Friday, March 11, 2011
Review: Cambridge Concord in Black Goatskin
Cambridge University Press has been publishing Bibles since 1591, twenty years before the King James Version existed. This rich publishing legacy has given them a longstanding reputation for choice quality craftsmanship. Their relationship with the King James Bible has lasted for centuries, and their current editions of the KJV reflect not only Cambridge's classic quality, but also an aged elegance. Cambridge's KJV Concord Reference Edition in black goatskin showcases Cambridge's ability to produce an edition which exudes modern elegance with traditional class.
The Concord features traditional goatskin leather, which is not only appealing visually and tactilely (and to the sense of smell as well) but is also strong, supple and highly durable. The Concord's cover stands out as markedly different from the other goatskin editions I've handled. It's suppleness remains about average for goatskin (which is still excellent), but the Concord features a rich, complex grain which is much finer than usual. The difference in the grain is noticeable and gives an organic look and feel to the Bible.
This edition includes two ribbons, a sewn binding and beautiful red under gold art-gilt pages, which have all become standard features of the high quality Cambridge line.
The Concord measures 9 x 6.4 x 1.25 inches, which is an excellent carrying and reading size, though actually smaller than most of the Bibles I've reviewed so far (in part because I'm partial to wide margins). Many will find this an ideal size, though my personal preference is to allow thicker spine.
While this is not the most flexible binding I've handled there should be few complaints as it handles the yoga position easily. Though some Bibles may display greater flexibility, Cambridge Bibles maintain a strong spine that flexes, but doesn't fold, which is a sign of greater strength and durability. Bibles that can be easily folded in half display an impressive flexibility, but may do so at the cost of the spine's longevity.
The Concord features fairly thin paper, though it's thinness does not compromise its opacity and strength. This is high quality paper, and while it does not seem as strong or as opaque as the paper contained in the Cambridge wide margins, it allows minimal to average ghosting which shouldn't be a major concern for most readers. Note-taking and underlining should be done with care, though as these pages are not designed for notes and it's very possible that bleed-through will be significant without the highest quality writing instruments.
The cover features a smooth, high gloss leather lining, which adds another dimension to the look and feel of the leather cover. I have only seen this feature on Cambridge Bibles; it elevates the class and appeal of the cover both visually and tactilely.
The Concord presents a traditional two column layout in verse per line format with a center column of references. Paragraphs are noted with markers preceding the verse. The topic or theme headings are presented at the top of the page rather than within the text, which I've not seen elsewhere. I find this feature preferable as the section titles often flavor the way a text is read; by separating them from the text the reader can choose to ignore them or use them as he or she wishes. The font (Times Semi Bold) has a more old-fashioned style and classic look, stands at a bold and readable 8pt size. The boldness of the text in conjunction with sufficient line spacing create a clear, readable type. The text is available in both black letter (featured here) and red letter format. This layout will please traditionalists, but its narrow columns and small references do not make it an ideal reading Bible. The margins are fairly small and would not allow room for notes beyond small verse references added to the center column or the outside margin. The overall format presents a traditional compromise between functionality for study and reference and functionality for simple reading.
The Concord includes a number of useful and well-executed features, including self-pronouncing text for difficult names a glossary of Biblical usage, a 136 page concordance, a 128 page Bible Dictionary and the always beautiful and excellent Cambridge maps and map index (see my other Cambridge reviews). The self pronouncing text is rarely intrusive and reserved for names that are unusual or difficult to pronounce, while names in common usage are left without pronunciation.
The glossary is similarly useful, especially in the King James Version as a number of words have changed in meaning or have become obscure since 1611. The glossary details the definition of the word as intended by the translators and further gives a number of verse references in order to give example. Some of the changes are actually quite important, for instance, "let" which in the KJV is used to mean "to hinder, prevent."
The Bible Dictionary is equally useful detailing a number of troublesome terms and important facts and chronologies. Its concise nature makes it useful for study, but does not add a cumbersome weight to the Bible or intrude on the text with footnotes etc. For those who do not want a study Bible, but do desire a quick reference for difficult concepts or questions (such as Abraham's Bosom), the dictionary is an ideal aid.
In addition to these reference works at the back, the front of the Bible features a dedication page, and pages to record family records, marriages, births and deaths. Also included are the full "Epistle Dedicatory" and "The Translators to the Reader" which are important both historically and philosophically.
The Cambridge Concord reference is a truly beautiful edition, which combines classic study tools with a traditional presentation. The high quality craftsmanship behind the Bible's exquisite binding make this without a doubt a durable edition that majors on style. For those in the market for a traditional carrying Bible in the KJV, this would be the best of the best. The only shortcoming would be the price, which exceeds most editions considerably. The Concord contains a number of features which elevate it above other editions and the quality of the goatskin cover is a notch above all others I've handled, this edition's value per dollar depends on the consumer's desire for those small details which combine to place the Concord at a higher level of excellency.
My thanks to Cambridge for providing this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review.