Saturday, August 28, 2010

Damaging the Cambridge ESV: 2 Days Inside a Dirty Backpack With Over Five Inches of Rain

Some of you are wincing right now. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. This time, He preserved. I took my Cambridge Wide Margin ESV on a two day backpacking adventure with a group of six inner city Detroit High School students, during which time my Goatskin Bible was pressed into a 60 pound pack and endured rain and dirt. The results were troubling, but I am blessed to still have the Bible in full working condition, with only superficial damage. Some of you may ask why on earth was I so foolhardy as to pack my most precious possession on such an expedition. Firstly, before I bought the Bible I made a commitment to the Lord not to obsess over it. Yes it was expensive, and yes it contains my unreproducible thoughts on God's word, but it's still just a book and I have other Bibles. Secondly, I wanted to have it with me for comfort. The trip was intense physically, spiritually and emotionally (a number of the students were emotionally disturbed and threatened physical harm). Lastly, I was working long days on 4-5 hours of sleep after days with long physical activity and my judgment was probably not the best.

Lets assess the damage (or lack thereof):

One of the reasons I bought the goatskin leather, smyth sewn Bible was its durability. I wanted something that would survive the tribulation (for others' sake or mine: no controversy intended). This Bible should last a lifetime, although I may have forfeited the manufacturer's warranty at this point. As you can see the art gilding was rather severely damaged on top and the pages are somewhat wrinkled and stiff in the top corner. A large amount of dirt crept into the gutter as well; I picked most of it out, but some remains to be dislodged.
The margin notes made by a purple Pigma Micron 005 remained waterproof and there was no smearing or bleeding of any kind whether handwritten ink or print. I give the Cambridge and the Pigma Micron an A+.

The most disappointing damage personally was on the soft, supple goatskin cover, which now has a few marks where items in the backpack pressed impressions into the leather. While this does not make me overjoyed, it was bound to pick up some blemishes and I hope to grow old with this Bible full of battle scars.

Overall the Bible underwent the trial amazingly well. It is fully functional. The pages are slightly wrinkled and have some orange discoloration where the art gilding was rubbed off and bled through. The gilding on the top is roughed up quite a bit and the cover has some impressions pressed into the leather, but in a few months this will just be character and will remind me of the ministry. My hat goes off to Cambridge for creating a product that survives such an ordeal with grace, and my thanks goes to God for preserving my possession while still humbling me and devaluing material things.


  1. I would go through EVERY page, drying them with blotter paper or at least a dry cloth. Probably should do this twice, about a week apart. I worry your wet pages will hopelessly stick together as they eventually fully dry.

  2. Your Bible is beautiful - the scars are a sign a use - not abuse

  3. Thanks for the encouragement. So far there hasn't been any sticking and it has dried pretty well. I'm doing my best to maintain it, and I've separated most of the pages.

  4. I'm amazed at how the ink held up on the hand-written notes. Makes me glad I'm using the Micron pens!

  5. A few years ago, I began modifying a number of my cases to deal with the elements. You can buy CampDry at Walmart and spray your backpack or other bag so you do not have such a lamentable problem. It's not a guarantee, but it would likely prevent some of the damage.

  6. Nice article. You have a very helpful website here too. Cambridge Bibles are exceptional in quality of binding, cover and paper. However, I hope you won't try the same test with an Allan Bible. I'm sure any Allan "Highland Goatskin" would do just as well as your Cambridge but it would pain me (and others) to see such damage to an Allan Bible. Don't even think about it. :)

  7. I love your website, it has encouraged me greatly!
    I have a Bible that I couldn't 'get comfortable' with until it was 'dog eared and well loved' and it seems that you have 'loved' this one well!



  8. Having done some backpacking myself I have to wonder why you didn't consider taking a slightly lighter edition. 60 lbs?? You've got to be kidding... :)

    I take a compact ESV I found for $5. The print is tiny but it is light and easy to pack.

    Seriously, I am glad to see it held up as well as it did.

  9. The most amazing thing is the micron pen. As a missionary from Africa, I have abused my bibles, nothing fancy as it is usually the local language, but the notes all bleed. That is truly incredible. I am placing an order!

  10. Two words...

    Ziploc bag

    1. Haha, that's what I always to backpacking. And if your Bible is small enough and your bag big enough you can open the Bible inside the bag to read it so it doesn't get drizzled on. I take a duct-taped paperback backpacking so the cover is slightly waterproof.

  11. With a low cost imitation leather Crossway in it (bag).