Today I move from the realm of posting Bible reviews intended to help others find a good Bible to something somewhat different; I’m giddy to share with my fellow bibliophiles some quick snap-shots of two stunning rare Bibles in my family.
I start with this old royal blue Collins “New Ruby 24 mo (whatever that means) Text” Bible issued in connection with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Of course the limited edition and the event that it commemorates both make this Bible something special, it would be a fantastic little pocket Bible in its own right. Though I can’t be positive what the leather is, it is certainly of better stock than today’s standard “genuine leather Bibles,” and the cover has full-yap edges. Given the value that this thing has as an antique collectible, I am certainly not going to subject it to my standard stick-it-in-your-pocket-and-sit-on-it, bend-the-pages-backwards, peruse-it-for-hours scrutiny that a full review of a pocket Bible requires.
Yet, I can’t help but make three observations that advance my ongoing quest for the ideal pocket Bible: 1) Full yap (i.e., where the leather covers hang all the way over the page edges) is much to be desired. 2) Overall, this Bible confirms the value of most of the positive elements I’ve already noted in other good editions–sewn binding; crisp, bold font; etc. As one would expect, Collins got a lot of things right in the execution of this Bible. 3) In the “nit-picks” category, it also confirms my growing conviction that manufacturers of compact/pocket Bibles need to pay special attention to the size of the gutter–the inside margins are too narrow on this Ruby.
In other words–“If you want to get the most out of this Bible–DON’T ACTUALLY USE IT! EVER!!!” OK, so maybe these “thou shalt nots” are not so absurd, but with most Bibles intended to stand up to daily use (and “abuse”), I would find such scrupulous advice taken to the extreme ridiculous–make sure your hands are cool and you’re not sitting near a fireplace when you read this! In the case of this rare collectible, though, well, I was afraid to take it out of the box and expose it to a flash camera. Extreme care seems entirely appropriate!
The same goes for this next gem, of the same pedigree: a similar royal blue Oxford “onyx 16 mo refs (whatever any of that means)” Bible published in 1937 in commemoration of the coronation of King George and Queen Elizabeth. Pretty much all that applied to the ruby applies to this larger edition, which has a very, very similar leather cover. This larger Bible is more useful, with cross references, concordance, etc.,–not that the usefulness of an heirloom like this is all that relevant! Striking about this edition is the rare and beautiful blue under gold page edging. Other than R.L. Allan’s recent commemorative KJV Bible, which has the same royal blue cover and gold over blue edges, I’m not aware of any other Bibles like this. This is just beautiful, and I wish more Bibles today threw in little extras like this.
They just don’t make them like they used to! Now, I know that these two Bibles may not be the best representative examples, being, as they are, special editions published for very, very special occasions. Even so, I’ve seen enough old Bibles with art-gilt edging (usually red under gold) and things like “genuine morocco leather lined” stamped on the inside to lead me to believe that Bibles that are now considered “high-end” these days were once more common and, likely, more affordable.
So, as usual, I close this post with an invitation for others to share. Do any of you out there have any interesting old Bibles in your family that have been cherished as heirlooms? Any of those old big family Bibles with metal embossing and a locking clasp mechanism on the side? Or maybe just a beat up old Bible with your grandparent’s notes in the margin? Please share, for the good of all, and feel free to link to any photos!