Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Cambridge KJV Clarion in Black Goatskin

Cambridge's new KJV Clarion partners classic presentation with modern style and sensibility, pairing an excellent Cambridge binding with a newly designed text block that nears perfection. For many the Clarion will be the most exciting KJV ever produced and for some, that perfect Bible they have been searching for. The combination of tried and true binding and printing techniques with innovation in the style and implementation of the single column setting makes the Clarion a unique success. 


The black goatskin binding is a familiar to those acquainted with the Cambridge line. The leather features a fine grain most similar to what I've handled in the KJV Concord (though I hear the Cameo is similar as well). The cover features fine stitching along the edges and a combination of impressive softness, flexibility and durability.

At 7.5 inches tall, 5.5 inches across and 1.75 inches thick the Clarion is an in between size. Not quite small enough to fit in the pocket, but about an inch to a half inch shorter than many mid-size Bibles. The size is something of a mystery; first of all, how they fit a beautifully proportioned text block with an 8.75 size font into such a small Bible, but secondly, why they chose a thicker version of a Pitt Minion size. This in-between size may be the only thing that keeps the Clarion from ultimately pleasing all single column fans. Some will prefer larger Bible, some will prefer smaller. For those who want a Bible that's easy enough to hold up and doesn't have to rest on their lap, but don't want pocket portability, the Clarion's size will be perfect.

The sewn binding and supple leather flex easily into a number of positions, not folding entirely in half, but partnering enough flexibility and strength to keep undue stress off the binding.

The limp, easily rolled quality of the leather means it can be flexed into a number of positions and folded in half for easier viewing, should the reader wish to focus on one page. Notice the crimson ribbons, which seem to be of a higher quality than the two that came in my Cambridge Wide Margin. The red under gold gilding glistens with traditional class.

The size fits nicely in the hand and makes it manageable and flexible without two hands or the need to rest it on the table or on your lap.

The thickness is only slightly smaller than my wide margin, but it's noticeable smaller and features a noticeable finer, narrower grain than my Goatskin ESV Wide Margin. Goatskin is a natural product and will vary, but my guess is that many will prefer the finer-grained Clarion.

A handy Size.

It nearly opens flat from Genesis One. With time it may break in to that level of flexibility.


The main appeal of the Clarion is going to be the layout. The sheer beauty of the single column text, printed in the Netherlands, partnered with a crisp, redesigned 8.75 font font will woo single column lovers everywhere. It may even persuade a few traditionalists to switch.The layout is exceptionally readable and the side column references have never been so accessible and yet so subtle. While this Bible leaves little room for notes, in its primary function as a reader it is hard to surpass.  

The Clarion does feature some ghosting. The paper seems thinner than most Cambridge editions, though still strong and wrinkle resistant. In the poetry sections there is a distinct shadow of the text which comes through the page. Most will find this slight flaw easily overlooked, but I must say that this is probably the worst ghosting I have seen in a Cambridge edition.

The combination of the single column setting with a large, modern font will please many. The proportions and layout aesthetics in this edition will hopefully set a standard in the industry. More and more Bible publishers should take advantage of the frontier work done in this edition.


The Clarion contains a number of special features. First among them is the Epistle Dedicatory and the often forgotten "The Translators to the Reader." Cambridge has also chosen to include the italics to indicate words not in the original languages, which I find important. The Bible text is followed by a 144 page Reader's Companion instead of a traditional concordance. It provides a number of different king of information:
First, it provides identification of the most significant proper names (of persons, tribes, places etc.) which occur in the Bible, together with lists of the main references to them in the text.
Second, in cases where the Authorized Version uses unfamiliar words, or words which have now changed their meaning, the sense understood by the translators is given together with examples of Bible passages in which the word concerned may be found.
Third, information is given about the background of life in biblical times, in entries about flora and fauna, customs, occupations and artifacts, again with references to contexts where they are mentioned.
Fourth, an attempt is made briefly to clarify some the social, legal, ethical and religious concepts which occur in the Bible, with references especially to passages which throw further light upon them.
Fifth, note on each biblical book is given, as well as information about literary forms, original languages, and related non-biblical literature from ancient times.
Sixth, a small number of entries relates to the history and particular features of the Authorized Version, and to other biblical translations related to or derived from it.
Finally, entries under 'key words' offer select listing of verses where those words may be found in the text, e.g. for the use of readers trying to locate a biblical quotation.
While many will appreciate this information, especially since the edition lacks book introductions or other helps, some will prefer a simple concordance.

Included is Cambridge's classic maps and map index.

A Cambridge signature is the high gloss, ironed goatskin interior, which provides a luxurious look and feel.

The Clarion is an excellent innovation in Bible publishing and hopefully will appeal to many readers. The single column setting is easy to read and aesthetically well-balanced. While the Clarion is not perfect and may not meet every reader's desires, it is at the top of the Single Column market and the KJV release opens a new line of single column reference Bibles with high quality bindings and high quality design that majors on function.


  1. I am hoping to get one of the ESV Clarions and evaluate that one!

  2. Thanks for the comment "Admin." I may review one of the ESV's as well. I'm interested in trying out another calf split edition.

  3. I have recently received the same Bible, except in the Black Calf Split, which has a much more defined grain.

    Comparing it to my ESV Personal Size Reference (PSR) Bible was a natural thing to do. While the Clarion is a smidge thicker than the PSR, it is miles ahead in readability. The text is much easier to read, and while both are single column the PSR's layout leaves much to be desired.

  4. Do you have the review posted somewhere Jerry? I would love to read it.