Hundreds of years ago, the Puritan Jonathan Edwards owned a one-of-a-kind Bible that has rarely, if ever, been replicated. Until today, that is.
Edwards (1703-1758) took possession of an unusual 1653 King James Bible, the pages of which were removed, and spliced back into a larger volume with entirely blank pages. The resulting amalgamation looked like a large notebook that had swallowed a small hand-sized Bible alive!
This enabled Edwards to own a Bible in which every other page was completely blank – perfectly suitable for a lifetime of note-taking. And that he did! Edwards filled the Bible with 5,506 notes and entries making it one of the great artifacts of Early Colonial history through which we can learn of his personal theology and exegetical insights. Today, this Bible has become known as the “Blank Bible” and is now in possession at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript at Yale University.
[Note: I have written a much larger history of Edwards’s unusual Bible here. Edwards’s Blank Bible can be read for free here at the Yale site, or obtained in print as Volume XXIV of Edwards Complete Yale Works (24 Volumes). ]
Today, I am excited to announce that Crossway has intentionally replicated this unusual Bible and made it available to the public for purchase. No, you don’t get Edwards’s own notes inside, but you do get to create your own notes everywhere throughout!
The result is Crossway’s Journaling Bible: Interleaved Edition. Let me describe it in this brief review.
The first difference between Edwards’s Bible and the replica is translation. Edwards had the KJV and this Crossway edition of course comes in the English Standard Version. But for me, that is ideal. The ESV is one of the most literal and beautiful translations available today. Edwards would approve.
Now, you’ve seen journaling Bibles before, right? In fact, Crossway has several others to offer in their lineup. So what makes this one different? Well, the great design factor here is that the Edwards Bible comes with an entire blank page (both sides) between every page of Scripture making the usable writing space about ten times greater than even the most free-form journaling Bible. Far from being a mere wide margin Bible, this setup allows artists, preachers, diary scribes, and budding theologians to produce far more commentary, message notes, graphic designs, or exegetical observations in their Bibles.
In terms of size, it is surprisingly consistent with what Edwards had. His was 9.5 X 7.5, and the new Crossway edition is almost the same dimensions. That seems rather fitting to me. For those in the know, this is essentially the same size as an ESV Study Bible, the owners of which know is a rather large book indeed. This book probably won’t make a very good traveling companion for you, and it certainly won’t fit in your pocket, but it will make a faithful servant at your study, desk, or office.
At the same time, there are some features that would make the Puritan Edwards downright jealous. Edwards was known to treasure paper (yes, paper!), often writing his sermon notes on unfolded fans, parcel packaging, bills from the market, or whatever else he could get his hands on. Let me say that the paper in this edition is fantastic. A cream color, it is pleasant to the eye, smooth to the touch, and thick enough for substantial writing. That’s what this baby is designed for, right?
Speaking of layout, the two-column format is printed without center column references, similar to what Crossway does in their longtime favorite Thinline setup, although the font is a half-step down at a mere 7.5. This makes the Journaling Bible: Interleaved Edition a bit difficult to see for those with troubled up-close sight. For me, it’s no problem at all. It looks to me roughly comparable to a Cambridge Pitt Minion, although the PM has the text lines printed much closer together giving the Edwards Replica a better, easier read in my own opinion.
In one sense, it is minimalistic. There are no study notes, charts, or maps. The reference suite featured is Crossway’s lightest touch, containing only references to those places in Scripture where other portions are directly quoted. For instance, Acts 2:17 has a reference note to Joel 2:28-32. But there is very rare page clutter here, such as translation notes and manuscript variants. Thus, the text is virtually free from obstruction. The job to fill the pages with notes and references belongs to the owner. You.
This edition comes in cloth over board, giving it a nice timeless look. It’s both quaint and modern. Rustic and durable. The hardback style means this larger Bible has plenty of structure to prevent it from being floppy, although draping it with a nice piece of natural brown leather would make a pleasing (but significantly costly) upgrade.
Here are some other pics: