Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moleskine Notebook Bible

Interleaved Bibles are a note taker's dream Bible; R.A. Torrey and D.L. Moody both heavily recommend interleaved Bibles and Jonathan Edwards made his own. Unfortunately, only a few interleaved editions exist for purchase and those are exclusively in the KJV.  In response to this profound lack within the Bible publishing industry (yes, I do want to provoke them), many intrepid individuals have taken up the task of creating their own interleaved Bibles using a number of methods. Some include an in-depth do-it-yourself method featuring custom made clamps and a radio arm saw, others rely heavily on the expertise of the staff at Staples. Almost all of these methods include a certain amount of ingenuity, perseverance and financial resources. (For some Blank Bible project posts check out Miscellanies Blank Bible Index, Crossway's roundup and Julian'sAbroad).

Though I was greatly inspired by these projects, I never found enough resources or initiative to mount such a project myself, and so I was left vainly wishing for publishers to realize the demand for interleaved Bibles or for the time, energy and cash available to create my own project.

In the last few months, I was confronted with an issue that challenged my values both as a Bible lover and as a penny-pincher. The issue was what to do with several destroyed paperback Bibles which had been left at the mercy of urban youth. Acts 29 Fellowship has the highest respect for the Bible. Unfortunately, children raised in relative poverty and an urban setting do not always regard books, and these paperback economy NIV's were not up to the rough use to which they were subjected. The Bibles were missing parts of Revelation and the epistles, and didn't seem practically usable, but I hated the idea of throwing them away. I prayed briefly about what I could use them for and then forgot about them. Later, I realized their tremendous potential. The fact that these were all the same edition with the same pagination, made them useful for the creation of a unique blank Bible project.

This project includes the use of a plain Large Piccadilly Notebook (a moleskine competitor, a moleskine will work just as well or better), at least two abused or unused Bibles of the same edition and glue sticks (I had the knife for backup but I ended up not using it).

By tearing out two identical pages of the Bibles and pasting them to alternating pages of the notebook, I made a notebook Bible which gives me a page of the Bible surrounded by wide margins on one side of the notebook and a full blank page on the other.

The results may not be the prettiest interleaved Bible, but it's highly useful and contains all four gospels and the book of Acts.

The first part is probably the most difficult to break through mentally. I had a stack of four chewed up Bibles. The glued bindings were failing, the front and back covers were missing and as you can see from the pictures, key portions of text had been removed from the later books of the New Testament. In order to make a notebook Bible without any cutting or interleaving of the spine, you need two identical pages, so you can glue the first page of Matthew with Chapters 1:1-2:8 on one page of the notebook and then flip over an identical page and glue the side with 2:9-4:7 facing up on the next page. This requires tearing pages out of the Bible.

For this project I'm going to use a single 240 page notebook (I may expand the project later), so there's enough space for several books of the Bible, but not the whole New Testament and certainly not the whole Bible (which I don't have at this point anyway because of the ripped out pages). I chose to include the four Gospels and the book of Acts. In order to make removing the pages easier, I first removed the New Testament portion from the rest of the book block. The glued binding tore very easily and cleanly.

I now have two identical New Testaments (well most of them anyway). I removed individual pages from these blocks.

The benefit of economy glued bindings is that they come apart easily with little risk of tearing the page (this is a benefit for the project, but not a benefit for the actual use of the edition; however, these editions are probably over a decade old).

I now have two identical pages. The fronts both have Matthew 1:1-2:8 and the backs both have Matthew 2:9-4:7. 

The glue will be applied to the back side of both pages and laid into the notebook on alternating pages.

Be careful what glue sticks you use. I was using a dried up glue stick which came out clumpy. I switched to fresh glue sticks, which work much better, but I ended up using about four. I now have  a wide margin page for margin notes and a full page for extensive writing and note-taking.

I took the duplicate page and flipped it over, revealing the next few chapters, leaving a full page in between the two. 

After trying out a few pages, I augmented the layout so that the pages were glued farther away from the spine, and so that the blank page was on the right, making it easier to write on, since I'm right handed. The accumulation of extra inserts close to the spine increases the stress and pressure on the binding and will probably cause it to break eventually. I will probably reinforce the binding with gaffer's tape or cut the binding and re-hinge it.

As you can see the text block is significantly thicker than the notebook was originally intended to be. A spiral bound notebook would probably work better, but I appreciate unruled pages, the ribbon marker, and the extra pocket supplied in the back. 

The final product is a fully functional interleaved Bible, with wide margins surrounding the 1984 NIV text paired with an opposing 7.5in x 10in blank page. I'm looking forward to using this edition for years to come, filling it up with notes on the Gospels and the book of Acts.

The creation of the Notebook Bible or Moleskine Gospels took only a few hours and actually no money because I had everything I needed lying around. It also saved some remnant Bibles from the dumpster. I am glad the Lord showed me how to make the most of the resources around me to create an interleaved Bible, hopefully I'll get the chance to create and use more. The real motivation behind these projects is a desire for a deeper study of the Word, and though the project took some time and ingenuity, many more hours will be spent filling the pages up with notes. I have a specific method and project in mind for this notebook, but that will take another post, and some more prayerful consideration.



  1. Nice work, Jonathan. I've been building my own notebook Bible over the last couple of months, using a Moleskine knock-off from Books-a-Million and KJV pages printed from the 'net. I've been using it as my teaching Bible as I take my Sunday School class through Genesis 1-11.

    If you like, I may try to take some pictures and send them to you.

  2. Thanks Chris. I would love some pictures.

  3. Nicely done Jonathan...

    Another volume comprising psalms, proverbs, Ecclesiastes... or perhaps the Pauline epistles would be a wonderful addition.

  4. I did an adapted version of this putting Revelation in a journal I am using (smaller - no wide margin, just a blank page next to the text) -thanks for the idea

  5. What if you cut the pages in half and used one column per outside of page, leaving the inside of the page for notes on each side?

    Then your notes could be right next to the exact verse.

  6. I LOVE this idea! Thanks so much!

    An artist's note:

    Glue sticks are a bad choice if you want longevity. Collages I made with glue sticks as recently as 5 years ago are falling apart because they aren't permanent enough. Some glues that art journalers use and love for their flexibility (good when gluing paper) and longevity are:

    Gesso (any brand will do, but it dries white so be careful)
    Collage Pauge (Aleene's brand, it's non-toxic, dries clear, flexible, and water-resistant)
    Mod Podge (also non-toxic, dries clear, and flexible but cleans up with soap and water)

    All of these are cheap (as far as art supplies go :p), can be found in any art or craft store, and a bottle will last a long time.

    Apply them with a cheap sponge brush, because they ruin paint brushes.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement and for the tip. I will keep this in mind for next time, which may be soon.

  7. I know this is an old post, but just wanted to say - Cool! I have been wanting to make a blank bible but the copy shop method sounds like it may be too expensive for me. A notebook and gluesticks I can handle, though. A lot of cheap Bibles can be found at Goodwill or similar places, too. Thanks for putting this out there.


    1. We of the project "Freie Bibel" ("free bible" - digitalization and reproduction of German bible texts in the spirit of Free Software, see http://www.freie-bibel.de) have developed a tool which can interleaf a PDF. One could choose between three styles: all left pages blank, all right pages blank, or the classical interleaving by page sheet (left/right alterning). Instead of going to a common copyshop, we use an online Print-on-Demand service, which prints even orders of one single copy, with a result like this: http://vimeo.com/79382387 to an affordable price. Soon we will make available our first interleaved book with this mechanism and technology. In case you have any questions or want help for a similar project, please just let me know.

    2. Thanks I will try to look into it!

    3. I just published the script: http://www.freie-bibel.de/official/tools/interleave.sh - it requires an Unix-like operating system environment, Ghostscript and psutils, which are all available as Free Software (under a free license). Within the next days, I'll prepare an interleaved bound hardcover book of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and show you the result, in case you're interested.

    4. Skreutzer is there a way to do this with the ESV study bible personal size, which can be seen on Amazon? I was going to buy the book and have it interleaved and rebound (possibly one for my husband too), but if I could have it printed so the blank pages are all on the right that would be INCREDIBLE. They sell it as a kindle version.

  8. Here is the result: https://vimeo.com/80917940 - apart from one last problem in interleave.sh which still needs to be fixed in order to keep the quality of the bible text's input PDF, the creation of such editions is possible for everyone without the involvement of manual labour or a great financial investment. Not only could a bible text PDF be interleaved with blank pages, also one may consider to interleave with single pages of study notes typeset by a word processor software. If somebody could make use of such technology or wants prepare himself such an interleaved bible edition, feel free to contact me (http://www.freie-bibel.de/index.php?seite=kontakt).

  9. Just came across this through Pinterest. What great ideas! When I teach a class or do an in-depth study, I often print out the scripture in a column, leaving a lot of free space in the page to make my notes. This would be a wonderful more permanent method. Though I am thinking punch holes for binder use to allow for more notes inserted. Thanks for this page!