Bible Review: Leonard’s Books Rebind (American West III)

This review has been a long time in the making! For those of you that don’t know, Leonard’s Books is a family business in Indiana who specializes in “rebinding, repair, and restoration.” If you have a Bible that’s falling apart but you want to keep for sentimental or study purposes, Leonard’s will take your Bible and repair it for you. (Their Facebook page has before and after pictures that are quite impressive.) The service that I am the most interested in, though, is the rebinding. Leonard’s will take a Bible and give it a new, quality leather cover. Not the flimsy, cheap stuff that passes for leather by major publishers, but thick, substantive, quality leather that you know hasn’t been highly processed since it came off the animal. (And what a selection of animals they have! They have goatskin, calfskin, deerskin, pigskin, kangaroo skin…)

Anyway, several months ago, I contacted the folks at Leonard’s to see if I could do any reviewing work for them. They said they would let me know when they came out with a new style that needed testing. A couple of months later, I received an email that said they were coming out with a new American West style, and offered to let me review it. So I shipped out my ESV MacArthur Study Bible in hardcover, and I got it back two months ago. At first I was worried that the western look was going to be over-the-top, but as you can see, Leonard’s did an excellent job with it.

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Tooling Design

What worried me the most was how gaudy a western look could be, but when Margie from Leonard’s sent me a picture of what they were planning, I was very intrigued. I’ll say up front that this isn’t a style that I would have chosen for myself, but I can definitely say objectively that this rebind is an impressive feat. The American West III rebind style features hand-dyed English calfskin, with tooling around the edges, raised bands on the spine, imprinting, monogramming (which I opted not to have, but comes as part of the package), two ribbons, and a hand-tooled floral pattern. The floral pattern is ornate without being showy, and is an outstanding testament to the skill of the folks at Leonard’s. I cannot believe someone did that by hand.

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There is also tooling around the edges. It’s not stitching, which it looks like, and I think would have also been a nice aesthetic touch. I think they way it was added is with a pizza cutter-like device that the leatherworker rolled over the edge to create the effect. At any rate, it adds a border that does a good job of framing and complementing the work that went into the flower. It’s a subtle touch that shows the thought and care that Leonard’s put into designing this style of Bible.

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Inside the Covers

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The inside shows the same attention to detail. The word “genuine calfskin” are blind stamped (that is, stamped without any gold or silver foil to highlight them) in a clean font, on the inside of the front cover. Additionally, the black liner is pasted clean and straight. One of the impressive things about their work with the liner is its precision. The liners are exactly–exactly!–the same size as the book block, and they run parallel to the edge of the cover. No glue is showing from its adhesion to the leather, and the leather underneath has been cut straight and parallel, as well. The bottom line is this: this rebind feels and looks like a quality service. In terms of the lining, it looks no different than what you would receive from any big publishing house–except it’s a leatherette, so it’s better than the paper linings I get from Crossway’s TruTone editions.

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The ribbons are nice and wide–a 3/8″, single face (only one side is satin-y) stock–in black and brown. I don’t know that having a black ribbon is my favorite. I much prefer a brown-on-brown combination, and having the black in such a visible place–I don’t mind it as much for the liners, since I rarely see them–is kind of strange. The colors don’t go together very well. Also, the end of the black ribbon is a little bit frayed. The ribbon isn’t coming apart, since Leonard’s took the time to treat or heat the ends to make sure they physically wouldn’t degrade. Rather, it’s that in the treatment process, a tiny bit of ribbon didn’t quite get attached to the main body. As a result, it looks a bit ragged. It’s a tiny detail, and I can cut it off or overlook it, especially considering that they did a rush on this rebind so that I could review it. I also wish the cut on the ribbon was a bit more acute, for aesthetic purposes–the cut here is maybe 30 degrees, which is a little too close to perpendicular for me. I much prefer the aesthetic of an acute cut.

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Again, I love the attention to detail at the headband. The color scheme matches the leather, and the ribbons have been glued in flat, so that they’re not folded over themselves. It’s a small touch that shows the care that the folks at Leonard’s puts into their work.

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Leather

As you’ve been able to see from all the pictures above, this leather is the good stuff. The previous pictures should illustrate the leather’s thickness–I was surprised at how thick it is. It’s a heavy, solid gauge that feels like it will withstand a lot of use, without compromising on suppleness or flexibility. Having seen how thick the leather is, I want to show now how supple it is. I attribute much of this to the fact that this is as natural and unprocessed as possible. I doubt this has gone through any more treatment than is absolutely necessary for a Bible cover. Below you can see that it is moldable enough to be crafted into a nice corner. (Look at that craftsmanship!)

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If there were any questions about the flexibility of this leather, look no further, and put those questions to rest:

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It’s also been hand-dyed and antiqued to a medium brown finish. This means that they’ve added a bit of gel to bring out the natural texture and grain in the leather. I don’t know that I’m the biggest fan of this aesthetic–I rather like a solid color for leather Bible covers. I will say that it does work well with the whole “American West” theme, as it adds a certain rugged feeling to the cover. Leonard’s really, really thought this design scheme through.

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Another touch: raised bands on the spine. On this big of a Bible, they’re more than just aesthetic. The bands help me hold the Bible in my hand at church or when studying. They provide some much needed purchase, since the leather doesn’t have an extremely pronounced tactile texture.

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Closing Thoughts

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Leonard’s Books’s attention to detail on this rebind is truly impressive. The lines are straight, the cuts are clean, the imprinting precise, the tooling beautiful, the leather top-grade. More than that, they’ve put all those elements into one coherent theme that presents itself as more than the sum of those parts. So what I want to say for those who don’t really like this particular American West aesthetic is to consider trying Leonard’s for a regular Bible rebind. Many of their rebind orders are custom, a la carte affairs where the customer chooses the leather and color and lettering and general design. The American West III is simply a scheme that they have developed and offer as a standard design, and a Bible of this particular size (roughly 6×9″) will run you about $200 for the rebind. (One more thing to note at this point is that monogramming is offered with the American West III package. I opted out in order to be able to sell this Bible for missions–more on that below.)

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If you’re spending that much money on a rebind, you want to know if it will be worth it. Let me mention something of note: the customer service that Leonard’s Books provided along the way was outstanding. From the very beginning, Margie guided me through the rebind process, showing me a sample of what the flower design would look like, telling me what would happen if the Crossway edition was glued rather than sewn (I didn’t know at the time). Then I received an email to confirm their receipt of the Bible, as well as a confirmation of my shipping and billing address. Then I received an email telling me about a delay they hit with their leather stock and its supplier, and then I received an email telling me that it shipped. If you want an old, sentimentally valued Bible rebound, Leonard’s will take great care of you. It’s a good reason to consider Leonard’s for your rebind.

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And as I’ve been saying all through this review, the work on the American West III design, as well as this particular Bible, is top-notch. Hopefully the pictures here do the rebind some justice, because it feels great in the hand. The leather is sturdy but flexible, the ribbons long enough, the physical texture of the flower design a pleasure to touch. If you don’t like the American West III, then imagine this level of workmanship applied to the design of your choice. Leonard’s will do their best to accommodate your design ideas–I’m sure of it, since they just announced a leather-lined option after months of customer requests and months of subsequent testing. If you’re in need of a rebind, I fully recommend Leonard’s.

Post-script: Thanks to those who were interested, I was able to sell this Bible on eBay. Leonard’s Books generously provided this rebind for the review, and with their blessing, I partnered with them to sell this Bible for missions. I gave 70% of the proceeds from this sale to Grace Community Church’s “Faith Promise” campaign for missions overseas, specifically geared toward supporting missionaries and pastor training centers around the globe. The remaining 30% went toward covering the original cost of the Crossway edition, as well as toward other reviews and blog upkeep. The Bible sold for $137.50, so I–through those who were willing to donate through this Bible!–was able to donate $100. Thanks to all who considered purchasing! Please continue to pray for the effects of this offering to missions, and meditate on the joy and necessity of global missions!

(This Bible was rebound free for review by Leonard’s Books, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)

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4 responses to “Bible Review: Leonard’s Books Rebind (American West III)

  1. Thank you for auctioning this Bible to help support missions. I am the winner of your auction and am very excited to receive this wonderfully bound bible.

    Grace and Peace,

    John

    • Hi, John! I sent out the Bible on Thursday afternoon, so it should be there today or on Monday. Thank you for supporting overseas missions efforts, and I hope you enjoy the Bible and the rebind! I’ll post a photo confirmation of the donation when I am able.

      Elliot

  2. Hi Elliot. Thanks for the thoughtful review. I am wondering, did this Bible sit open, even toward the beginning and end, or did you have to hold it open at all? I had one rebound by Leonard’s that was stiffer post-rebind than pre-rebind, and so I sold it off. I’m wondering if it was because it wasn’t as thick of a book (1.25″ spine). I’m considering having them do another for my, this time 2.5″, and I’m considering this calfskin version (though not American West). Your feedback would be great help in my decision process…one of my “must haves” is that whatever I end up with will sit open on my desk without help.

    • Hi, Jeffrey,

      The leather–I think it was calfskin–was flexible enough to stay open under the weight of the MacArthur Study Bible that I had rebound. In the third picture under “Inside the Covers,” you can see a picture of it staying open. That said, it wasn’t a flow-y, liquid leather, so I can see why another Bible might not stay open under its own weight. If that’s what you want, and you have a smaller Bible, I would probably opt for a goatskin or something of the sort. (I’m also assuming that the book block was sewn, and that Leonard’s didn’t have to do a cord insertion?)

      Elliot

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