Bible Review: Cambridge Pitt Minion NLT in Black Goatskin

If we were to compare the world of Bibles to the world of cars, most of us would own Toyotas or Fords. We might not know that we own Toyotas or Fords, but we do. Most Bibles sold today are consumer level products: the cheapest (or next to cheapest) materials combined with the lowest level of human effort. The paper is thin and transparent, the cover material manmade, the bindings glued and gildings sprayed, all in an effort to keep costs down. And most of us like it that way. We don’t need fancy Bibles (or fancy cars), and just how “high-performance” can a Bible get, anyway?

The Cambridge Pitt Minion is a Lexus in the world of Bibles. A luxury Bible, but not a Lamborghini or Tesla or Aston Martin. (Those models, I think, would more closely correspond with R.L. Allan and Schuyler. I am hoping to acquire review copies of those so I can see what they are like.) The Pitt Minion delivers solid performance, better materials, and an attention to details. The text has excellent, readable layout; the paper is pleasantly weighty, and the cover and gilding are artfully done. This is the first rung on a ladder of Bibles for people who want quality Bibles, or Bibles that externally reflect the glory contained within. This review will focus on aspects that differentiate the Pitt Minion from consumer-level Bibles. 

I don’t read the New Living Translation–it’s not that I have anything against it, I simply prefer a more literal translation. However, having never had the chance to handle a Cambridge Pitt Minion, when I saw that I had the chance to acquire an NLT version for a relatively small amount of money, I seized the opportunity. One of the things that first stands out to me about handling the Pitt Minion for the first time is the attention to detail. The above picture of a corner of the Bible shows what I think are highly aesthetic corners–much nicer than the ones on my Crossway Personal Size Reference or Deluxe Compact. The leather has been carefully worked into a curve without making the cover any thicker at that point. (This picture also shows the beautiful grain of the black goatskin. Very nice.)

Another thing the picture shows is a funny rose gold color on the page edges. The pages on the Pitt Minion are “art-gilt,” which means that the bookbinders use a combination of red dye and gold foil to produce an effect that makes the page edges look gold when closed and reddish when open (Cambridge). You can see below how the page edges are reflective due to the gold and yet retain their reddish hue. I find it particularly artful how the words “Goatskin Leather” are reflected onto the page edges. It’s a more striking effect in person; it was hard to capture with the camera. The art-gilt edges are, to me, a prime example of the beauty of the Pitt Minions. They convey a delicacy and a care to the physical form of the Bible that creates an aura of reverence for the Book.

This brings us to the pages and text itself, which is where the greatest performance benefits of this book lie. I was surprised to find that the text is line-matched, which means that the lines of text on one page are aligned with the lines of text on the opposite page. While flipping through the Pitt Minion, I found a few places where the alignment was off by a millimeter or two, which is my first criticism of the Pitt Minion. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, except that when the whole Bible is line-matched, it gets somewhat distracting when it isn’t. The benefit of line matching is that it enhances the white space between the lines. I tend to associate darkness of color on the page with text and absence of color as blank space. Having blank space between the lines emphasizes the separation between lines of text and that makes it easier to follow the lines.

As you can see from the next picture, the Bible is elegantly laid out. Even though I’m not a fan of double-column text, Cambridge has made it work. The font choice, in conjunction with the font size and leading (that is, the space between each line), makes the NLT Pitt Minion highly readable. I also love how they designed the center column for cross-references: bold, sans serif numbers denoting chapter and verse. I love the contrast between bold and non-bold, serif and sans serif fonts on the page. It creates some welcome visual interest.

I think the visual interest is important because at first, it took me a while to get used to the font choice. As charming as the old-fashioned feel of the Pitt Minion is, the interior can also feel a bit old-fashioned–and that not in a good way. The font choice contributes greatly to that. It’s set in Lexicon 1, which is used in reference works, or “applications that require highly economical setting (dictionaries, Bibles, timetables, encyclopedias etc.)” (TEFF). Which means that at first glance, it looks like an old reference work. It seems that way especially since I have been using the more modernly typeset Crossway ESV Personal Size Reference (“PSR”).

I appreciate that Cambridge included a short blurb about their typesetting. 6.75/7 pt Lexicon No.1: the first number refers to font size, and the second refers to leading (the amount of space between each line of text). 6.75 point font is not very large, something that will become even more clear in a moment. However, the text is still extremely readable, due in no small part to the font choice. Lexicon is “pre-eminently suitable for output on laser and other low-resolution printers and for typesetting in small sizes” (TEFF). It’s a smart choice, using a font that was designed to be readable when small.

The above picture is kind of small here, so you should click on it and view it full size to get a better sense of how the two Bibles compare. The Crossway PSR is on the left and the Cambridge Pitt Minion is on the right. Two things to note: double column text seems good and acceptable on its own, but put it next to a single column Bible and you can see the compromises in flow and general readability. You can also see that the PSR has a more modern design, with bold and italicized sans serif section headers, and sans serif references in the upper page corners. But here’s where the Pitt Minion makes its mark: despite the fact that the PSR boasts 7.5 font (Crossway), and that the PSR is single column, the Pitt Minion is still highly readable, thanks to line matching to create space between the lines and the font choice of Lexicon.

The black goatskin edition of the NLT Pitt Minion is red-letter text. Despite my philosophical qualms about red-letter editions (no part of the Bible is any more inspired than other parts!), I love the color they use. The red is a rich burgundy. It’s tasteful–not pink, not bright red, but a classy, conservative styling that fits right in with the rest of the Bible. You can also see that the black goatskin edition has red ribbons–two of them, in fact. I like the color they bring to an otherwise stoic edition of the Pitt Minion. (I personally, being a lover of blue, would love to have some blue art-gilt edges with baby blue ribbons. That would be great.)

Here are some size comparisons. First, against the Crossway Deluxe Compact:

It’s a little thinner than the Deluxe Compact, which is fantastic. In my hand, the Pitt Minion seats very nicely in the fold of my hand. It’s an excellent size. Here it is against the PSR–just about the same length and width, but again, the Pitt is thinner:

All in all, the Cambridge Pitt Minion is an excellent Bible. If you want a small Bible that does not compromise on quality or readability, a Bible that is as enjoyable to hold as it is to read, this is the Bible for you. You may not be a fan of the NLT–that’s OK. Cambridge offers the Pitt Minion in KJV, NASB, ESV, and NIV. (In fact, a review of the ESV Pitt Minion in brown goatskin is upcoming, with some more thoughts on the cover and on readability.) It’s a little on the pricy side, yes, but you get what you pay for–and I might even add that you get more than you pay for. If you like black Bibles or red-letter text, the black goatskin Pitt Minion is for you, and I think you’ll find that the red ribbons add a little extra something.

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2 responses to “Bible Review: Cambridge Pitt Minion NLT in Black Goatskin

  1. leonard bissett

    This is the best review I have ever read on any bible. Great job on pictures and your commentary is excellent. It just makes me want to buy this right now.

  2. Great review. So is there line matching in the majority if the Bible or is it hit or miss? Thanks!

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