Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Single Column Journaling Bible

Crossway is one of the best Bible publishers on the market, and, in my view, the best when it comes to the versatility and variety of their editions. Of the many editions of the ESV available, the Journaling Bible is my all-around favorite, and while I haven't reviewed the original edition of the ESV Journaling Bible, I have given away more Journaling Bibles as gifts than any other edition, and I have probably recommended it more than any other edition. My only major criticism of the original Journaling Bible was its double column format, and its questionable durability. When I saw that the Single Column Journaling Bible had come out, I jumped at the chance to review it, sure that all my dreams had come true. This review will focus on the new edition, rather than comparing the two as I actually gave all the original editions I had away.

Identical in function, purpose and aesthetic to the original Journaling Bible, the new Single Column edition features the classic Moleskine appearance, complete with a thick elastic strap, cream colored pages and a low gloss cover.  While the original edition remains 6.25 in x 7.25 in, the Single column edition stretches out at 6.25 in x 8.0 in. This avoids the blocky look of the original and gives it more of a recognizable book shape. As usual, I wouldn't mind a thicker spine, but the page count in this edition surpasses the original by about 300 pages, so it probably is slightly thicker.

The inside is the main appeal of the Journaling Bible and Crossway succeeds brilliantly at creating a spacious, readable layout complete with two inches of ruled margins for your own notes. As you can see, there remains a fair amount of ghosting where the text from the opposing side of the page presents a ghostly image beneath the text. This is especially visible in the poetry sections. While this amount of ghosting is obviously undesirable, the Journaling Bible features 27 lb Bible paper, the same as the ESV Pew Bible, which is about as thick as you can ask for. I've confessed before that ghosting rarely, if ever, distracts me, and the fact that this is about the thickest Bible paper on the market makes me wonder if ghosting is an issue that can be fixed without some kind of miracle paper.

The font choice is classy and readable for younger eyes at 7.5. There seems to be a generous amount of space between each line as well, making the text a little more distinguishable. I am impressed by Crossway's dedication to decent margin space, especially in the poetry sections. They don't allow the text to curve into the gutter or slam right against the note-taking margins.

The narrative portions feature the same care in the layout, though notes will be a little more cramped here due to the paragraph format instead of lines and stanzas. This is the nature of the text itself. This is a black letter edition, which means colored pens will stand out well.

Like most wide margin editions, this layout features no frills. Simple chapter and heading titles and the necessary textual footnotes are the only additions to the text itself.

The margins feature nice dotted lines to reign in slanted writing, optimizing the page for efficiency and dictating a decent size print. I'm always in favor of empty space for charts, schematics, illustrations and so on, but these lines are attractive, and I will attempt to stay within them. They seem especially useful for the narrative portions where there's less space to go around, and a guide to using it efficiently will be helpful. You can view a PDF of the layout here.

The binding accomplishes an impressive feat by opening flat at the last page and from Genesis One. A fantastic benefit for those who write in their Bibles, as it's often irritating to hold the cover down while attempting to scrawl a legible but barely macroscopic note in the margin.

The sewn binding does its job. I believe the original Journaling Bible was a hybrid of glued and sewn. Crossway advertises both editions as sewn. It's difficult for me to tell if this is glued as well as sewn (I can't see a layer of glue. Help me out in the comments), but it certainly performs well.

This edition is light on features, offering a dedication page, table of contents, a Preface to the translation, an explanation of the translation features, a table of weights and measures, and a daily reading plan. As always I will miss the concordance, and I'm learning to miss the maps, especially during the book of Acts.

There's no pocket flap in the back of the Bible which would be a nice addition. We all know stuffing bulletins, Bible study outlines etc. in your Bible will stress the spine, but we all do it anyway. A pocket would make it more convenient as inevitable these inserts go flying everywhere.

The classic elastic strap is still here along with a nicely proportioned ribbon. The strap is yet another encouragement to stuff loose papers in the Bible. The band is thick and strong, though I have friends whose elastic strap on their original edition is loose and shot. They may simply be bad stewards of elastic as it will always wear out if misused. The durability of this edition remains in question. Two of my friends have done significant damage to the bindings of their hardback editions, and I am uncertain if this edition will hold up better. The binding seems higher quality, and I certainly hope this Bible can take hard use as that's what the design lends it to. The Journaling Bible should be carried regularly, stuffed into backpacks and bags, pressed into, folded up, closed upon bulletins and maybe even pens, and well used because that's the kind of use a reader that fills their Bible with margin notes desires.

In short, this is almost the edition I've always dreamed of. If I had my way, there would be blank margins, a thicker spine and bigger print, greater durability, a concordance, and a pocket in the back, but really this is looking a gift horse in the mouth. This edition is a great gift to wide margin lovers everywhere. The streamlined approach to design will please far more readers than it will alienate. This edition is really what most Journaling Bible users wanted: more of the same, an identical edition with a single column format. Crossway accomplishes this with their trustworthy efficiency, and presents it at an affordable price. It's time to start a new Bible journaling project.

My thanks to Crossway for providing a complimentary review copy. I have given an honest review.

531910: ESV Single Column Journaling Bible(Black) ESV Single Column Journaling Bible(Black)
By Crossway Books & Bibles
536045: ESV Single Column Journaling Bible (Red) ESV Single Column Journaling Bible (Red)
By Crossway Books & Bibles
531927: ESV Single Column Journaling Bible Bonded Leather Brown (Flap with Strap) ESV Single Column Journaling Bible Bonded Leather Brown (Flap with Strap)
By Crossway Books & Bibles
4838X: ESV Journaling Bible, Original, black ESV Journaling Bible, Original, black
By Crossway Books & Bibles


  1. Find these bibles horrible. The font is too tiny & the lines in the margins very oppressive (just leave them blank). While there's sadly not a great choice, there are far better margin bibles out there

    1. I'm sorry to hear that you dislike them so much. What would you recommend as a similarly sized and priced alternative?

  2. Jonathan,

    regarding the "glue" issue: from what I have read in BibledesignBlog, the attachment of the cover always involves glue, even in smyth sewn editions. At least that is what I gathered from this entry (english is not my native language, so I might perfectly be wrong):

    Book binding



  3. I would like to do the artistic style of journaling and find the lines limiting as well. How can I order one of these Bibles and know that the lines will not be there. I have seen some current versions without them?

    1. Sorry Maggie, I have been out of the loop on Bible editions for a while. I went to and only see "ruled margins." If you want a different edition without the ruled margins try the Cambridge Wide Margin Editions

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