Review: ESV Heirloom Study Bible

IMG_4131The ESV Study Bible has been the most important tool in my Bible study journey over the last ten years. There’s no question that much of my focus today would be different had this Bible not been placed on my lap shortly after becoming a Christian. I simply devoured it. My heart was opened with a deep desire to study the Bible and journey beyond the shallow waters of many of my peers at the time.

Over the last decade, I’ve used and abused several editions of the ESV Study Bible, including the various (though limited) premium options offered by Crossway and the ESV Personal Size Study Bible bound by R.L. Allan. I’ve also grown to enjoy several other Study Bibles over the years. Nevertheless, I’ve always found myself coming back again and again to the ESV Study Bible. It’s by far the best single volume study resource on the market today—no questions asked. That said, in my opinion, the ESV Study Bible has always seemed to lack a binding and print quality combination that fully complemented the caliber of its inner beauty. 

IMG_4135Crossway is well-known for publishing quality resources. They are also well-known for producing quality premium Bibles, especially their ever-growing Heirloom line. I’ve always been curious why the same level of detail and quality wasn’t available for the ESV Study Bible. Don’t get me wrong, Crossway has produced a few nice quality calfskin editions. But nothing close to the beauty of, for example, the recently released 80th Anniversary Omega Thinline Reference. 

When Crossway announced they were planning on releasing an Heirloom edition of the ESV Study Bible my heart leaped with joy. Wait. It gets better. Not only was Crossway planning on producing an Heirloom edition their flagship Study Bible, but they were planning on having it printed in Italy by the renowned L.E.G.O. before being bound in the Netherlands by the equally renowned Royal Jongbloed—a collision of two of the best in the premium Bible industry. 

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When it finally showed up and my feelings of anticipation turned to  reality, I was blown away by its quality and outward beauty. It’s the ESV Study Bible that I’ve waited a decade to hold. 

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IMG_4148Not much has changed concerning the layout and pagination of the Bible (9-point type, single-column layout for the Bible text; 7.25-point type, double-column layout for the notes). As one would expect coming out of L.E.G.O., the quality of the print is consistent and dark throughout as its richly presented on a beautiful 31gsm. paper. Readers will notice minimal ghosting despite the thinness of the paper and the reading experience is very pleasant. The red under gold art-gilt page edging is perfectly executed—among the best I’ve seen on a premium Bible—and the four ribbon markers are finally(!) premium in quality (they appear to be Berisford Ribbons or something similar).

Those readers familiar with the quality of the binding on the 80th Anniversary Omega Thinline Reference will be excited to know that Royal Jongbloed equally knocked the cover off the ball with the ESV Heirloom Study Bible. Honestly, I’m not sure if they could have fit it with a more luxurious natural grain goatskin cover. It’s leather lined in supple calfskin, perimeter stitched and includes a gold gilt line perfectly surrounding the text-block. More importantly, however, both the text-block and the spine of the goatskin cover have been firmly reinforced. This will allow for the longevity of use one would expect for a Bible of this quality with this level of study content. Finally! The binding and print quality match the content of the Bible.

The only improvements possible are minor. Two are worth mention here. First, it would have been nice to have note-taking paper included in the back of the Bible. It’s already a large Bible. So, adding 25-50 pages of lined paper wouldn’t hurt and only add to the heirloom nature of the Bible. Second, while the ribbon markers are much better quality than previous Crossway Bibles (thanks for listening!), I think they were cut a bit too short. In my opinion, longer ribbons add to the premium look of the Bible and allow more options for the user. If you don’t like them long, then you can simply cut them. Doing the reverse isn’t as easy. 

The ESV Heirloom Study Bible is the ESV Study Bible I’ve waited a decade to use. This Bible has been the most important tool in my Bible study journey. It’s transformed how I approach the Bible and what it means to study it. I’m looking forward to using this one for the rest of my days and then passing it on to my children. If you’re in the market for a Study Bible that will outlast a lifetime of use, then the ESV Heirloom Study Bible is worth every single penny. 

Well done, Crossway! 

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