Crossway was kind enough to send me a copy of the Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling edition. This particular one is a burgundy colored, cloth over board, hard back, case bound Bible. It comes in an ornate slipcase that you should maintain for shelf storage to keep your Bible looking good, and to make it last.
We’ve all seen pictures or videos of books from the dark ages that have ornate drawings, and stylized artistic renderings of plant vines, leaves, fruits, and other various things on the covers, spines, page edges, and on the pages themselves. When a book has these features, it is said to be, “illuminated.” Imagine a monk in an abbey some place in Europe, bent over a page of vellum, (animal skin) using a quill, a dip pen, different colored inks, along with gold leaf, to decorate the page of a hand copied Bible. Books were not mass-produced back then. They were very expensive, and time consuming to make. The most valuable book of all time is the Bible. That is not up for debate.
In today’s era of mass-produced clones, it is nice to see something different, but the nagging truth comes back to ruin the illusion for me. This is a mass-produced Bible. It is a very nice mass-produced Bible, but it is mass-produced. The novelty of having all of the art inside, and on the cover is nice, and many people will enjoy this embellishment.
The immense upside of having a mass-produced illuminated Bible is that everyone can afford to have one, and enjoy the word along with the supporting art. Even in today’s day and age, if you were to commission a one off Bible to be made to your desired specifications, retained an artist to do the work, and then had the thing printed and bound, you would be spending a small fortune. I can’t even estimate how much it would cost. This Bible can be had for less than sixty bucks.
For those of you who are still here, and didn’t skip out, I have some other information for you that isn’t on those pages. I’ve already told you about the slipcase. Now we’ll get into the details of the Bible. The artwork is done in what looks to be a gold colored foil stamping of some kind. It is very pleasing to look at.
The spine has four raised decorative hubs. Between them we have, Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling Edition, English Standard Version, and the Crossway logo at the foot. The flowers, leaves, and vines harken back to traditional illumination features. The cover is also decorated in a similar fashion. The burgundy colored cloth is pretty typical of cloth covered hardback books. This Bible has cream colored head and tail bands, as well as a burgundy colored ribbon marker. The page edges are gold gilt. The spine doesn’t look rounded. The corners are not either.
There was an issue with some pages that the corners had folded into the text block during trimming. When that happens, they don’t get trimmed. When you unfold them, they stick out further than all the pages. I believe that would be covered under warranty, but I usually take care of it myself with a razor blade. You have to be very careful. If it is more than a couple of pages, you’re better off sending it back because those pages were not gilt if they were tucked in. Since this was only a couple pages, it wasn’t a big deal. It does happen from time to time though.
I know I shouldn’t like the end papers as much as I do, but I can’t help it. I assume the same artist, “Dana Tanamachi” did the art for them as well. This is a case bound, hard back, with paste down end pages attaching the text block to the cover. Two blank end pages precede the ornate presentation page. The sewn spine’s threads contrast with the darker presentation page, making them easier to see. The darker colors on the presentation page do remind me of some of the illumined books I’ve seen over the years. After that is a burgundy colored title page with gold stamped art. Then there is the publisher’s page, Table of Contents, About the ESV, and an Introduction for this illuminated edition.
Each book starts with a full page of gold colored thematic art. There is a drop cap at the beginning of each book and full page artistic scripture quotes interspersed. The page numbers, chapter numbers, and address references at the head of the page are all in gold colored ink. The text is laid out in a single column, paragraph format. The font is a uniformly printed 9 point Lexicon type. This is a black letter edition. The page margins are approximately 2 inches wide. They are not ruled. There is art interspersed throughout in the margins as well.
One of the more impressive features in my opinion is the 42 g.s.m. cream colored paper. It is easy on the eyes, and contrasts nicely with the text. Since it is so heavy it helps to reduce ghosting dramatically. In conjunction with the wide margins the paper is good for taking notes. With all of the bold lines in the art the paper can’t stop it from showing through from the other side. This is only distracting when it is the full page art at the beginning of the chapter as it is visible through the text on the opposite page when it is turned over it. At the end of the Bible there is an Index of Title Pages. It includes explanations of how the art expresses some of the themes found in the book. Finally, at the end there is a page with the names of the people who comprised the team that published this edition. There were also 4 blank end pages to write on if need be.
I like this edition on an aesthetic level. If that were the only reason to buy it, I think I would probably hold off. If you are like me, that just isn’t enough to warrant the purchase, but when you consider the 42 g.s.m. paper, and the 2 inch margins, as well as the price, it start to make a lot more sense. Perhaps more art influenced thinkers would buy this solely because of the art? I’m sure you folks are out there, and probably already own this one. For some of the more curmudgeonly among us, add a little flair to your life while getting a solid translation along with great print quality, terrific paper, and a good value. You can see more pictures on my Flickr album for this Bible.