Bible Bindings

Scofield Bible

Here is a page of references, to Bible binding terms to help you when you decide to buy your first, or next Bible. What do all those different names for the Leather, Bindings, Gilt Edges, Full/Semi Yapp Cover mean?. Naturally the better quality the Leather, the longer your Bible will last. The better the back binding (Smythe/Smyth/Smith Sewn is the ultimate) the longer your new Bible will stay together. Glued back bindings will not last very long, if you actually use your Bible.
The better the paper quality, the less bleed through you will see, and the more supple your Bible will be. Also the higher quality paper takes a much sharper, and cleaner print from the press. Quality Leather, quality Backing, and quality Paper, all go together to make a quality Bible. One that the pages will lay flat when opened, and not sneak closed or flip the page, when you turn your back. All of these little things make a Bible that is a joy to read and use, and with reasonable care will last for decades. – See Bible Leather Care And Feeding, Breaking in a New Bible, and KJV Bible Words.

I understand we all have our budget, when making decisions on any purchase. But I would rather cut the cost somewhere else, than when buying a Bible. In my opinion, a Bible is the best investment you will make in your life, why skimp on it?. One good Bible that will last Twenty – Thirty years or longer, doesn't cost as much as three or four; that only last a few years apiece. You can buy a decent quality Bible for a little less than a $100.00, but be prepared to break that barrier for a really good Bible. A $200.00 Bible over the course of a year will cost $.55 cents a day, divide that by Twenty years, and it has paid you back twenty times over. Most people spend more on their morning coffee than $.55 cents a day, and that will never pay you back.
Now you are left with the decision whether you want a Study Edition, Reference Edition, or just a simple Text Edition. Each of these Bibles have their distinct advantages.

Goatskin Leather:

A beautiful and very durable top quality, natural grain leather. Strong yet supple, it is used for the finest Bible bindings. Traditionally known as Morocco leather. This is the most expensive of Bible bindings, Cambridge Bibles of England (US Dist. Baker Publishing Group), and  R. L. Allan Bibles of Scotland (Allan's Bibles– start around $150.00 – $200.00 for Highland Goatskin in a KJV. Cambridge has a U.S. distributor, if you want one. R. L. Allan has a direct order department from Glasgow Scotland, and is a better more economical source than its US distributors. You don't have to question the quality of the Bibles from either of these publisher/dealers, they are absolutely without question the best.

I recently bought an Oxford Longprimer from Allan's, bound in mid grain Goatskin. While the print quality is no better, or worse, than any other KJV you will buy today. The Binding, Cover, and Overall Quality; is that so it will if the Lord tarries, outlast me for generations to come and my thoughts – it is an absolutely beautiful work of Art. Some may wonder about my comment, concerning the print quality?. The printing plates for these KJV Bible's are getting old, which means there will be some printing glitches here and there. This is a small problem there is no way of avoiding, my last Cambridge Bible also! has some printing glitches.
Allan has produced a new printing this year (2011), and it appears it is still in the old classic text block; sorry still no italics in the text though. Also the Mid Grain Goatskin is no longer available, it has been replaced by a French Morocco version with only a marginal! semi yap covering (appearing to be somewhat less than that, of the previous Longprimmer mid grain Goatskin semi yapp). Also the price of this new version is slightly higher this year, than the mid grain Goatskin was last year. The current price in US dollars is about $137.00, last years mid grain Goatskin was around $113.00 US. But for the price they have added an extra ribbon marker which makes a total of Two, if that is of any consolation to you?.

Calfskin leather:

A traditional high-quality leather used in fine Bible bindings. It is long-lasting, and its suppleness increases with use. Cambridge Bible calfskin bindings use only top-grain leather. Another of the high quality Leathers, that add considerably to the Bible cost. They are really! nice though.

French Morocco leather:

Leather made from a split calfskin, and sometimes goatskin; slightly thinner than other grades, and therefore flexible and soft even when new. A French Morocco Bible binding offers high-quality real leather, at an economical price. These Bibles are a nice choice when needing to save a little, and for the average user offer long term wear.

Berkshire Leather:

Berkshire leather, which according to Cambridge is  "a term for pigskin – the material most commonly used in bookbinding when genuine leather is the description used." The skin is skivered (sliced) into thinner layers, and embossed with grain pattern, and usually finished with a pigment and gloss coating. These skins have a hard finish, and are somewhat stiff. Pigskin is an economical alternative to Goatskin or Calfskin, but not a good choice where soft feel and appearance is important. I have some of these they are really tough, but so are footballs.

Bonded Leather:

Bonded Leather is made from real leather strips and fibers that are grated, and bonded together then embossed, to give it the appearance of grain making it an alternative choice for both a durable, and economical Bible binding. Bonded Leathers have the relative look, feel, and smell of Genuine Leathers because they are also tannery made; most are made on the same equipment using the same methods as Genuine Leathers.
The animal skin fibers used to make Bonded Leathers, come from the tanning process of Genuine leathers when the hides are trimmed, and are brought to a uniform thickness. These strips or fibers are bonded (adhered) with natural latex adhesive. As a result, some Bonded Leathers (there are different quality's) are soft and smooth with a true leather aroma. But will not stand up as long to constant use, as Genuine Leather. I would recommend Bonded Leather only! where economy is of prime importance, or where it may be the only choice available.

Premium Bonded Leather:

Bonded leather that goes through a special, and more expensive manufacturing process to give the leather a soft feel and calfskin look. I have an Old Scofield Readers Edition, that has a Premium Bonded leather cover. I call it my "Butter Bible", because of its softness and flexibility. But it's hard to say, whether the increase in cost was worth it.

Simulated Leather:

These go by names such as; Tru-Tone, TuTone, Duo-Tone, Leatherlike or Leatherette, Etc. Some of these however have become quite good, and comparable to Bonded Leather over the years. And may be the better, and more inexpensive! choice for a young persons Bible, considering the toss around care they usually get.


Hardbacks are more durable than both paper or kivar (coated paper) bound books. They are somewhat more expensive than paper, but are more economical than leather bindings. These are the choice for library Bibles (stay at home, and reference volumes), they save a considerable cost, and are about half that or less; of their leather counterparts. I have a few and they show no substantial amount of wear, after many years of use.

Full Yapp/Semi Yapp:

This has reference to the amount of leather on the cover that extends beyond the edge of the pages. This is to protect the paper from being dirtied by your hands. Some of the Allan Bibles offer "Full Yapp" which means that the leather is long enough, that when you put your hand around it, the leather folds totally over the pages. Some folks don't like full yapp covers, they have a tendency to interfere with the turning of pages, and take some getting used too.
Semi Yapp covers still extend out far enough beyond the edge of the pages, to offer most of the protection of the Full Yapp cover. Without causing the page turning issues of the Full Yapp, most folks are better satisfied with this type of cover (My Allan Longprimer). Low cost, and most bonded leather Bibles offer little to no cover yapp, the quick wearing of the page edging gilt, and the dirtying/marring of pages are the results.

Smythe/Smyth/Smith Sewn:

A Smythe sewn (Smyth in USA: pronounced as Smith) binding is considered the highest quality binding, the pages are grouped together in small folded booklets sewn, and glued to the spine of the Bible. The benefits are a long lasting Bible that can be read, and reread for years without falling apart. Books with a Smyth sewn binding will stand up to more abuse than a regular glued binding, will lay open and can be read on a flat surface. Smyth sewn Bibles are durable, but they may be heavier and less flexible than glued Bibles. That said if you want the best, then you want a Smyth sewn binding.
All R. L. Allan, and Cambridge Bibles are Smyth Sewn. All Allan Oxford KJV Bibles (i.e.) the Longprimer, Brevier, and Ruby editions have overcast stitching. All the other Bible versions/translations sold under the Allan name, also have overcast stitching. The Cambridge Bibles they offer are no different than any other Cambridge Bible, and no longer have overcast stitching.

Overcast Stitching:

Years ago every quality publisher Oxford, Cambridge, and Allan; included a second layer of stitching near the fist and last signatures to reinforce the binding. This is now unique to R. L. Allan. (If you see a vertical line of stitching somewhere in Genesis, and Revelation it is not a defect, it is overcasting.)


Book signatures are groups of leaves. To make a strong book, you sew some leaves usually 8 leaves together into a signature, and then you sew the signatures together. Signatures can be made up of more than eight leaves, but never less than four. However small to moderate sized signatures, make much stronger text blocks.

Text Block:

The total of a book's leaves, which are then bound into the case.


The outer enclosure of a book, whose primary functional duty is to protect the text block. It is also commonly referred to as the "cover". Also at times just as the overall binding, as in Leather bound, Cloth bound, Etc.


Small ornamental band generally of mercerized cotton or silk, which in most modern publisher's trade bindings, is glued on the head as well as the tail of the text-block spine of a book. Modern headbands imitate the sewn-on headbands, that functioned to protect the head and tail of early bindings. The band at the tail of the book, is sometimes called the tailboard. Quality Smythe-sewn bindings still have the head, and tail bands sewn on the text-block spine, for added strengthening.


Leaf or leaves forming that part of the folded end-sheet not pasted down to the inside of the cover board. Its function is to protect the first or last leaves of the text-block. Quality Bibles have several of these usually of quite heavy paper at the beginning, and ending of the text-block; to protect the thinner Bible pages.

Art-gilt edges:

A decorative finish to the page edges in which a red dye, and Gold gilt foil combine to add richness and lustre to the finished volume. Bible pages finished with this method appear Gold on the edges when closed, and Ruby Gold to Red depending on the angle of view, when the Bible is lying open. This type of page gilding, is found only on top of the line Bibles. Such as R. L. Allan, and Cambridge Bibles.

Gilt edges:

A decorative finishing style in which a Gold-coloured metallic foil is applied to the edges of the pages after they have been cut, and rubbed smooth. Silver foil is often applied to the page edges of Bibles bound in White, or Gray.

Gilt line:

A plain Gold line or frame (sometimes decorative), on the inside of the front, and back covers of a Bible. Most of the time only used with some Real Leather bindings, not as often with Bonded Leather.

India paper:

The paper traditionally, used for the best quality Bibles. The name is now generally used for papers that weigh less than 30 grammes per square metre (20lb paper in the USA.)

Bible paper:

Thicker than India paper, but still much thinner than common book papers.

Study Bible Editions:

A Study Bible is an edition of the Bible, prepared for the use of a serious student of the Bible. Such a Bible usually contains an extensive apparatus, which may contain such features as: Annotations explaining difficult passages or points of theology, and doctrine. References to indicate where one passage of the text relates to others.
A concordance, a word index that indicates where various key words are used in the Bible. Variant translations or interpretations of certain debatable passages, or possible textual corrections (i.e. alterations of the original Hebrew or Greek). Introductions, and historical notes for each book of the Bible. Maps, that illustrate the Holy Land during Bible times. Harmonies of the Gospels, pointing out parallel incidents in the life of Jesus. And Timeline's of Bible history that relate it to world history.
Sometimes these Bibles get a little to "Author opinionative, and Doctrinal" in their footnotes for my taste. The Scofield Study Bible, is one that comes most quickly to mind. If you purchase any "Study Bible", with someone's name on it (Scofield, MacArthur, Dake, Ruckman, to name a few). Remember unless you agree with this persons Doctrines, or Teachings, that Bible is a bad purchase. I own a Scofield III Study Bible (Cover; Black/Burgundy Genuine or Bonded Leather), here is a picture of the opening page of 1st. Corinthians, this is one of the better in depth Study Bibles. Print size is around 8.5 – 9 point Times New Roman.

Reference Editions:

A Bible edition that includes cross-references, to guide the reader to other parts of the Bible where similar subjects are treated. Reference editions often include a concordance, maps, and other study material. But do not contain footnotes, with personal doctrinal preferences. These are my pick in a KJV of course – Oxford or Cambridge. The Thompson Chain is probably the ultimate in Reference Bibles, but is not to my liking. I prefer the Oxford Longprimer ( Cover; Brown or Black full grain Highland Goatskin, and Black French Morocco leather), sold by Allan's Bibles direct of Scotland. The print size in the Longprimer is Clarendon size 10, a much more comfortable size for me to read with my old eyes. Here is a picture of the Longprimers old style classic text block. Note the large number of center cross references (100,000 in total).

Text Editions:

A Bible edition in which the text only is provided without cross-references, and sometimes without maps and concordance. Like the Cambridge Kj653:T (Cover; Burgundy French Morocco top grain Calf Skin), and the Kj83 (Cover; Black French Morocco top grain Calf Skin), hand sized large print editions, I personally own a Kj653:T and love it. These are great for reading and study, where minimum distraction or suggestion is desired from cross references, and footnotes. The print is Large in these editions but not Giant (Clarendon size 11 bold), they provide easy reading comfort to anyone wanting a larger size print than is usual in Bibles today. Both of these editions are PCE (Pure Cambridge Edition). PCE Cambridge Bibles contain no word or spelling changes, that were not included in the 1769 final editing of the KJV. A text only edition is also available from Oxford, The "Oxford Ruby Text Edition" but has standard size print. Which means around 7.5 to 8 point OK for the younger eye, but a little small for those of us over 50, and prolonged reading.

Red Letter Editions:

Bibles which have the Words of Christ, printed in Red Lettering. The rest of the text is printed in Black Lettering.

Black Letter Editions:

Bibles which have all the text printed in Black Lettering, including the Words of Christ. These Bibles are preferred by a surprisingly! large percentage of Christian people, and Pastors. I have come to favor these also. Red (pink) letter editions suffer from fading over the years, no matter how much the Bible cost. And give the text a hard to read contrast, especially for older folks who wear glasses. Red Lettering for the words of Christ, do not! make the Bible any more Holy, as it is not by inspiration – but only the additions of men.

Pronunciation Phonetics:

Some Bible texts incorporate a phonetic system for indicating the way difficult names should be pronounced, showing the vowel sounds and stressed syllables, as in a dictionary. These volumes are sometimes called self-pronouncing. I find the clutter this introduces into the text distracting, and prefer my Bibles without this feature. Preferring instead the Scofield system, with a glossary of name pronunciations in the back of the Bible. But sometimes the Bible you want does not have everything!, or doesn't come without some things.

Thumb Index:

Thumb indexed editions, have semi-circular cuts in the outer margins of the pages. The abbreviated names of the books of the Bible are stamped on small tabs, which are firmly glued on to the first page of the individual books, these help the reader to find the pages quickly. I really don't care for this little luxury, to say nothing of the extra $10.00 or so it adds to the cost of a Bible. I also feel a page weakness is introduced by these little missing chunks of paper, and an increased danger of page tearing as an added feature.

Bible Leather, Care And Feeding:

Some advocate applying nothing more, than the natural oil form their hands to the leather cover of a Bible. But a lot of us have sweaty or dry hands, and this is not really the best in good leather care. Of course you can wipe your Bible often with a soft dry cloth, but there is a way to offer good additional protection. Its a product called "Neatsfoot Oil", made from the fatty tissue of cattle from just the part its named for, the hooves (feet).
There are differing varieties of this substance, but be sure you get "Pure Neatsfoot Oil", some have petroleum products added to increase penetration. Which over a period of time, will undo all the good the oil is supposed to do, by increasing the dryness, and stiffness of the leather (not good). Apply a light coat of the oil with a rag, let it stand just a few minutes (from 20 minutes, up to an hour at 70 or less), the drier the leather the longer, then wipe the excess off. Store it back in its case, or lay it where it will be protected until the next day; so the oil can finish penetrating. You only need to do this about once, or at most twice a year for old really dry leather.
You can also apply this treatment, to Bonded Leather. How much good if any it does, I don't know. Its a good way of cleaning the cover, and I have applied it to my Bonded Leather Bibles. Has it helped (?) all I can say is they have lasted really well, some of them almost Two Decades. But then again I am a stickler for careful handling of all my Bibles, irregardless of their cost.

Do Not! allow any oil to get on the pages, Do Not! apply oil the the inside edges of your Bible cover, what you have applied to the outside will penetrate well enough.

For stains on Bible covers, you may use leather cleaner (found at local leather/shoe repair shops) to wipe away dust and debris. However you may find yourself in a dilemma, when it comes to some types of stains. Some that are hard to impossible to remove, but not limited to the following are; ink, cosmetics, food stains, oils, body/hand moisturizers, hand sanitizing cleansers, or perfumes. However many oil-based marks will disappear with time, as the leather uses the oils as a moisturizer. Best bet; take care of using hand moisturizers, and wash your hands before handling your expensive Bibles. It is a shame to ruin the cover on a $200.00 Bible, and be sure to watch where you lay it down.

A word about caring for the "Text Block" of your Bible. Never read your Bible with dirty or oily hands, like after eating fried chicken. Never stuff Church bulletins between the pages, or any of those neat looking thick leather book markers. Or Heaven forbid a pen, pencil, or color marker, beside the fact the latter could leak!. This puts a strain on the stitching, and will shorten the life of your Bible, use the ribbon markers attached to your Bible only!. Of course the nice thin ribbon markers sold by bookstores are also ok, if you need more than provided by your Bible.
Never! store your Bible standing on end, either in a case or out. This puts a strain on the spine of the book, and will eventually ruin it. Always! lay it flat. Never leave your Bible laying open for long periods of time in Sunlight, or any other strong source of light; especially if it has "Red Letter" print. If you do you will soon have Gray for Black, and Pink/Brown for Red. If you follow these simple steps you Bible should last for years, and years.
One of the best insurance polices you can have, is to store your Bible in a good quality case when it is not in use. I have some Bibles I have kept stored in cases, and the leather treated in the above way that are over Twenty years old; they are as supple, and look as nice as ever.

Breaking In A New Bible:

1. Hold your Bible closed in one hand, and place the spine (back) on a flat hard surface.

2. While holding your closed Bible upright, take one cover and gently smooth it out on the flat surface, running your fingers along the fold near the spine. Repeat with opposite cover.

3. Next, part a few pages at a time and smooth them down gently, alternating from one side to the other until you reach the center of the Bible. Repeat this step once or twice.

4. With the Bible open in the middle, run your fingers along the edges of the pages at the corners, fanning the gilding to loosen the sticky gold leafing (do this at both corners – top and bottom). This helps prevent the pages from sticking together, and accidentally tearing as you turn them.

Breaking in a new Bible in this manner prevents the backing or spine from breaking, and keeps the stitching from tearing loose, and the pages from pulling out of the backing. Never roll your Bible halves together, like you see done in some advertisements. This is done for show, and can result in breaking the spine of your Bible separating the pages from the backing, and permanent creasing of the covers due to breaking the underlying cardboard backing. This procedure is recommended for both Leather bound, and Hardback editions. I really! do not recommend this, for simple inexpensive glued back books.

KJV Bible Words:

In spite of the constant attempts to discredit the King James Version I believe it is still the most accurate, and reliable translation of the Bible we have today. The forty seven translators of the King James Version, took great care to follow the original text (Received Text) prayerfully checking, and rechecking. Such a group of devoted, and scholarly men has never again been assemble to work on a translation to this day. For those who seek to understand the true teachings of Scripture the King James Version is still the most accurate, and reliable translation that you can use.
For those who have trouble with some of the words of the KJV. There is a booklet, that will help with the KJV's older words you may order here – "The King James Bible Companion". There is also an online version available for viewing, and assessment by clicking the "Table Of Contents" tab, located on the description box. It's so very reasonable at $0.49 each; you might even order a dozen or more, and give one to your friends.

I have also added two links to my file sharing site, where you can download a really comprehensive list of 17Th Century Bible words, and expressions. You can save it to a folder on your computer or to a pen-drive, or you can print it out in just 39 pages. Although not every word may be covered most are, and it 's also free. – "KJV Bible Words &". You might also ocassionally check my personal page for this, and other Bible related down-loads as I find them. As long as they are legally free to distribute, and the Lord, time, and web space permit. – "Samuel's Down-Loads".

In addition to the Prayer request link below, I have also added a link to my personal Guestbook on the Forum. I would really like to see your comments, and suggestions about the website. You do not need to be registered, to comment in the guestbook. Or to make, view, and answer Prayer Requests.

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