I have a lot of Bibles. I kind of collect them. All different form factors, all different translations. Big ones, thick ones, thin ones, small ones (and some as big as your head, haha). But I have never come across a Bible that I love as much as the one I purchased three weeks ago.
I'm a Bible design newbie of sorts, so some of you that are more experienced with Bible design, binding, layout and text may find this review a bit elementary. I think it lets me look at design with a fresh perspective.
I've been looking for the perfect Bible for me for a long time, probably about 3 years. I had some requirements for my perfect Bible:
1) It had to be an ESV. I've been using the English Standard Version for over 10 years, and it, to me, reflects a "best of both worlds" kind of approach. It has complexities and tradition of old King James Bibles, but nuances and flair of modern English like newer translations. Plus, I believe it to be the most accurate of the translations, along with the 1901 ASV.
2) It had to be black. Not super-hard to find I know, but I think you'd be surprised if you looked at certain styles of Bibles that weren't available in black.
3) It had to be thin and compact(ish). I didn't want a super-small Bible, but I didn't want one that was big and thick either. Finding a thin and small Bible was challenging. For the past ten years I've used an ESV Thinline, which has been great. The only problem was that it was bonded imitation leather and didn't last very long (yes, I'm aware I could have just re-bound the cover for my current ESV, but I wanted something different).
4) It had to have cross-references. Not a lot, but I wanted at least a good number of cross-references, whether at the bottom or in a center column on each page.
My search finally ended while perusing through a Lifeway Christian store while looking for some study Bibles for some recent young men who had been baptized.
I came across the Cambridge ESV black goatskin Bible. I had seen Cambridge Bibles before - there were some for sale at the FHU Campus Bible Bookstore that I could never afford, at least at the time - but never one that met all my previously stated requirements.
The Cambridge Bible wasn't cheap - mine retailed for over $100 on Amazon - but it is the highest-quality Bible I've ever used.
The first thing you notice is the feel of the leather. It is actual goatskin, no bonded leather that you find in 95% of other Bibles. It's soft and great to touch. The spine is sewn rather than glued, giving the binding great flexibility. It lays flat on a desk from the first time I opened it. The pages are thin but opaque, and they're lined on the outside with a red-gold color, giving it a very old-school look.
Moving inside, the page layout is wonderful, with a serif font that's easy on the eyes. Some might find the font too small, but for me it's just right. Cross-references are at the bottoms of pages as well as in the center column - a lot of references for a Bible this size. At the end there are 10 full-color maps as well as really good concordance.
Overall, I think this Bible is perfect for me and I look forward to using it for many, many years to come. This won't be my reading Bible (I can thank Bibliotheca for that soon), but it will be my working Bible.
It isn't cheap, but it's a little more manageable cost over at Amazon. For a Bible you might use for the rest of your life, I'd say that the price isn't all that bad.