Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Vintage" Bible Review: Circa 1960's World Publishing KJV Bible

World Publishing KJV Bible in Black Morocco Goatskin
Check your grandmother's closet. Look closely at the Goodwill. Examine that next garage sale with special care.

You may have a valuable "vintage" Bible in your possession.

World Publishing Bible; Double Column Setting, Red Letter
Photographed here is a circa 1960's KJV published by World Bible Publishers in Cleveland, Ohio. Once a dominant presence in the high quality Bible publishing industry, World Publishing Bibles can still be found,  but have been long since out of production.

Formerly the leader in the industry, (insiders say some of their work rivals R.L. Allan today), World Publishers eventually sold off their various book, dictionary, and Bible manufacturing businesses to other companies including: Collins (Great Britain), Simon and Shuster, Putnam, Nelson, and Riverside Book and Bible (Iowa).

[See an article on the history of World Publishing here].
World Publishing Bible; Gold Imprinted Spine, 5 Rib Spine

This particular Bible is a beautiful, near-perfect condition double column reference Bible. It is cloaked in black Morocco goatskin, with full, hatched-style, leather interior lining.

I should say at this point, "They don't make 'em like they used to!" (Actually, some publishers do; Allan, Crossway, Schulyer, and Cambridge still make high quality Bibles, but most others don't even come close).

World Publishing Bible; Leather Interior Lining, Hatched Style
Like all good Bibles coming out in the 1960's this one is Smyth sewn (stitched signatures, groupings of 32 pages), and printed on India paper, the best technology available at the time. (Surprisingly, I could not find a publishing date anywhere in this beautiful little volume). The relative whiteness of the paper today after more than 50 years attests to the quality work that World Publishing Company was doing in that era.

For my part, the paper in this book feels magnificent. It is rich, smooth to the touch, and sturdy. The India paper of that era seems to exceed the much cheaper "recycled" feel of many publishing works today, likely due to our obsession with staying "green." A publisher today may feel that it is more of a credit to their corporation to use recycled (or partially recycled) paper for public relations purposes than to use good, new, paper for high end productions. Pressures to incorporate recycled paper into their Bibles may be the partial cause for the weak and easily staining paper of today's Bibles.

World Publishing Bible KJV; Circa 1960's, Cleveland Ohio
Sadly most Bible publishers began in the 1970's to produce much cheaper, and far less quality Bibles. Many today are glued (instead of sewn), and worst of all, are tucked inside a cardboard cover, or even "bonded leather" (which is really just scraps, leather dust, and glue--the "plywood" of leathers).

World Publishing Bible; Center Column References
This gorgeous, hand-sized edition (measuring at 7.5 X 5.25 inches) of the Authorized Bible has red-under-gold edge gilding to make the pages really "pop" when opened, and glitter when closed. It utilizes one off-center black ribbon, just left of middle.

As for the Morocco leather, it is very flexible without being wimpy, and has been marked by just one notable battle scar in these five-plus decades. Then again, because it is goatskin, it could be original to the hide of the animal.

As it came to me, still in the box, with its original "owner care" papers in tow, I can't say that it ever endured much hard labor from its previous owner. It's only notable weakness is some very slight page warping due to many years of life here in the humid South. I smooth it with my fingers along the crease and it settles a bit, but I doubt that problem is going away soon and is probably related to its age.

World Publishing; Bible Care Instructions
Inside, the text is set in two very readable columns, with references and some annotations in a center column. Words of Christ are printed in red. The red lettering, by the way, is RED. It is not the faint-hearted pink that seems to wilt on the pages of others I have seen.

Extras inside include a substantial concordance, color maps, and a "Bible Reader's Aids" section edited by one Rev. Charles H. H. Wright D.D. of the Universities of Oxford and London. Presentation pages for matrimony, births, marriages, and deaths are set in between testaments.

This Bible came to me with several documents in the original box including "Your World Bible and How to Care for It" (pictured), a certification that the leather is hand-grained Morocco goatskin, and "An Important Note about Gilded Edges." All of this shows me that World Publishing knew what it was giving the buyer--a Bible meant to last.

I want to thank the anonymous giver who handed this over to me several months ago. Honestly, I didn't even know what was in my possession until I began to research it.

So do just a bit of homework next time you are at a your church yard sale; you just might discover a vintage era World Publishing Bible.

-Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, FL. Besides being a published author, he is an admitted Bibliophile and an active Bible collector. 


  1. I am what you might call a bible geek:-) The inner lining on this bible is a work of art. The quality speaks for itself. Thank you for the pictures.

  2. I actually have the illustrated version, and it's printed before 1963 for sure; because it shows, it was gifted to a person on, December 25, 1963. What I really like about it is, the Bold, Font; it's so much easier to read, less strain on the eyes, compared to the Bibles on the market today.

  3. I actually have the illustrated version, and it's printed before 1963 for sure; because it shows, it was gifted to a person on, December 25, 1963. What I really like about it is, the Bold, Font; it's so much easier to read, less strain on the eyes, compared to the Bibles on the market today.

  4. I picked up a white Bible for my daughter from the local library book sale last year because she wanted something a little fancier than I could afford. While her Bible isn't as nice as the one shown here, it looks quite old because the pages have begun browning and are quite a lot more brittle than I thought when I first purchased it. Unfortunately, there is not date of printing so I guess we'll never know when it was made. There is a name on the front cover, but nothing written on the gifting page inside. No other marks inside. There is a map of Palestine at the time of Christ in the back. Not a lot else I can say about it. But, my Google search for information led me here, and I thought I'd share.