The HCSB Minister’s Bible, Genuine Leather Edition–In Search of Quality Genuine Leather

Rick Mansfield’s Genuine Leather HCSB Minister’s Bible, from his blog thislamp.com

I decided to peruse a copy of the Genuine Leather (GL; not the more recent Genuine Cowhide Leather) edition of the HCSB Minister’s Bible at a local Christian bookstore the other day, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered. The “genuine leather” was quite pleasant to the touch; I would easily say that this is the best unspecified “genuine leather” I’ve seen on a Bible in the last decade.  Compared to most of the cardboardish, stiff GL Bibles out there today, the leather was quite supple, flexible, and attractive–with slightly raised hubs on the tastefully decorated spine making for an aesthetically pleasing overall package. It’s not premium leather, mind you. But it’s nicer than some of the Cambridge French Morocco Bibles I’ve handled, and I’d say it’s only a notch down (if that) from the very nice cowhide on Nelson’s special brown cowhide KJV Study Bible that just came out.  In fact, it seems to bear a resemblance to the “hand finished morocco” used on the KJV Holman Legacy Bible that J. Mark Bertrand raved about some time ago, seen here:

KJV Legacy Bible, from BibleDesignBlog.com. The HCSB GL Minister's Bible is less flexible than this, though, due in no small part to the fact that the KJV Legacy is leather lined on the inside of the cover.

This leads me to two quick observations and one question for everyone out there.

Observation 1) If you’re looking to buy a copy of the HCSB Minister’s Bible, unless you absolutely have to have the latest text edition (the GL version does not have the most recent updates), you should really give this one a look. The imitation leather version feels tacky, is unattractive, and costs about the same as what you will pay for the GL if you buy it through  vendors on Amazon (or more).  And, while the cowhide edition is certainly nicer and is reasonably priced, the GL is still cheaper than the cowide and a great value. Besides, while the GL isn’t as flexible as the cowhide, it’s still quite supple, and this is one of those Bibles where a bit of rigidity is advantageous.  This is a single column Bible with wide margins made precisely for preaching and teaching. So, if the cover is too floppy the purpose is defeated; half of the single column text, not to mention your sermon notes written in the margin, will droop down and out of view every time you pick the Bible up.  This is the kind of Bible you need to lay flat when you walk around with it, and the GL has just enough “structure” to serve the purpose. 

Rick Mansfield compares an early beta-test print run of the newer cowhide HCSB MB (bottom, both photos) with the Genuine Leather HCSB MB

All in all, this GL is a good buy, and it would serve as a great “Pastor Appreciation Day” gift for Pastors who use the HCSB.

Observation 2) Why aren’t there more high quality Genuine Leather Bibles like this on the market these days?  I am glad to see all of the beautiful, high-end Bibles in cowhide, calfskin, and goatskin., but current genuine leather editions are just awful–I’ve handled some old bonded leather Bibles that feel better and more durable than today’s genuine leather. Has the industry fudged their standards, such that they are allowed to amalgamate their leather with other by-products and still call it “genuine leather?”

In any event, I’m a big proponent of encouraging churchgoers to own a Bible that will hold up well and is aesthetically pleasing, and I wish there were some more affordable options out there. Let’s face it, those of us who are enthusiasts might save up and bargain hunt for a nice calfskin edition, but most people just can’t see themselves plunking down a full $200 MSRP (hint: *never* pay MSRP) for the rare calfskin edition on the shelf at the local Christian bookstore. If Holman can produce a more affordable edition like this that is still nice, why can’t we see more Bibles like this? 

And the Parting Question: So, I’m curious to know–do any of you out there own a fairly nice genuine leather edition of a Bible out there? Any older Bibles out there labelled “genuine leather” that would put today’s GL Bibles to shame? Or, are there any recent, high quality GL Bibles that are exceptional? I’d love to know about them!

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About hjimkeener

Education: B.A.: Moody Bible Institute GCTS: Knox Theological Seminary M.Div.: Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Ph.D.: Baylor University Ministry Experience: I have served as a Youth Minister, Associate Pastor of English Ministry, and a pulpit supply preacher. Teaching Experience: In addition to teaching in various volunteer and professional ministry settings, I have taught as a University Professor (Teaching Fellow; Baylor University) and as a Seminary Professor (El Seminario de la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Bolivia). I have also given lectures and sermons in Spanish.
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5 Responses to The HCSB Minister’s Bible, Genuine Leather Edition–In Search of Quality Genuine Leather

  1. Ryan says:

    I do not still own it, but my Hendrickson ESV Minister’s Bible was a good GL. it was quite different that many others. I believe it was cowhide instead of pig like most. i liked it a lot. not floppy by any means, but it laid flat in gen. and rev.

  2. Craig says:

    The Lockman Foundation’s Single Column Reference edition of the NASB (ISBN 9781885217660) is an outstanding genuine leather edition. Same text block that’s in the Allan edition, Smythe-sewn binding, and the leather is thick and flexible. No cardboard feel at all. And at $33 via Amazon or Evangelicalbible.com, it’s one of the best bargains out there. Can’t recommend it enough.

  3. Matt Morales says:

    This is a great bible, and one of the best examples of how a single column bible should be designed IMO

    It is one of the better examples of “genuine leather” that I have seen…to be honest though I dont think any of the Big Publisher bibles can hold a candle to a calfskin or goatskin bible. The one exception is the brown “genuine cowhide leather” that crossway used on its study bible. It is REALLY nice. Although they specified “cowhide”… still it is a step down in price from other calfskins. Plus you would not have to potentially abort a baby calf in order to get the skin 😉

  4. hjimkeener says:

    Ryan–I’ve seen the ESV MB GL in stores, and thought it was pretty nice. Erik Kowalker, iirc, had posted pics with some high praise a while back, but I think he’s taken those pics down.

    Craig–I’ve also been told that, if you want to get a really good wide margin NASB, the old GL burgundy edition has extra fat margins. The collector in me wants one, but the practical side of me knows I wouldn’t really preach and teach from the NASB enough.

  5. hjimkeener says:

    Matt–Good to hear someone else agrees that the HCSB MB GL has nice leather. The brown cowhide ESV SB is nice, too, and EvangelicalBible.com recommends it above the calfskin editions–although I’d regard it as a high-end Bible, both price-wise and as far as quality goes. But, you’re right, it’s a step down from the calfskin editions in price, while it really doesn’t seem to be a step down in quality at all.

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