Chocolate Brown Allan & Sons ESV1 Bible

In A Christian Life, Bibles on February 10, 2009 at 7:51 PM


There have been so many people write about their experiences in opening their first high-end Bible from R. L. Allan and Sons from Glasgow, Scotland. In case you’re wondering, this is another post about one of the fine offerings from that venerable old book binder, which has been producing quality craftsmanship since 1863.

My first encounter with high-end Bibles was about six years ago at our Florida Camp Meeting. I found a great little Nelson Signature Series Reference Edition, which, sadly, they have chosen not to produce any more. Now, the company still makes a slim line version, but that just doesn’t agree very well with my older eyes. It would certainly be nice if Nelson would produce more of the reference editions like the one I have. Hint! Hint! I had no idea at the time what a wonderfully crafted Bible was in my possession.

Several months ago I found Mark Bertrand’s excellent blog, Bible Design & Binding, and have been fascinated with quality high-end Bibles ever since. Mark has quite a talent for reviewing Bibles of all sorts, combining text with graphics to produce highly informative posts. I will warn anyone who wants to venture over to Mark’s site – it is dangerous. The way he describes the Bibles he chooses to review makes you want to get at least one of each. That’s what I call dangerous!

My choice in Bibles has been the old King James Version ever since I can remember. Thankfully, that’s not the only one I read; there are plenty of versions to choose from. In fact, there are four which interest me quite a bit. My post, Other Than the KJV?, lists the ones I prefer above others I’ve seen.

After spending some time at Mark’s blog, a version new to me began to pique my interest, so it was off to do some studying on the matter. Mark introduced me to the English Standard Version, and I am grateful beyond words. It is now the version of choice for my daily Bible reading (here and here), and has become the one I preach from most often. Thank you, Mark, and others on his blog who made a positive impression on me.

One of my church members came to the parsonage on Christmas morning, 2008, and handed me a gift. It was in the shape of a book, and I had some suspicions, which were true. She had bought me a tan Allan’s ESV1 from the sole US distributor, Actually, you can buy Allan bibles from either the site mentioned here or directly from the publisher at Allan’s Either way, you’ll be getting the finest craftsmanship available today. That tan is absolutely beautiful.


If you had smello-vision, you would be able to get a sense of what the goatskin leather smells like. You need to be able to hold this bible in your hands in order to feel how soft and pliable it is. The only other Bible I’ve seen that comes close is the Nelson Signature Series.

A friend blessed me so I was able to order the new chocolate brown ESV1 directly from Scotland last week. It took less than a week to get here, and came in the mail today. That’s fast in anyone’s book. I took some unpacking photos of the new brown Bible, and would like to share them with you. Honestly, I didn’t know about the colored ribbons at first, but now that the Bible is here in front of me, it is easy to concede Allan’s choice is more than satisfactory. BTW, the ribbon colors are brown, green and purple. This makes marking passages easier, IMHO.


What about you? Do you own any quality-bound Bibles? Do you have any Allan’s? Once you get your hands on one of them, you’ll know what quality workmanship means. The Bibles they produce should last many, many years, and quite likely can be handed down to other generations.

Now, this post can’t be only about craftsmanship and colors. The main objective is to have a Bible you will read and enjoy. Read its pages to learn about the love of God, the forgiveness of God and the healing power of God. Meditate on His eternal Word for life’s instructions and for daily encouragement. God’s Word will absolutely change your life for the better if you will ask the Lord to help you understand it; you must then walk in that revelation – you must live according to what the Lord reveals to you.

Read what David wrote as he looked out into the stars one night thousands of years ago:

Psalm 19:1-3 ESV
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.

After looking at the stats for top posts, I have come to the conclusion people are more interested in Linux than this finely crafted bible. Of the top six posts, this is number five. This is not a scientific exercise, just an observation. Actually, I am quite pleased this post is getting the attention it is. Thanks for stopping by to look.

Now, there’s one more thing before you go, so please bear with me for a moment of your time. Would you please take the following poll?

I hope you end up with one of these well-made bibles and you put it to good use.

  1. I love that passage. And I’ve been hearing a LOT about the ESV lately. I haven’t checked it out close enough to know what the hubub is all about. My own translation of preference for as long as I can remember is the NAS. I like the way it reads, and also the actual translations seems to be the most accurate out of all the translations. For the Old Testament, though, I have a JPS Tanakh that I really love. The translation has so much flavor – compared to any English translation which are kind of bland. 🙂 Plus I love that I can attempt to read the Hebrew to the right of the passage I’m on. 🙂 I don’t have any quality bindings. Perhaps one day. The Bible I have is fairly cheap bonded leather Bible which my parents bought for me when I was a teen. I tend to actually read Scripture on the computer more than in a binding though. So many things spark my interest to study – even if I start out in the book, I will quickly jump over to my study material on the computer. 🙂

    • On both my Linux desktop and laptop, I have a couple of Bible study programs which I use a lot. BibleTime is used more than e-Sword, but you get the idea. Quite often while reading in my bound Bible, I’ll fire up one of the computer programs and do some quick searching. Now if only WORDsearch would port their excellent software to Linux. Oh, well. I digress.

      If you ever do manage to save up enough quarters (we’ve gone beyond pennies), you can’t go wrong with an R. L. Allan and Sons offering. If you have a Bible you really like, you can always have it rebound in a quality leather, providing the text block (pages) were sewn originally and not just glued.

      The more I read the ESV, the more I love it. There are some links in this post that will lead you to other places with more information. I have an old book entitled God Wrote Only One Bible, which is an apology for the KJV. I’m so grateful there’s more than one. The main thing is to use the one that helps you grow a deep relationship with the Lord.

  2. My bible is a leather bound Australian edition Good News Bible, and it is well used! It has about 30 scraps of paper in various pages marking things of interest! (the ribbons weren’t enough!)

    While we are talking about Bibles I would also like to mention this site:

    I have recently begun helping to teach scripture at a local primary school, and one of the boys in the class is totally blind, which means that he is not getting as much from the class as the other students, and in my search for a solution, I came across this site which provides brail or audio bibles to blind people for FREE! It is run on donations, and with brail bibles costing up from $500, they could always use some more help!

    • There are never enough ribbons, are there? K, is it normally allowed for children to receive instruction using the scriptures, or is this a special case? Our government took God out of the schools over here in America; no wonder there’s so much trouble. I commend you for what you do.

      I looked at the site you referenced, and it’s quite interesting. They provide a valuable service, and have a big heart for ministry. It was good for you to find them.

  3. I own several Bibles myself, a mix of hardcover and leather bound. Most of my leather bound are study Bibles I’ve enjoyed greatly. But none that look as nice as these. I’ve actually grown found of the ESV since using Bibletime, and I like to change translations periodically to keep things fresh. One of these would be really nice, and I see they have an NASB version. Well don’t forget to use leather lotion on it every year or so, and that leather will last. I still have a leather jacket that’s 15 years old, and I’ve worn it a lot.

    • bugz, I’m glad you dropped by today; you are welcome any time. I like BibleTime, too, and have the ESV open all the time. Which Linux version are you using? Actually, the NASB is one I don’t have, but would like to obtain one. A pastor friend of mine has a bound version and uses it quite often to study by; I’ve also read some of it and really like it. Perhaps another chocolate brown Bible is in store!

  4. I run Slackware 12.2 on my desktop, and Fedora 10 on my laptop. I started using GNU/Linux with openSUSE 10.1 a couple years ago or so. I initially was just curious and checking it out, so I experimented to see if I could do everything I normally do in Windows on GNU/Linux. And I could. As I used GNU/Linux I could see how it was superior in many ways, and as I learned more about the community aspects and free software, I was hooked for life. BTW, I’ve never commented before, but LXer picks you up quite a bit and I’ve read several posts. I’ll have to add you to my feeds. God Bless!

    • No doubt about it, you can do almost everything in Linux that’s done in Windows. I would love to see the Dake Reference Library, which runs on the WORDsearch engine, ported to Linux, though. I would also like to see a program like PrintArtist run nicely in Linux.

      No matter which OS you use, you’ll just not get the look and feel of a fine Bible from R. L. Allan and Sons, Glasgow, Scotland. The more I use that Bible, the more I like it.

  5. Reading this post made my heart water. I could almost smell that goat skin… I also love to read and compare Bible passages using different translations. Was in Greenbelt at Makati City the other day and went to Powerbooks (a large bookstore chain here in Metro Manila) to check out their ESVs. They had R-E-A-L-L-Y beautiful ones, just the right size to put in my purse, leather bound (real leather) and in such yummy colors. Was tempted to buy one for myself after checking the language a bit. It IS a good translation. But alas, the size of the font they used was way too tiny for my eyes. Well, anyway, thanks for the tip. I’ll bear that in mind. Enjoy your ESVs, and may they draw your heart even closer to His.

    • Yes, the ESV editions from R. L. Allan and Sons are incredibly beautiful, and should last a long time. The last of the post is what’s even more important, and something you alluded to: the Bibles should be read and draw people closer to the Lord. What good is a beautifully crafted Bible if it just sits on the shelf?

      Oh, I quite understand about the diminutive fonts; it would be so much better for the publishers to use a slightly larger one. Perhaps one day we will get blessed with that, but until then, the two ESV1 editions will do nicely. Let’s believe for one just right for you, and even in the right yummy color!

  6. I see you’re trying out the new vigilance theme. Have you encountered any bugs with it (I saw some problems on the forums). If I hadn’t just changed themes, I would go with this one, I really like the way it looks and the options available. I really liked your three column theme though too … nice, professional look to it and different than most of our blogs.

    • Yes, I am trying it out for a while to see how it looks. I really do like the three-column theme you mention, and may have to go back to that one after this one gets some wear on it.

      Now, if this one would match the color of my chocolate brown ESV1, that would really be something to see.

      BTW, what is your Bible version of choice? I believe there’s a poll floating around my blog on that very subject.

  7. New American Standard – it was the first Bible given to me by the pastor that led me to Christ at the age of 18. I’ll go look for your poll, too.

  8. I spent some time looking around the links you gave, and after having my eyes opened on the quality options I ordered the brown ESV. I have had a few bonded leather study Bibles from over the years that just don’t hold up well to serious use, as the bonded leather breaks around the edges. I wore out a KJV and an NIV study Bible pretty well, though my wife still uses that old KJV one I bought when she was leading me to Christ. I just hope I don’t turn into the Bible Design and Binding guy collecting them all, :).

    • Bugz, I don’t think you will be disappointed – I certainly am not. Did you order from the site in Glasgow or the one in California? It really doesn’t matter as it’s the same Bible. My brown ESV1 was ordered directly from Glasgow and got to my door in less than a week while my tan ESV1 was ordered from in California by one of my flock who then gave it to me as a Christmas present. What a wonderful gift!

  9. I ordered from here located in Redwood City, CA a couple hours away. I utilized the information on their site and wanted to give them the business. I think with exchange rates it would have worked out about the same buying direct, but I should get it quicker this way.

    I think I’ll be giving some more business too, as I want to buy some Bibles in bulk so we have them to give away. I had bought some NASB Student Bibles to give away, and I’m down to my last one in my desk at work. But I’m looking for better deal so I can be more free and not worried about casting my pearls on swine to be trampled underfoot, :).

    • They’re good people to work with, and pricing seems to be quite fair. Good for you about giving Bibles away. Let me know about your new ESV; I would like to know about your experiences with it and which one you ordered.

  10. I received my tan R. L. Allan tan ESV1 in two days after ordering from It was impressive from the first touch pulling it out of the box, as the goatskin is so soft to the touch. I’m very pleased with the Bible and find it a pleasure to read. This is the book worthy of being made so well. Some might think it expensive, but if you’re going to read and study the Bible daily, it worth purchasing a quality Bible that will stand up to the use. Thanks for letting me know about these quality Bible options.

    • After receiving my first Allan’s ESV1, I decided the money spent is well worth it. You get what you pay for, and that goes for quality bibles, watches, and other things, too. I’m so glad you were influenced by reading my humble little post about the chocolate brown Allan ESV1. BTW, is getting ready to have R. L. Allan and Sons produce a special edition for them, and I’d love to have one. You might want to get in contact with them so you could have some influence on their decision-making process.

  11. I switched from the NIV to the ESV back in July or August 2008, and I absolutely love it. In my search for an ESV Bible on the internet, I stumbled upon Mark Bertrand’s website. i have witnessed firsthand the danger of that site, as I have purchased many an ESV featured there. Up until that point, I’d only had imitation or bonded leather Bibles, so for my birthday I saved up and purchased a Cambridge ESV Pitt Minion with a brown goatskin cover. I am very impressed by the quality of it, and thankful that Mark showed me the cheapest place to buy it ( Though the place is dangerous, I do not regret buying the bibles.

    • Cicero,
      I am so glad you dropped in and commented about your brown goatskin ESV. The more I read the ESV, the more it grows on me. Actually, the vast majority of my congregation really likes it, too, but not all. The two that don’t did tell me the way I explain the scriptures is good enough and they can follow along that way.

      Yes, Mark’s site is dangerous. The fine people at have way too many high-end bibles for it to be called a “safe” zone. Their prices are good, too. They always have some pretty good prices on their quality bibles.

      My chocolate brown ESV was purchased directly from R. L. Allan and Sons, and it was a better price than the US distributor. I am majorly pleased with the purchase.

      You are welcome on this site anytime; come again and bring someone with you.

  12. […] Chocolate Brown Allan and Sons ESV1 Bible – This post is about probably one of the most well-made bibles on the planet. R. L. Allan and Sons crafts quality bibles in Glasgow, Scotland. There are a few pictures, but you have to hold one of these masterpieces to appreciate the craftsmanship. […]

  13. Hi folks! Glad to see a bunch discovering the joys of a well made Bible! I believe high-end Bibles started with the Nelson Signature line. True, there were older ones made in lined calfskin, but Nelson put them on the map so to speak. I read the NASB, KJV, ESV, NKJV, NIV usually comparing 2-3 at once. Next I plan on the Interlinear Hebrew/Greek-English Bible in 4 volumes. I have been collecting Bibles for about 20 years now. Yes, I am the addictive type, clean for 28 years now, humbly admitting this to all here. I have always had the KJV as I grew up with it since my mother gave me a Collins Study Bible when I was 6. Ah, the romance of Old English and the cool pictures to perk a 6yo interest. God bless her for this insight. I think Allan bibles are the best bound Bible you can purchase. Impeccable workmanship. Yet, I do not think the paper is up to the bindings standard. They tend to have more bleedthrough as compared, oh say, to the USA Nelsons or the USA Foundation Publications, both printed on French milled paper. Or, if you look, you can find nice older Bibles with India paper, calfskin cover, leather lined, 70s and older preferred. In my opinion, India paper is the all time best ever used for Bibles. I wish they would bring it back as it was. I would spend the extra dollars for it. Virtually no bleedthrough. It stacks 1,000 pages into 5/8 inch and the feel is wonderful. And yes, Mark Bertrand’s website is super! But, be warned. You will become hooked as he must have the coolest Bible collection in the known world and how he presents them is, well, you will see.
    Thank you for having this site.

    • John,
      Thanks so much for dropping by this very small slice of the internet and leaving your thoughtful comments. You must have quite a collection of finely crafted bibles by now.

      Honestly, my Nelson Signature Series Reference Edition stacks very well with the Allan and Sons ESV1 this post refers to . In fact, the paper is of higher quality (no bleed through) and just feels right. A couple of differences would be the number of ribbons the Nelson came with and the lack of gilt edging. With 3 markers and gilt edging, I would have to put the Nelson ahead of the ESV1. Now, there are those who would definitely argue with me, and that’s perfectly okay, too.

      Just curious about the USA Foundation Publication bibles you make reference to. Please elaborate. Are they still being published? How are they bound? What versions?

      Come again as often as you want. BTW, I was given a Cambridge Concord Wide-Margin Reference Edition for Christmas and have never really looked through it. I’m going to do a write up soon. It’s even in the older slip-case box, which happens to be my preference.

  14. Hello again,
    Let’s see…. I agree on the Nelson stacking up right along the Allan. My Nelsons are gold edged. The Allans are red edged with gold over the red and are rougher, but then we agree on the paper. How can we not? Truth is truth.

    The USA Foundation Publication Bibles I mention are updated NASB and are the In Touch Ministries Edition, mine printed in 1999.

    The top-grain cowhide leather on mine is much like the grainy Allan Highland Goatskin instead of the buttery Nelsons, a little sheen and feels, well, tough like the Allan, yet very refined. It has a very plush grainy leather liner, two ribbons and is substantial, but not, well, clunky feeling like my ESV Heirloom Crossway. To me the feel is that of a what big Allan would be. The feel and flop of it being awesome as it begs to be held and read! And the paper is good, a bit thicker than the Nelson, ahh that Nelson paper, but in proportion.
    It has 1 3/8 to 1 1/2 inch wide margins for those note takers, gold edges, 4 raised bands on the spine, maps and concordance, is Smyth sewn, hand bound by ABBA, has no opinions in it, nor center refs, but does have word definitions on page bottoms. Page size is 6.5×9.25. I am not sure if they went offshore for print now, but seem to remember reading this somewhere, (maybe “that” site we all should avoid:))
    I may be wrong on that.

    Oh, Annie,
    I am a NASB guy,(I like pre 1995 mainly). NASB is still the most accurate IMO. They gotta get sales up somehow! So let’s hear it for the revolutionary ESV! Woohoo
    Thanks all

    Let my cry come before Thee, O Lord;
    Give me understanding according to Thy word!

  15. NASB Foundation Publications
    Yes, they are still around. Sorry, I forgot!
    Here is a link to Amazon. Check it out. They have a bunch. I would try to find out the print date and if it’s USA printed if possible.

  16. Is there a possibility Allen & Sons they could bind a New Living Translation?

  17. I wish they could do a NASB. I emailed them about this and they also “WISH” they could. They are very friendly and are interested in our thoughts.
    Maybe if we all start Blogging out little hearts out, The Lockman Foundation would grant rights to Allan. Hey, Lockman! Allan would certainly do your NASB translation justice! Imagine your translation in Highland Goatskin, 3 ribbon markers and full yapp! I do not want to convert to ESV. Please…….

    • Johnny,
      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment on my little blog. Yes, an NASB in Highland Goatskin, 3 ribbon markers, full (or semi) yapp would be majorly cool. Now, as long as we’re talking about our wishes, I would love to see the typeface like the one in my Cambridge Presentation KJV, which is 10.5 point. Now, that would be sweet. Colors: chocolate brown, British tan, red (like Mark Bertrand’s preference), black and even a navy blue thrown in for good measure. Johnny, they should sent one to you and me to test drive, don’t you think? BTW, what’s so bad about the ESV?

  18. Ha ha, I love it! Yes, and maybe they could send us one each for long term testing and review. As for the ESV, I just have not read the translation enough to give it my complete trust. So far, it has NOT let me down in any way and is a welcome addition to my “fold”. I am very careful when I begin reading a different translation. Is it safe to say you recommend the Cambridge Presentation for us older fellers?

    • Johnny,
      If we absolutely have to be given one each to test, I’ll take mine and be glad for the opportunity. I have liked the ESV since first seeing one on Mark Bertrand’s blog. My first ESV1 came to me this past Christmas as a gift from one of my church members. My people really like the way it sounds and reads.

      A pastor friend of mine really turned me on to the NASB; he reads, teaches and preaches from it. It would be wonderful if Lockman would grant Allan and Sons the rights to bind that wonderful translation.

      Yes, I heartily recommend the Cambridge Presentation to us older people. It has a beautiful, dark font large enough to prevent eye strain. The one I have is a red-letter edition, which happens to be my preference. You won’t go wrong by obtaining one of these wonderful bibles. I really wish mine was either a goatskin or calfskin edition.

  19. It’s interesting to see that I’m not the only one who loves Bibles! I do not currently own any of the premium quality Bibles, but I finally have my husband’s permission to save up for one. (He’s a pastor, but he doesn’t have the same love for quality in bindings that I do-he’s perfectly content with a trutone ESV, as perhaps I should be.) Anyway, I am debating between the Premium Cordovan ESV by Crossway, and the ESV 1 Tan by Allan. I have been a little concerned to see the mention of the bleedthrough of the text in the Allan Bibles, so I am wondering if any of you know how it compares to the newest editions of the Crossway Classic reference? I have just a trutone binding, but the text is very good, with very little bleedthrough, and being in my 50s, the readability of the font has to be my first consideration even over the binding. Thanks for your input.

    • Joanne,
      First of all, thanks for dropping by and leaving your thoughts; I’m always interested to hear from someone who loves bibles. You raise some concerns I will try to address. An evangelist friend of mine has the Premium Cordovan you mentioned, but I didn’t get a close enough look to examine thoroughly. If anyone has less than perfect eyesight, it’s me, but I find no issues reading either of the Allan ESV1 editions I own. Readability is certainly a top consideration, but it has not been a hindrance to me. Yes, I would prefer the paper in my Allan and Sons to be thicker and the font to be about a 10 to 10.5, but that’s not available.

      BTW, I think you get what you pay for on so many levels. In my opinion, spending the extra money for a quality Bible will reap dividends in the long run. Granted, some Bibles hold up remarkably well over time, while others fall apart. The best advice I could you would be to see if you could examine one of the Allan Bibles close up and compare it with the Crossway.

      Anyway, I hope you find the Bible you want. Keep on pastoring with your husband!

  20. Hello Preacherpen. Welcome Joanne! To our OCD Bible club 🙂

    I too have “bad eyes”, surgeries, glasses…….. And, for some reason, I cannot focus well on the ESV1 print. From what I can tell, my eyes tend to do better with a “fatter” font, I am not sure yet, I may have to put my eyes on a diet.
    The ESV-1 has a very sharp, clear and fine font. It seems to disappear when I read it. I also have a smaller 6C. The ESV-1 paper is 50% thicker than the 6C, yet, I have no problem with it and it has an old school fatter font. I do not think it is even as clear as the ESV-1?

    After my whining to Allan, here is a quote from Nicholas at Allan & Sons:
    “We are working on a very fine larger format edition of the ESV and I wonder if that may be of interest? It will have type 10% larger than ESV1 and wider margins for note taking. Bindings will the best we can make them and they will appear at the end of the year.”

    This is the ESV Readers edition. Maybe they are being polite for us oldies:)

    I am thinking this will be my ESV ticket. Finally.
    Oh, I too am a ‘red letter guy”.

    • Johnny, once again you bring good tidings to this little slice of the net. What Nicholas wrote about a larger format ESV1 is music to my ears and probably a welcome to my eyes. I only have a lens in my left eye, so it gets double duty!

      We will be more than happy to test out the new Bible and give Nicholas a fair assessment of their offering when they send us a couple of copies. That would be sweet.

      Johnny, for reading at my desk or other places where I sit down, if I take my glasses off, it’s much easier on my eyes. When standing to teach or preach, it’s better to have my glasses on. Kind of strange, but it really happens that way.

  21. Yet, we go on with our faith. It would be nice if Allan would print a red letter Bible. Just one, a BIG study Bible, say, in ESV. With a dark solid red, not the light red so many bibles have. Cambridge usually has a good red. I know many do not like red letter, but then, I know more who do.

  22. I just thought I’d give an update. I saw a Premium Cordovan ESV in a bookstore last week and didn’t really care for the color or the quality of the binding. Just my opinion. After further discussion with my husband, I ended up ordering the Tan ESV1. I am so excited, and Mark Bertrand’s article today on whether we should feel guilty about a good quality Bible really helped me to look forward to the arrival with anticipation rather than guilt. This will be my first high quality Bible. I am a little nervous about the color. I absolutely love some of the pictures I’ve seen of the tan, but in other pictures it looks almost orange, which I don’t care for as much. But I have the assurance from Evangelical Bible that if I don’t care for the color, I can exchange it for a brown ESV 3 which just came out.

    • Joanne,
      There’s no need to feel guilty about owning a quality bible; it is the word of life and a quality bible should last a long time.

      I really like my British Tan ESV1, but the Chocolate Brown is my favorite. Either color is fabulous.

      Thanks for the update.

  23. Joanne, it is a joy to use a well made Bible. You don’t have to fight to keep one open. And duct tape is no longer needed. 🙂 Also, they last for a very long time. I have a Smyth sewn study Bible from my childhood. Not a good leather, as it is a sprayed cloth cover that is torn and tattered, but it was sewn and has lasted nearly fifty years now. Not 1 page has left it. How many glued bibles would I have had to buy in 50 years? How much tape? How many times would one need to transfer notes from one to the other? You are making a lifetime purchase. Allan is the best Bible binder by far and theirs is a fading craft.

    • I agree. My step-dad has an old Oxford bible which is getting a little worn, but has a goatskin cover, Smyth-sewn and leather lining. He said I could have it later, and it will be a wonderful gift. I believe the bible is over 50 years old now.

      You get what you pay for more often than not.

  24. Here is my sad continuation of my ESV1 tan story. It arrived yesterday, and my first reaction when opening the box was that it was the most beautiful Bible I ever saw. However, my impression when opening it was somewhat different. For some reason, I don’t find the print nearly as readable as my much cheaper trutone Classic reference from Crossway-there is considerable more bleedthrough and even the tone color of the pages isn’t as readable for my eyes. I hate to be so picky, because it is a very beautiful Bible, but I just can’t justify paying so much for it. So, sadly, tomorrow I will be sending it back and probably just waiting for Allan’s Reader’s Edition to come out in November. At least I was able to see what an Allan’s goatskin Bible was like, and realize that it would be well worth the investment if the print and paper quality were better. Hopefully the upcoming Reader’s Edition will be just that.

    • Well, at least you did see the quality of the Allan bible; there are scores of people who have never even heard of that quality book binder. There’s nothing quite like goatskin, three ribbon markers and gilt edging to enhance the most precious book ever written.

      That Reader’s Edition is something I look forward to looking at, and possibly owning. My vision certainly isn’t as sharp as it once was, but I have no problems with the ESV1 editions in my collection.

      Be blessed, and hope you finally get the right bible.

  25. Joanne,
    I am sorry to hear you dissatisfaction with the ESV1, yet I am not surprised at all. I am actually happy to see your review of the ESV1. Why? What? Am I “sick’? Naw, for all the folks out here, you would seem to have a “truly” unbiased opinion concerning the ESV1. I salute you young lady! Honesty is needed in this little Bible arena so that others will spend their hard earned money on a product that is right inside and out. There are many, many folks out here that are disappointed in the ESV1 paper/print. Even in some on-line photos comparing the new ESV1 to the older version, you can clearly notice more see-through in the new version, yet, they proclaim the flatter paper as the hero, not that there is more see-through which tends to make the fine ESV1 print disappear in a gray fog of see-through. Cardstock is flat too folks! The ESV1 paper is poor quality. Thicker does not mean better as some think. I personally like the slightly wavy paper, as to me, it adds to the “old world” feel of a Bible. I truly think Allan (Collins) made a mistake when they went to that printer for the ESV1 work as there are simply too many complaints concerning the paper/print of the current ESV1. I know for certain I will NOT buy another Allan printed there, no matter how good the leather craftsmanship is, it is useless if the innards are not equal to the binding.
    I personally think Cambridge has bibles that are easier to read. My goatskin Cambridge Concord has a softer feel, darker print, better gilt work, is easier to read and is about the same size as the ESV1 – all with THINNER PAPER! And their RED-LETTER versions have a dark, deep red as well. The best red in the industry, with Nelson second. The Cambridge binding is wonderful, different than an Allan, but very good. Allan just has that “old world feel” to it. Allan is the best at it, but, the paper/print problem has me thinking I will not buy another printed where the ESV1 is printed. Even if the Allan ESV-Reader is printed 10% larger, I believe if it is printed where the ESV1 is, on the same paper with the same font/typeset, there will be problems and many dissatisfied customers returning Bibles. Yet, it will be praised since it is an Allan. I hope they have it printed elsewhere, say where the 6C is printed (which I believe is where Cambridge has printing done). Maybe I can put a Cambridge print in an Allan binding? Hmmmmm…. I asked Nicholas at Allan if the Cambridge Bibles listed on their site were bound by Allan. He said no. But…….. he said they may be striking a deal with Cambridge to bind some Cambridge printed Bibles. That would be my way to get a NAS bound by Allan! My dream Bible would be realized.

  26. Well, the story of my search for the right Bible has a happy ending, I believe. My husband and I had an opportunity to go to the Philadelphia area today to celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary. While there, we took the opportunity to visit a campus bookstore, which is also a large distributor for Crossway ESV’s. I was able to purchase the Crossway Premium Calfskin Cordovan for 40% off retail. While the binding isn’t up to the quality of the Allan’s ESV1 tan, it is still a very beautiful Bible. I just love the color. And the print quality is so much more readable for me. I may still save for the Allan’s ESV reader’s edition, but I think this Crossway Bible will be a good choice for me. I like the size, so even if I eventually get the reader’s edition of the Allan’s Bible, I am sure this will be my “church Bible” for many years. Thanks everyone for all your help and suggestions. I was intrigued by your comments about Cambridge Bibles, but they don’t make one with large enough print in ESV.

    • Joanne, first of all “congratulations” on finding a great bible; I know you will get a lot of use out of it. I love a sale, especially if it’s something I want, and in your case, you got a great deal and a quality bible, too.

      My wife and I recently celebrated our 31st anniversary, too. I actually wrote a post about it. I think we are a minority in that we believe in keeping our vows. Again, congratulations are in order.

      I went by the bookstore at the Church of God campmeeting here in Wimauma, Florida, last night and found another bible for my collection. It’s a Tyndale Select NLT, calfskin, readable fonts, Smyth-sewn, gold edging and two ribbon markers. Well made and reasonable, too. I’m also looking at a Nelson hand-sewn calfskin thinline NKJV.

      What is it about quality bibles? I think it’s certainly okay to own one or several, especially if you USE what you have.

      Joanne, I hope you come back to my blog often and browse around; hopefully, you’ll find something of interest.

  27. “Mark’s site – it is dangerous” is absolutely right! I have been looking for a high-end Bible and now that I have read about these R.L. Allen and Sons Bibles I think I have backslid. I think I am coveting and idolizing the Brown ESV1 and can’t wait for the reprint in October. But I am sure I could justify it; His word deserves nothing less than the best. It is my desire to have it for myself that worries me.

    • Scott, first of all, thanks for dropping by my small slice of the internet. You know, I have to agree with you regarding God’s Word. It absolutely does deserve a great binding: one that will both last a long time and look good in the process.

      The more I use my Chocolate Brown ESV1, the more I enjoy it. The tan is absolutely beautiful; the only problem I had with that one is the ribbons being so poorly attached.

      I’m at campmeeting now, and will soon write about a great find: it’s a Nelson hand-bound calfskin slimline, NKJV at an incredibly low price. I’m getting both a red/black and black; if nothing else, they will make great gifts.

      Come again, and bring friends with you.

  28. Good for you Joanne! Those Crossway Premium Calfskin Cordovan Bibles look very nice. I love the edge stitching on them, the color is super and it seems to be a very nice. I bet you will have it for many, many years! I am so happy for you!
    As for Cambridge print, I never seem to have a problem with them, except for the US printed ones. The ones I have are all very dark print. Not fine like the Allan ESV1. They also have a different layout, which “agrees” with me. I will never understand how someone can read the Allan ESV1 without eyestrain. But then, we all have different eyes we see through. Someday, we may be on a site “reviewing” overhead projectors that show Scripture with a patch of leather in hand (for the aroma):)

  29. […] nothing at the bookstore that quite compares to either my R. L. Allan and Sons Chocolate Brown or Tan ESV1 editions, but these three bibles were great deals and will definitely be used. Who knows, they […]

  30. Love the discussion. A friend of mine got me a black Allan’s ESV1 for a gift last Christmas. I absolutely love it. Prior to this gift, I absolutely nothing about high-end Bibles. Then I came across Mark Bertrand’s site. Ruined me. Now I have become completely addicted to reading about Bibles, how they are made, etc.

    I’m interested in getting a high end burgundy or brown Bible as well. For a couple of years now I’ve been picky about preaching from a Bible that matches my belt/shoes that day. Therefore, for about a year I was rotating between two thinline ESVs, black and burgundy. But even though they were only being used 50% of the time, and pretty much on Sundays only, they were still starting to show significant wear because they were bonded leather. I know a lot more now about bonded leather than I did when I made the purchase. 🙂

    All that too say that I am curious if the ESV cordovan is more brown or more burgundy in color. It’s hard to tell from the pictures on the internet. And it’s not like I can walk into a Christian bookstore and hold one! Joanne may be the only person to answer this, but if anyone can answer my question I would greatly appreciate it.

    • Good evening, Doc. First of all, welcome to my blog; glad to have you drop by for a while. Thanks for the comments, too. You wouldn’t believe the number of hits this post has while rarely ever seeing a comment being posted.

      All I can tell you is how much I am enjoying the Chocolate Brown ESV1. That is, by far, my favorite bible (the British Tan is not too shabby, either). I have a leather notebook from Franklin Covey, similar in size and color, which look good together.

      You’re right about Mark Bertrand’s site being addictive. That man certainly knows a lot about bibles. He ruined me.

      Come again as often as you want.

  31. Well, it was a nice surprise to get an email update sent! From what I have read, The ESV cordovan is more brown than red. I believe there are photos and comment on Mark’s site stating this. A good place to get a custom Binding is They do fantastic leather work. Wonderful! Better than most and you get a true leather lining with no card stock like the ones mentioned on Mark’s site. ABBA binders also does nice work, if you don’t mind sending to Mexico. Much less expensive as well. They did the first In Touch Series Bibles and they are also wonderful. Mine is the best laying Bible I own. It is done in top grain cowhide and the smell is wonderful as is the heavy grain and feel. I have an old Thompson Chain from and it holds up very well to my “abuse”. Cordovan leather (horse) in brown, raised bands on the spine. That fat Bible just falls like water. My favorite of all time.
    I too have a happy ESV1 ending! I was able to trade my new one for an older version printed in England which was new in box. Much less see-through and still the wonderful Allan binding! YEA! It is in British Tan which is nice as well. It has the slightly wavy paper and much better gold gilding, more like the older style. But, it does NOT have chapter introductions and only two ribbons. (only two?). Three confused my little brain anyway:) However, it does have many, many lined pages in the rear for note taking. So, perhaps, we all will be content. I also decided to “thin” my collection considerably. I could not stand to have piles of Bibles just sitting there, not doing their work. I gave many away and also sold some on eBay. Some I will miss, but then, the receivers were so thrilled it pales my missing them. I now stay away from Mark’s site, can’t afford it, nor do I “need” any more Bibles… I read and enjoy what I have.

  32. Yeah, I thought it looked more brown than red, I don’t remember Mark saying as much but I’ve seen a couple of photos in which they looked kind of red, so it was hard to really know. Thanks, Johnny for confirming this.

    I think I just need to be patient and wait until I know exactly what I want. It’s probably good that I don’t have a lot of “play” money or I would have spent $500 plus within the past two months! I did spend $40 ($32 + shipping) on a new KJV Winsdor Text w/ Metrical Psalms recently. I posted about that new Bible at my blog ( Sorry about the shameless self-promotion!

    Back to a second ESV. I’ve been vacillating between a chocolate ESV1, a brown Cambridge Pitt Minion (but I’m afraid the font-type is too small), and a cordovan Crossway Reference. This would be a preaching Bible for me, which puts another strike against the Pitt Minion b/c of my notes (which are half-sheet size).

  33. Here is my Allan ESV story:
    I had been saving up for a preimum Bible for quite some time. The ESV1 was on my list as a potential. However, they ran out just as I was getting close to being able to afford it.

    Thankfully a kind individual who had several copies of the Black ESV1 sold me one of his at cost. I recieved it just over a week ago and I have to say that I am disappointed. The binding quality is second to none. It is absolutely the best I have ever seen. However, I completely agree with those who have complained about the paper quality and bleedthrough. One only has to look at the Psalms to see what I am talking about. Compared to the Crossway Classic Reference (Genuine Leather) that I own the Allan is a notch or two down in paper quality. Maybe this is not an issue for everyone but it is for me. I was looking for a Bible that would last me my lifetime and beyond and, while I think this one would last that long I doubt I would be using it much.

    It may be picky but I also found the quality of the Maps to be inferior as well.

    Since I can’t justify owning a Bible this expensive that I never use I will most likely be selling it.

    • Knight, thanks for dropping by and commenting about your ESV1 story. Not everyone is happy with their copy, but most probably are. Both of my copies are the same and that includes the paper that should never have been used. After quite a while with them, however, I have found them to be quite adequate. The binding, as you note, is superb, paper is lacking, and I rarely ever use the maps.

      My preference is the Chocolate Brown one, but I do use the British Tan, too. These two have become my favorite bibles. Now if only my Thompson Chain was bound as well as my Allan’s.

  34. Preacher,
    I’ll second your Thompson Chain wish…

    It is really a cost issue with me. The paper issue is bad enough for me that I am not likely to use this Bible very much. $150 is a lot to spend on something that I will not be using much.

    I understand that most people are happy with this edition and I respect that.

    • I haven’t been on this site for awhile. I apologize, Brett, that I never answered your question regarding the ESV Cordovan. It is a rich caramel brown color, probably more brown than burgandy. I think it is a beautiful color, and would be suitable for a man or woman. I really do like the Bible, although I still may invest in the Allan ESV Reader’s edition coming out soon with larger print. However, the test of whether or not I keep it or return it will be the paper quality and legibility. I am still in search of an ESV Bible that is totally comfortable to read. The Reader’s Edition supposedly will be that Bible, but the paper quality and bleed through will have to be much better than the ESV1 (in my opinion) for me to keep it.

      • I thought the Reader’s Edition had a 7.4 pt font, which seems pretty small to me. Admittedly, the font in my ESV1 editions is pretty small, but quite readable. The Chocolate Brown ESV1 had become my favorite bible; the British Tan doesn’t get picked up nearly as much. I bought a soft leather bible case several years ago and used to carry my Dake in it, but now that’s how my Chocolate Brown ESV gets carried around. The colors are very close and size is perfect. Some people frown on carrying a fine bible in a case, but as much as my bible gets taken out and used, it’s not an issue with me.

        Joanne, come again as often as you can; you’re always welcome here.

        • I’ve been using the Personal Size Reference Edition (ESV) which has 7.4 font. Is this what you are referring to when you say the “Reader’s Edition”? It’s small, but my eyes adjust about 3-4 minutes into my readings. But I’m not sure how long my eyes will be able to handle this size font. I turn 40 in a few months and I’m on the verge of using reading glasses. I would love it if they made the Personal Size Reference Edition bigger. I like the handy size but would like the larger font. I wouldn’t mind a thicker Bible if they would make the font larger. I love the single column.

      • Thanks, Joanne. I went ahead and bought a copy as a parting gift for my associate. It is a very nice Bible indeed. He was really pleased with it. I’m being very patient in making a decision on getting another pulpit Bible. Right now I love my black ESV1.

        • The “Reader’s Edition” of the ESV will be an Allan Bible coming out in late November I believe. It will have font of about 10.5. It will be a two column Bible, very similar to the old Crossway Deluxe reference edition. I too wish they would come out with a single column ESV Bible in paragraph form with font bigger than 7.4! They just came out with the new Allan ESV Personal Size Reference, but the font is just too small for me to even consider it. Anyway, as much as I love my Crossway Cordovan Bible, I am looking forward to a reading Bible with a little larger font.

          • No doubt about it, I need the larger font, too. That 10.5 sounds wonderful, and I’m excited about looking at one. For good reading bibles, though, you almost can’t beat the Cambridge Presentation Edition. The font is just right for me, and very clear. It’s a pleasure reading it.

  35. This has been a most informative read! I’ve been looking at getting a new Bible for a while now and the ESV seems to be what I’m settling into. I’ve been using the NRSV for 17 years and the change won’t be difficult. But I hate giving up my old Bible, despite the few typos it contains and the Lindsell Study Helps, which seldom help. It’s a Harper Study Bible put out by Zondervan with bonded leather and not of great quality. What I love about it is that it is nice sized (8.5X5.5X1.5 inch), single column with 9 pt type. There wasn’t many of these printed. Trying to find an ESV to replace this led me to this site. I’m sorry to hear the “Reader’s Edition” will be double-column. Like Brett, I love the single column format. What I’d like to see is the Personal Reference edition’s single column with the Classic edition’s concordance in 9 pt or larger. Crossway’s Single Column Reference Bible would be great, but I prefer the paragraph format, rather than separate verse and it doesn’t come with Allan binding.

  36. Hello Preacherpen.

    I was just surfing around on the web, and ran into this post. I am fixing to order an Oxford Longprimmer from Alans, in the mid grain goatskin. I don’t think I would like the full yap, and the mid grain is about all this poor boy can pay for.

    I’ll stop back by, and let you konw how it turned out.


    • Samuel,
      Thanks so much for dropping by today. BTW, Merry Christmas to you. As far as I know, you certainly can’t go wrong with an Alan and Sons Longprimer in mid-grain goatskin. I definitely want to hear about your Longprimer; it was near the top of my list when I was looking for a KJV. I’ve got so many KJV bibles and do enjoy them all.

  37. Sorry it took me so long to get back. It was around the middle of January, before I recieved my Allan Longprimmer. Mostly because of the holidays, actually after shipping it took only 9 days.

    The Mid Grain Goatskin is soft, and flexable, especially after I applied a little neatsfoot oil. 🙂 The text is clear, and stands out very well against the white India paper. It has the Art Guilding of the more expensive Highland Goatskin edition, but only one book marker ribbion, which suits me to a tee. I really don’t like ribbion markers anyway!.

    The center refrences are more than enough, and the marginal note alternate interpretations, of the 1611 are also present. The proper names dictionary in the back is a real help in pronounceation, and also refrences the places in the scriptures where they are found.

    All around it seems to be a real winner for a refrfence Bible, not clutterd with someone elses opinions, a joy to study from.

    God bless, Steve Owen.

    • I am very interested in the Longprimer. Do you know if it comes in any color other than black? Also, I prefer three ribbons where you prefer having just the one. I really do appreciate your assessment of this wonderful bible.

      There’s only a few more bibles left for my collection, and the Longprimer is one of them. The new ESV Reader’s Edition is another and a well-made NASB is another.

      Again, Steve, I appreciate you writing your thoughts on the Longprimer. May you enjoy many hours of reading and study using that fine bible.

  38. The longprimmer edition of the KJV, comes in Black or Brown. They have discontinued the 53 Midgrain Goatskin, and now only offer the Highland version @ 110.00 and 115.00 pounds. The latter for the Brown version, they both have three ribbions.

    As of now there is a new text block, which may eliminate most of the printing glitches of the older versions. Which were not that bad, but you don’t expect this with a top quality Bible. But with the old plates, and mechanical printing, as compared to the laser printings of today; that is what you get. 🙂

    • That’s an expensive bible, but if you want something which will last for a very long time, then perhaps saving up for this expenditure might just be the ticket. Thank you for the information; I haven’t been to the R. L. Alan and Sons site in a while and should pay a visit soon.

  39. I just got my Allan ESV3 in Black Goatskin and I must say that it is everything I thought it could be. Today alone I read, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and 10 chapters of Matthew. It’s like reading the Bible fresh again. Thanks for the recommendation!

  40. I just ordered a ESV1 Brown a couple days ago! So excited – this will be the first Allan I’ve ever gotten. I’ve never even had anything in the league of Oxford or Cambridge before. Might be strange that a 17 year-old wants a leather Bible like this, but oh well! I’ll have to come back here and tell you what I think of it.

  41. Although I love computer bible programs I have to say that holding the Allan Longprimer in my hands is a heavenly experience. The Word of God in the finest book materials that Allan uses is the best way to experience God’s words this side of heaven!

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