Since I started reading about high quality Bibles, I wondered if I would be able to bring myself to write in one. I regularly tell myself that these are not museum pieces, they are Bibles and are meant to be used. When I carry one of these Bibles, I try to use common sense to take care of it. But I also don’t do anything that would create disincentives to reading it. This is the reason I don’t carry them in their original boxes. I want to be able to unzip my bag and pull it out and read it like any other book. But writing in a Bible changes it forever. Would I ever be able to bring myself to commit to really using the Bible to the point that I would write in it?
The Cambridge Wide Margin Bible put that question to rest.
The NIV Cambridge Wide Margin is only available in calf split leather at the moment, which is the lowest quality leather cover that Cambridge makes. The cover is much nicer than any generic “genuine leather” or “bonded leather” cover I’ve previously owned. There is no contest. However, I also like it much less than any goatskin, calfskin, or cowhide cover that I have. The calf split cover feels functional to me. It is sturdy and gives confidence that it will protect the pages between the covers. The tradeoff is that the calf split feels tougher and less supple than higher quality covers. I suspect that the NIV Wide Margin is only available in calf split due to sales projections. Part of my hope in reviews like these is to encourage readers who prefer the NRSV and NIV to invest in these translations so that they receive the same kind of support as the KJV, NASB, and ESV.
By way of comparison, Cambridge’s ESV Wide Margin Bible is available in goatskin in addition to the calf split. I have an ESV Wide Margin in goatskin (on the left in the photo above). When comparing calfskin to goatskin I am often conflicted. They are both fantastic and different enough that I find myself going back and forth between which one I prefer. There is no contest, however, between the calf split and the goatskin. The goatskin is far superior. There is also a significant difference in price (the list price of the goatskin is $80 more than the calf split).
The layout is where things get really interesting! The Cambridge Wide Margin has the identical layout to the Pitt Minion within the same translation (see my review of the Pitt Minion here). This means that if you own an NIV Pitt Minion and an NIV Wide Margin, the exact same words are on every page. This has the benefit of helping with remembering Scripture when you read and study, as you can move from one volume to the other and you are reading the same passage in the exact same place on the same page. The benefit, of course, is that the Pitt Minion is much smaller and more portable, so it is ideal for carrying with you when you are on the go. The Wide Margin is ideal for more in-depth Bible Study at home.
More than the Pitt Minion
As is obvious from the name, the Wide Margin is quite a bit larger than the Pitt Minion. The decrease in portability brings the benefits of larger text, the most expansive concordance I’ve seen in an NIV reference Bible, and room to write in the Bible.
The text is not only larger, the paper also seems better than the paper in the Pitt Minion. To my eye, the paper in the Wide Margin seems to be a bit opaquer than the Pitt Minion and it seems to have more of a matte finish. Appropriately, the paper in the Wide Margin is made to be written on, while the Pitt Minion prioritizes portability.
One of the biggest surprises for me in the NIV Wide Margin was when I looked at the stats in the concordance. The Schuyler Quentel and Pitt Minion NIV concordances each have 2,474 word entries and more than 10,000 Scripture references. The Wide Margin has 4,795 word entries with nearly 36,000 Scripture references. That is a dramatic increase and makes the NIV Wide Margin the best concordance I know of in any comparable Bible. (The NIV Wide Margin even shines in comparison to the ESV Wide Margin, which has 2,700 word entries and more than 14,500 Scripture references.)
Above all else, the Wide Margin is designed for you to engage Scripture by writing in the Bible. The purpose of the wide margins themselves is to have space to write summaries, insights, questions, etc. from your engagement with Scripture. After the concordance, the Bible also has a blank two column alphabetical index and 32 double column lined pages. This part of the Bible can be used to add additional reference material or anything else you would like to add.
I really like the combination of the Pitt Minion and the Wide Margin Bible. If the NIV is your preferred translation and you want a reference Bible that is designed to help you study the Bible by using the Bible to interpret itself (rather than external commentary like a Study Bible), the NIV Wide Margin is the best option currently on the market. If I had to choose between the Wide Margin and the Pitt Minion, I would choose the Pitt Minion because of its versatility, size, and availability of a goatskin cover.
However, after using both Bibles so much for the past month, I can’t imagine not having them both. The Wide Margin is an ideal complement to the Pitt Minion and a wonderful way to study Scripture in greater depth and engagement. I love having two Bibles of very different sizes that have the same pagination and typographical style. These Bibles are made to be used and to last. The Wide Margin is ideal for deep engagement and interaction with Scripture and is the best NIV reference Bible I have seen.
Cambridge generously provided the NIV and ESV Wide Margin Bibles for review. I was not required to give a positive review of this Bible, only an honest one.