Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Cambridge NASB and NKJV Hardcover Wide Margin Editions

Anytime a package marked "Cambridge" with a Bible in it shows up at your door, it's a good day.

When a package that contains two Cambridge Bibles shows up, it must be your birthday. Or Christmas. Or your birthday is Christmas.
Cambridge Wide Margin Hardcover Editions

Such was my fortune when two new Bibles arrived ready for review, namely the Cambridge NASB and Cambridge NKJV Wide Margin Editions in Hardcover (forest green and navy blue respectively).

Since I have written on the historical value of owning a Cambridge Bible over at my part-time blogging home - the trustworthy and helpful Bible Buying Guide page - I am going to jump right into the reviews of these two gorgeous wide margin editions after stating just one humble opinion: you really need to get a wide margin especially if you are a ministry leader, regular Bible teacher, pastor or elder. 

Even if you aren't in active ministry, but you just enjoy interacting on a deeply personal level with Scripture, these editions are a must. (My friend Randy Brown has an e-book on this topic that might be worth the mere six-pence he charges for it as an introduction to the study value of such editions).

Let's get straight to the facts:
NASB in Forest Green & NKJV in Navy Blue

  • Publisher: Cambridge
  • Printing: Netherlands
  • Translation: NASB and NKJV
  • Binding: Sewn
  • Cover: Green Hardcover (NASB) Blue Hardcover (NKJV)
  • Columns: Double
  • Text: Red Letter
  • Font: 7.9
  • References: Center Column
  • Study Notes: None
  • Size: 9.4 X 7.5 X 1.5
  • Yapp: N/A
  • Ribbons: One red (NASB); one blue (NKJV)
  • Gilt edges: N/A
  • Liner: card stock/paper
  • Head and tail bands: red and greed (NASB); blue and yellow (NKJV)
  • Features: Presentation page, wide margins on all four sides, concordance, index to personal notes (A-Z), 34 blank lined paper for personal notes and outlines, index to maps, color maps. 
  • Cost: $50 to $60 depending on retailer
These two Bibles come bound in some very handsome hardcover editions. Actually, some of the best hardcovers I have ever seen. They are classy and refined in appearance, like something that Professor Kirke would have pulled off his shelf in Lewis' Narnia classics. With their white page edges (no gilt on these editions) they have a very refined "educational" feel to them.
Cambridge Wide Margin Hardcover Editions

You may feel that you are actually studying at Cambridge while carrying one of these around town!

I was actually expecting their covers to be gray. I must have read that online somewhere and assumed they came in gray only. How delighted I was when I saw that they came in the colors they did! The NASB comes in a dark, rich forest green and the NKJV in a stately navy blue. In appearance and looks, these editions exceeded my expectations. One minor quibble: I would have left the translation trademark/graphic off the cover. The spine is good enough for those labels. The goatskin editions have Holy Bible only. I prefer that.

By all appearances, these gems look like they are built tough, for the long haul. These editions are built strong like tanks: beautiful, peaceful, erudite tanks. Of course, that's why Cambridge made them. Wide margin editions are designed for a lifetime of close interaction. Underlining. Jotting. Sketching. Outlining. If you buy a wide margin edition, you should prepare to use them consistently and for many years to come. Their value will increase the more you interact and engage with them. 

In sum: a hardback is the perfect edition for desk top reference and durable tote-bag mobility. Their sewn bindings mean they are gentle and compliant when open. No bear traps here.
Cambridge Wide Margins: The 38 GSM Paper is Luxurious

Let's pull back the covers on these treasures-of-the-shelf and snoop around inside. First, the paper is the best I've ever seen. Really. I love it. 

An opinion poll on a closed group Facebook "super-nerd Bible collector" page I belong to recently ranked Wide Margin editions by Cambridge as securely in the top tier of Bible papers currently in publication. So I'm not the only aficionado that thinks the paper here is top drawer. 

Honestly, I used to think that the undisputed title went to the Crossway ESV Legacy. But now these Cambridge Bibles have the championship belt on their waist instead. First, the Legacy has moved from it's 36 GSM paper down to a mere 27 GSM for it's new heirloom edition. A mistake in my opinion. So technically, the Legacy vacated its title. But secondly and more importantly for our purposes in this article, these wide margins from Cambridge have an incredibly rich and luxurious 38 GSM paper, the smoothest and thickest I have enjoyed in a Bible in recent months.

For reference, GSM stands for grams per square meter. It measures the thickness of the paper, but not always in perfect correspondence to its opacity. So it's one factor, but not the exclusive factor in evaluating Bible paper. If you have an ESV Study Bible, a very popular model, it has 30 GSM paper which I personally hold as the threshold of excellence. But 38 in these editions is just plain extravagant! Well done Cambridge. 

Let's get one thing straight: Bibles have Bible paper, it's always thin. Nobody wants to carry around a cinder block. Noobies and Rookie reviewers seem to always complain about thin paper, but I doubt even the neophyte would have much to lament in these editions. The just-off-white paper was designed for writing and note-taking and so ghosting and bleed through are minimal in these editions. The paper feels durable and holds up well to finger and palm sweat (I preach with an ESV Cambridge Wide Margin in black goatskin, so I've gotten hand moisture on it and it is none the worse for wear).

A Digression on Note-Taking
I have to add one qualifier. Bleed through is minimal if you use the right writing instruments. Any paper is going to bleed through if you use the wrong stick or the wrong color. Personally, I like the Pigma Micron pens, which are now pretty much recognized as the creme de la creme of writing instruments on the various Bible review blogs. But let me add one thing more: get the brown instead of the black. Its show-through is even less notable. I recommend a nib (tip width) of 01. I think 005 is too thin and 03 is too fat. 

...Back to the Wide Margin...

The wide margin editions are so called because they have reserve approximately an inch or more around the text in all four directions for writing. Actually the outer edge has even more (1.5"), the inner margin just about an inch. Both top (0.75) and bottom (1.25) also contain room for writing and notes.
34 pages of lined, clean paper are included for outlines etc.

I recommend textual and theological notes in the side margins and using the bottom margin for sermon illustrations which you can index in the back pages provided. As an example of how you may use these margins, I created my own reference system using symbols and numbers next to the text. (For instance, a star or hashtag indicates an illustration note below). Then I write a corresponding sermon illustration or life application in the margin below.

For instance in Romans 3:10-18, I might add a star next to the text, and then write "Golding's book Lord of the Flies" to remind me that this particular book serves as a good illustration for human depravity and sin. In the back of the Bible, I might use the A-Z index Cambridge added as a special feature and write "Sin: Golding's Lord of the Flies" in case I want to remember that illustration for future preaching or teaching.
A Cambridge Wide Margin put to use. This one is goatskin.

Font and Layout
The font on these Cambridge editions is just about 8 point. That is fairly average for Bible text and layout, although on the smaller side of average. I recently did a chart comparing Crossway's ESV editions and found that 8 point is near the bottom middle of their standard formats. Smaller fonts (6-7) are usually used in hand-sized Bibles and should be purchased with caution. Many cannot use them with aging or far-sighted eyes. Larger fonts (10-12) can be considered large print, but often have the drawback of being bigger and bulkier text blocks.

Either 8 or 9 point font is about standard for double column editions. I will admit that the line-spacing is pretty close with these Cambridge editions, so choose wisely. My eyes have no problem with that though. Cambridge's near perfect line-matching on both sides of the paper makes ghosting a non-issue with this thicker paper too. 

Just for the sake of information, the Cambridge Wide Margins are laid out exactly as their corresponding Pitt Minion "little brother" hand-sized series. So Isaiah 53 in the NASB Wide Margin is laid out exactly in the same place and page on both editions, with the difference being font size and margin space. I love this tag-team effect for my Cambridge ESV Pitt Minion and Cambridge ESV Wide Margin duo which are part of my preaching/teaching starting lineup.

Concluding Thoughts on the Hardcover Editions
In summary, these are once again can't-miss editions put forth by Cambridge. The hardcovers are going to last a lifetime and the sewn bindings make them lay flat immediately, so no annoying problem with the Bible trying to snap shut like a Venus flytrap. Although the font is safely on the middle ground of print sizes, it does look slightly smaller with lesser line spacing than other double columns on the market. I personally use one easily enough for preaching and teaching, but my eyes are quite sharp up close and my pulpit is well lit. The center column references are excellent and useful.
Cambridge Hardcovers and Goatskin (top) 

Cambridge has once again outdone themselves with these editions, and they rank as some of the most affordable Cambridge Bibles on the market.

-Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, a Bible lover and owner of many versions, editions, and translations, and a doctoral student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando currently writing his dissertation on Jonathan Edwards' theology of joy. 


  1. Hi Matt. Awesome review! And thanks for the kind words :-) The ESV hard cover was gray. I have the blue NKJV in hard cover and I can recommend it. I would like the font and leading to be a little larger and maybe the inner margin a little wider. That would require a new setting in order to make the book block thicker and not taller and wider, so I understand why they didn't. It is a great benefit to have the same pagination as the Pitt Minion. Now if they would make a PM in large print :-)

  2. Thanks for this review! I can't believe on a "Wide-Margin" bible it's been so difficult actually finding info on the margins, lol! I've been to,, Cambridge's own site, and read several blog and customer reviews, and nobody seems to list what I would think is the most obvious question when it comes to a Wide-Margin Bible: "Just how wide are those wide margins?"