Premium Catholic Bibles, or the lack thereof…

Every now and then I come across discussions that bemoan the lack of premium quality, leather-bound Catholic Bibles. The general consensus seems to be that there is insufficient demand to make publishing them a viable option for Catholic publishers, and that the best option is to rather buy hardcover Bibles and have them rebound.

I am particularly interested in this because I am seeking to focus specifically on rebinding and selling Bibles that are of interest to Catholic and Orthodox Christians. (And, given the paucity of Orthodox Bibles in English, Orthodox Christians will also gravitate to Catholic or “with Apocrypha” versions). In this, I hope that I may be able to assist those who are looking for quality leather-bound Catholic Bibles.

In order to do so, I have sought to compile a list of Bibles that are good candidates for rebinding in leather. The following list was compiled with the help of members of the Catholic Bible Fans group on Facebook (which would be worth joining if you are interested in these things). It’s by no means exhaustive (if you have further suggestions, let me know), but it lists Bibles that I am able to acquire and would be worth rebinding.

  • The CTS New Catholic Bible (the text of the Jerusalem Bible but with the Divine Name changed to “the Lord” and with the Grail Psalms)

Some of these Bibles are ones that I’ve rebound and sold on Etsy, while others are editions that have been recommended to me. If you are interested in ordering a leather-bound version of any of them, please contact me here. Of course, you are also welcome to contact me about rebinding other Bibles! You can see more examples of my work here, or find out what options are available when rebinding your Bible here.

Leather-bound ESV-CE Bibles

Update: I regret that I am unable to accept customised orders at present.

I am pleased to announce that I am now able to take orders for rebound copies of the ESV-CE Bible.

As some may know, a Catholic edition of the English Standard Version was published in India last year at the behest of the Indian Catholic Bishops. This is significant for Orthodox and Catholic Christians as there was at that time no version of this translation that included the books that had been omitted from the Protestant canon of scripture. (There had been an ESV with Apocrypha published by OUP, but this is now out of print). However, the agreement with Crossway (the original publisher of the ESV) stipulated that it could only be sold in Asia and Africa.

My own rebound ESV-CE. See the gallery for more examples of my work.

Although some people outside Asia and Africa have been able to order copies directly from the publisher, this has proved difficult for many. However, because I am in Africa I can order copies to rebind, and I got one copy that I rebound for myself in October. There has been some delay in getting more copies, but they have now arrived in this country and I am able to take orders for them.

If you are interested in ordering a rebound ESV-CE, please contact me to ensure that I reserve a copy for you. In addition, please have a look at this page and let me know how you would like your Bible to look. Once we have agreed on the details (including the date of shipping), I will send you a Paypal invoice and will reserve a copy once I have received payment. The price is 135 USD for a basic rebind, which includes international shipping by courier but excludes additional details such as edge colouring and debossed cover designs.   

New Customisation Page

I have finally added a page that explains all the options you need to consider when having your Bible rebound or ordering a new Bible for a custom rebind. This can be rather overwhelming for clients, so I hope that I have made the various options clear. The thing is, if you are going to spend money on your Bible, or on ordering a new Bible, you do need to make sure that you get the product you want, at least insofar as that is possible.

Some Leather-bound Catholic Bibles I have Rebound Recently

I’m in the process of updating this website and have just created a new Gallery page to display some of my work. There is still more to add, but here are some highlights from some of the Bibles I have rebound recently. They are all leather-lined softcover Bibles that have been rebound in either sheep nappa, goat nappa, or calfskin. They are also all text blocks that I can get easily and that I really like and recommend.

An RSV2CE that I rebound in black goat nappa. This one is still available for sale on Etsy for 145 USD, including shipping.

A CTS New Catholic Bible (standard edition) that I rebound in tan calfskin. The text of this Bible is that of the original Jerusalem Bible, but with the Divine Name changed to “the Lord” and with the Grail Psalms.

An OUP pocket edition of the RSV-CE Bible (first edition)
rebound in dark navy sheep nappa. For a pocket Bible, this one is very readable and is beautifully produced.

A custom order of two New Jerusalem Bibles (DLT standard edition) rebound in black goat nappa and navy sheep nappa, and one NABRE rebound in red sheep nappa.

Special Offer: Leather-lined Bible Rebinding

In my previous blog post, I discussed how I developed the option of a leather-lined soft-covered Bible. This is really the ultimate soft-covered Bible and is both supple and strong.

sc11To introduce and promote this option, I am offering a special on it for the rest of August. During this period, a leather-lined binding will be available for R500 (usual price R550). That includes having the words “Holy Bible” or “The Bible” (or similar) gold-foiled on the spine, but additional foiling and other additional features will be extra. To arrange to have your Bible rebound like this, please contact me here.

New: Leather-lined Bibles

It’s probably obvious that a fair amount of my binding work involves rebinding Bibles. Personal Bibles that are much-read and cherished will invariably suffer a certain amount of wear and tear, and many of them are not that well-bound in the first place (for advice on buying a new Bible, see this post). However, many of the people who want their Bibles rebound want them rebound in a soft-cover binding. I was initially not terribly keen on this, having been trained more to do hard-cover binding. Moreover, I wasn’t terribly happy with the method of soft-cover binding that I had learnt from a colleague – even though clients seemed perfectly happy with their rebound Bibles.nrsva2.jpg

Then a couple of years ago I started following online discussions on Bible rebinding and saw that the latest trend, at least in the USA, was for leather-lined Bibles. I was initially wary of this, but I confess that the idea did rather grow on me. And after trying my first leather-lined soft-cover (sometimes affectionately called yoga Bibles due to the contortions that their suppleness allows) I was rather hooked. Okay, I still like good hard-covers, but if you are going to have a Bible rebound as a soft-cover, I would strongly recommend paying a little extra and having it leather-lined.

The first leather-lined Bible I bound.

I have been honing my technique on this in the last couple of weeks, and have adapted some of the methods used by US binders. I am finally happy with my method and am now adding this to the binding options I offer, which you can find out more about here.

Here are some photos of my most recent yoga Bible. It has hand-stitched headbands, blind foiling on the inside edges, and paste paper endpages.



Recent Restoration Work

After a break of some time, I recently restored a Family Bible once more. The book block was in very good shape, but, as often happens, the hinges on the spine had broken and the leather was in a pretty bad condition. Here are some before and after photos – click on a photo to start the slide show.

A Bookbinder’s Guide to Bible Buying

This is an old post from my previous website. I’m reposting it here because it remains relevant and may be of help to some people.

Posting this here may seem like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted – after all, many of the people who visit this site do so because their Bibles are in various states of disrepair. But, having seen some of the Bibles that have come for repair recently, I have been thinking that it may be worth giving some advice on things to consider when buying a new Bible. Although it may appear that bookbinders can work miracles in making an old book look like new, there are some things that even we can’t make right.

Whatever Else You Do, Buy a Stitched Bible
This is really the most important point. From a binding perspective, there are two basic categories of mass-produced contemporary books, the glued and the stitched. Glued books consist of single pages that are glued together along the spine. (This is also known as perfect binding). They are only held together by glue, albeit a very strong hot glue. But when they come apart, while one can re-glue individual pages, re-gluing the whole Bible is not going to produce a satisfactory result – partly because one is unlikely to have much margin to work with, and partly because the cold glue that most bookbinders work with today is not as strong as the original hot glue that was used in the factory.

This is a clear example of what a sewn book looks like, although the signatures are sometimes finer and less clear.
This is a clear example of what a sewn book looks like, although the signatures are sometimes finer and less clear.

Stitched books, on the other hand, are held together by both stitching and glue. They are printed in such a way that the book consists of a series of booklets called signatures. Each signature is folded over and is usually stitched through the fold. (This is sometimes called Smyth sewn). If you look at the top or bottom of the Bible, you should be able to see if it is made up of signatures (which vary in thickness) that indicate that it is sewn. (Leonard’s Books has some more advice on this here).

I cannot over-emphasise the importance of buying a stitched Bible rather than a glued one. Not only are stitched books far more durable that glued ones, but they also open far better and can lie flat, something that a glued book will not easily do. A glued book is all very well for a thesis or a whodunit that is not likely to be read again, but is totally unsuitable for a book that will be constantly re-read and cherished.

Bonded Leather is Not Leather
I have been horrified to see the prices that are asked for Bibles bound in bonded leather. It needs to be stated very clearly that bonded leather is not leather, but is rather recycled leather fibres that are held together by a substantial amount of a gluey substance. To call bonded leather leather is like calling chipboard wood – and using chipboard in place of wood is probably a better option than using bonded leather in place of leather, because wood does not need to be supple as leather does, and bonded leather is definitely not supple, nor does it last well.

The grey underside is a sure indication that this was bonded leather, despite the “Genuine Leather” stamp.
The grey underside is a sure indication that this was bonded leather, despite the “Genuine Leather” stamp.

Even more horrifying is the fact that it appears that some Bible manufacturers are passing bonded leather off as genuine leather. I recently had a Bible in for repair that I thought looked more like bonded leather than genuine leather, although it was stamped “Genuine Leather” on the back. I thought that I must be mistaken, but, when I opened it up, there was no mistaking the grey nylon underside of the bonded leather.

Consider Rebinding a New Bible
Instead of buying a glued Bible bound in bonded leather for a hefty price, you would be far better off buying a well-stitched book block with a cheap binding. Even a stitched paperback is preferable to a glued Bible, although a hard cover is preferable as it is likely to round more easily. You could then have it rebound in leather, either immediately, or when you can afford to do so. This option will also allow you to personalise the binding as you consider what sort of cover you want. While the leather available in this country is limited (and I don’t import leather as it would drive the prices up exponentially), I nevertheless use high-quality, full-grain, genuine leather that lasts well, and will protect your Bible for many years to come.

A New Website

Welcome to my new website, which I am still in the process of setting up. Since moving to Pietermaritzburg in the middle of last year, I have had to re-invent what was previously Langeberg Bookbinding (the site is still up, but will expire before long). I am being fairly focused in the binding work that I do, focusing mainly on selling on my Etsy shop. However, I am also open to doing a limited amount of binding and repair work for local customers, particularly the leather rebinding of Bibles and liturgical books, hence the need for a website.

In addition, I also plan to add resources here that can supplement the material on my Etsy shop.

To stay in touch, please like my Facebook page, or follow me on Instagram.