Bibliotheca: The $1.4 Million Bible & The Crave For Beauty

The reality is that consumers crave more than utility.
They crave elegance—even beauty. ~Michael Hyatt

How many niche Bibles have had a $1.4 million dollar budget? My guess is not many, and probably none, ever. But Adam Lewis Greene’s Bibliotheca Kickstarter clearly spoke to people as his initial goal of $37,000, to produce 500 sets, was dwarfed thirty-nine fold. 500 sets have turned into 14,000. Honestly, $37,000 to fund an American Standard Version (never a particularly popular translation) reprint in four volumes was pretty ambitious. Or everyone thought it was.

Bibliotheca stack

What led this explosion? Well, not a few have pointed to the hand of Providence, and I certainly won’t argue. But we can also see that this is the culmination of what has been a growing trend.

J. Mark Bertrand has been beating the drum for better Bibles for years now on his Bible Design Blog. A lot of us have spent a lot of hours there. Bertrand’s push for “reader’s Bibles” has been a constant theme, one that has resonated with thousands of people. Greene has acknowledged his own debt to Bertrand. As a result, we have seen real steps forward with the work from Bible publishers like R.L. Allan, Schuyler, Cambridge, and Crossway. Don’t discount Bertrand’s work as a visionary behind Bibliotheca.

Crossway’s new ESV Reader’s Bible, available delivered for a twenty dollar bill and change, was another great step forward for a commercially produced Bible. I have seen how excited people have been about it. I think one of its keys is its affordability. We all love our Highland Goatskin semi-yapp bindings, but relatively few are going to splurge on such expensive Bibles. And even those Bibles still look “Bible-y” with their traditional leather covers and thin Bible paper.

And that’s where Bibliotheca comes in. Greene took everything to a new level, one of his most radical, and counter-intuitive, decisions was to go with four small volumes. Producing it as traditional, albeit well-designed, cloth over boards books was also a move that opened the type of reader who has never heard of Bible Design Blog, Allan Publishers, or Highland Goatskin. That production approach combined with relative affordability—you can buy the four volume set for $75—clearly touched a chord.

Greene also used a popular, and modern, method to reach out with Kickstarter. His beautifully produced promotional video explains his vision, and also introduces us well to the personality behind the project. Each of these elements was important to Bibliotheca going viral.

Well worth your time is this assessment of Bibliotheca from Michael Hyatt, a well-known success guru, but also former CEO and Publisher at Thomas Nelson Publishers, one of the Big Boys in Bible publishing. His observations are spot on, but I especially appreciated his point number three: “Elegance is always right.”

The Bible, and the search for God, is also a search for divine beauty. Shouldn’t the word of God be presented in as beautiful and elegant a way as possible? That doesn’t have to mean expensive or inaccessible. Adam Lewis Greene embraced accessibility and affordability.

If you missed out on the Kickstarter window, which ended on Sunday, you can still order the Bibliotheca set until the final order is placed with the printer. I honestly believe that the Adam Lewis Green’s Bibliotheca Kickstarter is a milestone project that will not only become legendary, but will cause reverberations in Bible publishing for years to come.

The Bibliotheca Four Volume Reading Bible Kickstarter

An exciting Kickstarter project called Bibliotheca is taking the Internet by storm with three times the funding goal reached with, at the time of this writing, three weeks to go. Who would have thought a four volume Bible project would attract such demand?

Bibliotheca founder Adam Lewis Greene is a typographer who has been brave enough to take a giant leap forward, pushing the boundaries of where the readable Bible movement has gone. His project is to publish an updated text of the old American Standard Version (ASV) using typefaces of his own design. I found his inspiration for his page proportions fascinating (watch the video). Greene clearly has thought deeply about the topic, and has done the hard work in the trenches to prepare himself for such a mammoth project.

Be sure to read the interview (Part 1 and Part 2) with Greene by the man who has led the charge in the Bible design movement from his Bible Design Blog, J. Mark Bertrand.

There are exciting possibilities for the future of Bible publishing, and Adam Lewis Greene clearly will be one of the visionaries who helps take us there.

Bibliotheca pages

Bibles at The Cambridge University Press Bookshop

Cambridge window

Cambridge University Press has long been a stalwart of fine Bible publishing. Names like Cameo, Concord, Pitt Minion and Clarion can inspire drooling. I had the chance to stop by the official Cambridge University Press Bookshop and took a few snapshots to share.

CUP sign

Bible Display IMG_9298 IMG_9299 IMG_9300 IMG_9301 IMG_9302 IMG_9303

Cambridge Display Window

Cambridge Window Street

Then the next morning when leaving town I discovered that the headquarters is right beside the train station. Through the train window as we rode by:

Cambridge Press HQ

My Visit With Ian Metcalfe of R.L. Allan Bibles

Allan's - Ian

Don’t miss my guest post, ‘A Visit to R.L. Allan’, at J. Mark Bertrand’s always excellent Bible Design Blog. Some weeks ago I mentioned to Mark that I would be in London over a weekend while traveling back from India. He asked if I would be interested in paying a visit to R.L. Allan’s new London warehouse where new owner Ian Metcalfe had set up shop. As the owner of three Allan’s Bibles how could I turn down a chance like that?

The logistics behind the visit became a bit of a comedy of errors. For some reason I could not receive Ian’s emails (although he received mine with no problem), and Mark had to act as intermediary. Then on the trip from my hotel at Euston Station out to Tolworth where the factory is, it turned out that the regular train service had been shut down on that line for Sunday. I ended up on a bus that delivered passengers to the train stations the dormant train normally would have taken minutes to do. An expected one hour journey turned into a two-and-one-half hour one.

Eventually I arrived and had a great visit with Ian. And he was kind enough to drive me to the nearest (operational) Underground station when we were finished. I hope you enjoy the post, and here’s that red goatskin Allan’s journal I left with.

Allan's Journal

A Better Bible

Can your Bible do this?

You have areas where you spend money, and others where you don’t. Some folks like to have a new model car, and resign themselves to a life of car payments. Others buy guns or expensive golf clubs or pricey fishing gear. If one suggests spending money on something not in their immediate area of interest you’ll get a response something like, “Not all of us have the kind of money to spend on [fill in the blank here]!”

But if there’s one area to splurge a bit it’s on a good Bible. No, I mean a good Bible. Ah, but I have a “genuine leather” Bible. See it’s stamped right here, you say. None of that bonded leather business for me. Alas, “genuine” leather isn’t what it used to be. I felt a genuine leather Bible at a bookstore the other day that would win an Oscar for its convincing role as plastic. Genuine leather is the new bonded.

It’s not only about aesthetics. Yes, quality leather will look better. The leather will look like something natural rather than something processed. But it also won’t crack with use. It will bend and roll without resistance. The pages are sewn into signatures rather than glued. The soft leather demands you to hold it.

While our Bible companies have been in a race to the bottom, a few makers are producing enduring editions. Cambridge, particularly their Pitt Minion Bibles in goatskin, is embracing its heritage. Crossway’s premium editions (calfskin) live up to their billing. But the ne plus ultra of premium (read, quality) Bible editions seem to be coming from Allan Bibles of Scotland. Offering a variety of translations in both single and double column formats, the Bibles are then bound in Highland goatskin. Once you touch Highland goatskin you will be thankful these fine ruminants have been sacrificed for your reading pleasure.

One stop shopping can be found at evangelicalBible.com, which company serves as importers for Allan and Cambridge, as well as distributors for other fine Bibles. For a more detailed discussion of fine Bibles as well as reviews of most every fine edition of the last few years, see J. Mark Bertrand’s comprehensive Bible Design Blog. Pinstripe Pulpit, too, will be offering reviews of some select Bibles, and provide suggestions of what to consider before purchase.

There was a time when a Bible would last a lifetime and more. Too many of today’s Bibles begin to self-destruct within a couple of years. Your Bible isn’t an area to skimp.