Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: Lockman Side Column NASB in Black Calfskin

The Lockman Foundation is the original publisher of the NASB and Amplified Bible and has been producing beautiful editions since the 1970's, many of their editions have become classic for Bible aficionados and to some degree, it's a shame that more of their stunning and well priced editions aren't more dominant. Lockman's NASB Side-Column Reference Bible was a pioneer in presenting a single column format with black letter text, and though the edition has changed over the years, it remains a dream come true for Bible fanatics.


The black calfskin cover on the SCR pleases both the eyes and the sense of touch; its thickness rivals the Cambridge Goatskin editions and its softness surpasses them. The calfskin features a subtle grain and a low gloss finish which creates a classy simplicity. While previous editions featured a rounded spine, this edition's flat spine is minimal but handsome and includes slight bulges wrapping around the top and bottom of the spine for increased protection and flexibility. There is little to not love here; the texture, softness and thickness of the leather may be superior to goatskin, but will probably depend on individual preference. For those who prefer a subtle grain and more matte finish, this edition's cover will match or surpass the very highest goatskin editions.

The size of the edition is nearly ideal to my taste. The 6 x 9 x 1 3/4 dimensions put it on the large end of the spectrum and it may be a little too long to be perfectly proportioned, but its weight and size is evenly distributed without a single dimension seeming out of proportion.

The Smyth sewn binding combined with the soft calfskin results in the most flexible spine I have ever handled. It is nothing short of impressive.

It's capable of having both far edges of the spine touching when you fold the Bible from any position.

Yoga is a breeze.

The result is a Bible that will lie flat at most positions. The size of the text block is the only thing that prohibits the Bible from opening flat at Genesis One.  This Bible is expertly bound, exceptionally flexible and a pleasure to touch. While I have no experience with how durable the binding is, the quality out of the box suggests this Bible is well made and will endure the rigors of consistent use for years and years to come.

I have read complaints by owners regarding the current quality of the paper in this edition; however, I personally found any shortcomings to be minor. While there is an amount of bleed through or "ghosting," in my eyes it is not distracting or highly noticeable. The strength of the paper also seems decent, especially considering its thinness. All in all the paper does leave some to be desired, but its opacity and strength, while not ideal, should not be a major problem for most users.


The Side Column Reference layout is probably the primary draw of this Bible. It's black letter text sprawls across a 3 3/4 inch column, supplemented by a very readable side column of over 95,000 cross references that takes up a little over an inch of space. The font is highly readable and while I've seen it quoted at 11 pt it seems more like a 9/10 pt. Lockman Foundation advertises this edition with "wide margins" or "wider margins," though this is absolutely not a full wide margin Bible. The outside margins are about 3/4 inch and the top and bottom margins are 1/2 inch, which does allow note taking, but not the extensive note taking that can be done in a Cambridge wide margin. Lockman publishes an identical edition to this one with wider margins and 6.5 x 9.25 dimensions which would be the full wide margin equivalent of this edition.

The single column verse per line layout is very readable and clean. The layout successfully combines readability with easy access to the verse numbers and references. It might be preferable to place the reference column on the inside margin, allowing the white space to be directly beside the text, but references can be difficult to read for some an placing them on the outside greatly improves their visibility. As a whole this is a clean, clear format, which should greatly please single column format fans and provide adequate space for minor note takers.


This edition features nine well rendered and highly informative maps. While they do not have the aesthetic appeal of the Cambridge maps, they contain a wealth of information and include a number of tools to aid study and to enable tracking events across the maps. These maps are intended to be used and supplement study and it's nice to see a publisher doing more with maps rather than less.

The Bible also features an 82 page three column concordance which includes proper names, another highly functional tool which should greatly aid study.

In a somewhat strange decision, the book introductions are collected at the back of the Bible. The introductions are short paragraphs, rather than comprehensive introductions and probably won't greatly add to scholarly study. My suspicion is that moving these to a section in the back probably means that they will rarely be read, and it seems that they should have either been placed at the beginning of their respective books or left out completely.

The Bible also features a nice presentation page, family trees, births, deaths and occasions to remember, which are nice additions for those who like to keep family records or simply plan to make this a lifetime Bible.

The edition comes in a lovely velvet holder which should provide some protection from the elements and is an elegant alternative to wrapping a premium leather Bible in a lower quality Bible case.

In conclusion this is an excellent edition with negligible shortcomings. The quality, craftsmanship and overall excellence in design is combined with a reasonable price and this edition should be high on anyone's list when considering an NASB. The layout combines readability with elegant study tools and the binding provides a simple, well-crafted and tactilely pleasing book. I would not hesitate to recommend this edition or its larger wide margin brother to anyone searching for the perfect NASB.

My thanks to the Lockman Foundation for providing this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review, 
only an honest review.

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