text Bible in Black Calfskin. Authorized King James Version. Published by the Trinitarian Bible Society, London England.
Review and photos by Rev. Matthew Everhard
I have a penchant for simple things, made well. A hammer should do one thing well: drive nails. I don’t need it to have wifi or Bluetooth too. I drive a Chevy Prism with power nothing. Sure, I have to roll down my windows by hand, but you won’t see me at the dealer getting repairs on the seat warmer, because the only thing under the hood is – you guessed it – an engine. I like things that do exactly what they were designed to do, and don’t pretend to be more.
So, I knew immediately when I laid eyes on the TBS Windsor that I had found a good basic Bible. As I think you will see in the review that follows, this is a simple, plain text edition of the Authorized King James Bible that is strong in nearly every category: from cost, to materials, to functional utility.
This Bible doesn’t pretend to be a commentary, or an atlas. It doesn’t pretend to be a devotional, or fit any particular niche market (Patriot’s Bible anyone?).
If you are looking for a text-only King James Version Bible, in a hand-size edition with no page clutter, all bound together with excellent materials, well here’s a pretty near perfect edition. By the way, it’s only thirty dollars at some retailers!
- Publisher: Trinitarian Bible Society, London England
- Printing: Jongbloed, Netherlands
- Translation: King James Version (KJV)
- Binding: Smyth sewn/pastedown interior
- Cover: Black calfskin
- Columns: Double
- Text: Black letter
- Font: A modern serif, 9pt.
- References: None
- Study Notes: None
- Size: 5.25′ X 7.5′ X 1′ (190 X 131 X 25mm)
- Ribbons: black (2)
- Gilt edges: gold
- Head and tail bands: red and yellow
- Features: Presentation Page, Epistle Dedicatory, The Translators to the Readers, List of Pronunciations, Bible Word List, Bible Reading Plan.
- Cost: approximately $30 – $45 USD
Binding and Cover:
What struck me immediately about the cover was the deeply grained texture of the black calfskin. It captured me instantaneously. It is, in effect, the only thing remotely “edgy” about this Bible, and I have to say, I love it. From an angle, it looks like a topographical map of the Amazon River basin with rivers, channels, and inlets flowing everywhere. In a word, gorgeous.
There are no title words on the front cover, and “Holy Bible” is relegated only to the spine, where it rests in gold on the surface of the calfskin (not impressed into the leather). There on the spine, are five ever-so-subtly raised ribs. Low on the spine is the TBS logo, gold printed, but likewise not impressed into the leather.
This binding is not flexible. Let’s be clear about that. I believe the calfskin is laid over a cardboard insert that makes the leather skin stiff. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not so tough it can drive a nail, though. That’s why I own a hammer.
But, if you’ve owned a calfskin Bible from another publisher (say, LCBP for instance) you may expect to roll the leather up like a telescope. Not here. This one barely flexes. Granted, I’ve only had it for a couple of days, and it will likely get softer with use. If you preach with it, don’t expect it to go limp in your hand like a blanket washed with Downy. Instead, the cover stands straight and serious like one of the British Royal Guards that never smile.
The “yapp” is set at the industry minimum, of a quarter of an inch on a good day. Nothing to write home about there. Some collectors won’t like this setup. I do. I think this Bible would last several decades of going in and out of a briefcase or messenger bag without having the contents inside destroyed. This one was built to use, not store in a collection.
The Smyth sewn binding is admirable, even commendable, although the Bible did not open up to Genesis 1:1 right out of the box without the cover lifting up about a half inch off of the table. I have every reason to believe that will change in a week or so. The paste-off binding on the inside is composed of black leatherette and looks very much like a Cambridge Pitt Minion on the inside. In fact, I think this Bible compares very well against a Pitt Minion, although the Windsor is larger and easier to read, having no space soaked up by references and notes.
Paper and Text:
The paper, print, and text on this Bible is very good. Even excellent. Printed in the Netherlands by Jongbloed, one of the world’s premier printers, (did I mention it’s only $30!), the result is a good, clear and readable text. The paper does not feel unnecessarily thin, and the Bible sits at a good, solid one inch thick. Since this Bible doesn’t pretend to be a thinline, the paper doesn’t have to be as weak and wimpy as tissue paper in a gift bag.
Where this Bible really excels is in the line-matching. It is flawless. I could not find a single page in this Bible where the text wasn’t printed exactly in line on both sides of the paper. The ghosting, therefore, is negligible. My edition had no noticeable pages with either lighter or darker printing.
The all-black text does not have the self-pronouncing feature that many KJV Bibles have. For me, that’s a plus. There are many who feel that self-pronouncing text is helpful, and others that it is actually a distraction to reading. I happen to be among the latter camp. I’m glad the TBS Windsor used a very modern font that looks like something printed after Abraham Lincoln was president. It’s highly legible, and the verse-by-verse setting would be great for preaching.
As far as the features go, they are typical of many KJVs. The Epistle Dedicatory and Translators to the Readers are ho hum for me, since they can be found just about anywhere on the internet. What does get me excited is the reading plan in the back. While most reading plans get you through the Bible in a year, this one takes you through the whole Bible once (and the NT and Psalms twice) over two years. What a comfortable pace! As a matter of fact, I’ve been looking for a reading plan of about that reading pace for a long time. Imagine finding such a well-constructed reading plan in a Bible whose greatest feature is its simplicity!
Does it have any weaknesses? Sure. Certainly not the price or the quality. For me, the weakness is in the double ribbon design. Instead of being moored separately below the headband with space apart above, these two ribbons are sewn together in the middle on top. For this reason, I have some worries that this arrangement may bend pages and ruin the gilding if I actually use them to mark different passages. Right now, I have them doubled back under the cover and out the bottom hatch so they are out of the way.
Yes, simple is good. A car should drive. A hammer should drive nails. A Bible shouldn’t pretend to be a book shelf. This simple, plain text double column Authorized Version is about as clean and beautiful as it gets.
Review by Rev. Matthew Everhard, Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. Matthew is the author of several books including, Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of 1647 (Reformation Press, 2012).
Dear Reverend Everhard:
Thank you for the good review. I once owned a small text only bible produced by Thomas Nelson, vintage about 1970. My son now owns this bible, I hope he likes it as well as I did. I too like simplicity, and don’t like commentary in my bibles. I do however, depend on cross references, and would miss them. For sitting and reading this should be a wonderful bible, a rather stiff calfskin cover is an asset rather than a liability in my view, for those of us who hold our bibles in one hand while seated in a comfortable chair, it protects the text block, and the lower margins of the cover. Thanks again for your good review.
Yours in Christ