April 4, 2021

Review: ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, Artist Series

The Lion and the LambIllustrated by Joshua Noom (The Lion and the Lamb), Lulie Wallace (In Bloom), Jess Phoenix (Garden), and Jake Weidmann (Dwelling Place)
Available now from Crossway
Review copy

To coincide with Easter, Crossway released several new editions of their English Standard Version (ESV) translation of the Bible, including a single column journaling Bible. This version was released in six special artist editions with beautiful covers. I have been able to experience and review four of them. 

Personally, I do not love the ESV (2001). The ESV is a lightly revised version of the 1972 version RSV. The translation project was approached with a conservative evangelical ideology. One thing I do like about this translation is that it follows the Colorado Springs Guidelines, which means that it translates words that are gender non-specific in Greek or Hebrew as gender non-specific in English rather than making a male translation the default. (For example, "anyone" instead of "any man," which is generally a better translation anyway.) While the ESV isn't an entirely accurate translation of the Bible, it does have the appeal of being a very literal yet idiomatic and approachable version.

The text of this Bible is printed in 7.5 font with a pre-lined column of two inches along the side for notes. The paper is thin, but since there are so many pages, the bulk of the book prevents a pen or pencil from breaking through the page. (Though I would not recommend writing forcefully.) The lines make the journaling area best for those with small handwriting, or who are willing to ignore the lines. I do love having an area to make notes directly in the Bible.

Each of these would make a beautiful gift. They come with ribbon bookmarks and a clear sleeve protecting the cover. There is also a small slip of paper inside each explaining the artist's inspiration. The only thing I dislike about this artist series as art is that three of six covers feature floral themes, especially since one of the regular editions also features flowers. It seems somewhat repetitive.

"The Lion and the Lamb" by Joshua Noon was the first piece to capture my attention. It has an almost woodcut look to the art, or, thanks to the paneled style, a church's stained glass window. There are foil accents on the front, back, and side, which makes the bold art style even more eye catching. The classic lion and lamb symbology is featured, but other common images like the dove with a sprig of greenery and the burning bush are also included. I think it is fun to try to recognize all the elements represented.

In Bloom"In Bloom" by Lulie Wallace is cloth over board, other like the other three I am reviewing, which are hardcover. She does have experience with textiles, and the images of flowers printed on cloth remind me of Sunday dresses. However, the cloth does run the danger of snags. Wallace's artist card mentioned that she wanted to make an appealing design for a Bible left out around the home. I do think this would look nice sitting on a coffee table, but I also find that very generic and not what I look for in a Bible.

Garden"Garden" by Jess Phoenix does have a cloth spine. The art is repeated on the front and back and does not wrap around the spine. There is one tiny difference - a small cross on the cover. There are gold foil accents, including the cross being an entirely gold outline. Phoenix's artist note says that she wanted to keep the cross in the center of her design, which represents Jesus as the gardener of her life. I find it less generic than Wallace's cover, but it still doesn't wow me as a Bible cover, especially given all the potential botanical imagery there is to mine.

Dwelling Place"Dwelling Place" by Jake Weidmann didn't capture my attention on the screen, but I find it beautiful and vibrant in person. There is a great deal of detail to the swallow that can't be seen in a thumbnail. In addition, Weidmann is a Master Penman and the swirls surrounding the swallow have a beautiful fluidity to them. The dark colors glow against the cream background. The inspiration for this piece is the swallow who delivers a message of hope in Matthew. I'm not sure I'm convinced by switching a sparrow for a swallow, but it is a beautiful bird.

Overall, I think this artist series is a very nice project. I like journaling Bibles and I like the idea of using the cover as a canvas for works of that match the mood and tone with which one approaches the Bible. I do wish I'd also gotten to see "Sanctus" by Peter Voth in person, but I am glad I got to experience four of them since the thumbnails don't do them justice. I think these make wonderful gifts if you know someone who would vibe with one of the covers.

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