Personal Size Reference Edition (ESV)

I’m a fan of the English Standard Version, so when I read about the single-column, reference edition of the ESV in a personal size on Mark Bertrand’s blog I knew immediately that this would become my daily use Bible.

The major problem was that (as is typical of Crossway) there was not a high-quality binding available. Fortunately, however, the “Genuine Leather” edition comes with a sewn binding and therefore begs to be rebound.

I was so tickled about the prospects of this edition that I bought a buddy of mine a copy as well. I was having a bit of difficulty getting used to the idea of spending $70 to re-bind a brand new bible, however, so the PSRE mostly sat on my shelf for several weeks, since the Genuine Leather cover exhibited more cardboard-esque than leather-like qualities.

A few weeks ago, however, I saw my buddy’sΒ  PRSE, which he had been using daily. The state of the cover was so disconcerting (permanently curled up, etc.) that I immediately began looking in to who I should have do this re-bind.

I had previously used Mechling Book Bindery for a black goatskin re-bind of a Classic Reference Edition ESV and was fairly pleased. The quality was excellent, but the action and handling of the bible left something to be desired, which may have been my fault for using a bible with the cheapest paper available. On the other hand, goatskin is slick in the hands and I’ve dropped the bible a couple times while reading or teaching, which involuntarily elicited a “Christian” swear-word right in front of the congregation! Can’t have that happening again (for those of you wondering, I said, “doggoneit” with particular vigor.)

I checked out the prices at Abba Bibles because the photos I’ve seen of their work looks like the richest leather I’ve seen anywhere. While their quote was half of anyone else, the cost of shipping to Mexico and back was going to be four times the cost of the re-bind! So that option was out.

deerskin ESV PSRE Leonard’s Book Restoration happens to be about two hours from my house, so the Long family went on a road trip to see what a custom book binder looks like. After considerable discussion with Eric (the proprietor) and handling all the leather they had on hand, I chose a 2 ounce, natural deerskin.

I received the deerskin bible yesterday (it took 5 weeks since Eric had around 150 bibles to do before mine). I must say that this is the best handling, best feeling bible I’ve ever experienced.

Check out the color and grain of that beauty! I told Eric that I wanted a darker but still undyed, natural skin. What he had on hand was a bit lighter than I was hoping for, but he got a new shipment in, and the result is absolutely perfect. Here’s a close-up of the grain.

deerskin grain

The critical factor behind my choice of deerskin was the way it felt. I wanted that luxurious, thick leather feel, but didn’t want the slick feel that goatskin has. Deerskin was a bit tackier to the feel than calfskin, and not as expensive, plus the natural deerskin color was exactly what I wanted.


I went for a blind stamping rather than foil stamping, and I’m really pleased with how that turned out.Β  Inside I went with a brown leatherette. I was concerned that the synthetic material would make the cover less “floppy” than I wanted, but Eric assured me that he thought it would work well.

inside cover

Sure enough, it is precisely the right combination, and produced the “action” in the hand that I wanted.Β  I chose chocolate brown for the ribbons and asked for three.

Eric and Margie are very friendly and will talk with you at length about what you’re looking to accomplish. Make sure to mention every detail that you want, and feel free to clarify whether what Eric describes is the same thing you’re looking for. Eric enjoys talking so don’t call when you’re in a hurry.

Check out the delightful result:

cover action

Leonard’s Book Restoration can be reached at (574) 652-2151; they are also very responsive to email. Their website is


In the Hand

I should point out, however, that I have large hands, so this picture could be slightly misleading.

37 thoughts on “Personal Size Reference Edition (ESV)

  1. Almost forgot…I asked for semi-yapp and am very pleased with the result. Eric’s “semi-yapp” is probably a bit shorter than some other binder’s but it works perfectly on this small bible.

  2. Pingback: DeerSkin Bible
  3. Rob Somers:

    I tried replying to your email but it was returned with “permanent failure,” so I thought I’d post my answer here:

    Most (perhaps all) hardback copies of the ESV have a sewn text block; this is the key to a good re-bind. I had a copy of a classic reference edition, hardback, ESV re-bound and it works well, but because the paper was cheap/thick it is not ideal. Also, it looks a little strange because the paper on many hardbacks is not gilt-edged.

    I would recommend taking a trip to a local book store and looking at which edition of the ESV you think your wife would like, then seeing if you can find that edition at either or These two sites usually have the cheapest price on ESV bibles anywhere.

    You can find good comparisons for binding options at or I paid $72 (+ shipping) to Leonard’s for that deerskin Bible.

  4. Tanja,

    Semi-yapp edges, are those overhangs along the cover that serve to protect the pages. If you look at the bottom picture of the bible in my hand you can see that the leather sticks out a little more than a quarter-inch from the pages. If it was not semi-yapp it wouldn’t stick out so far, but would be just barely longer than the pages.

  5. Hi, i just read your post and I am very interested in getting the exact same thing done at Leonards, except in lambskin, what I was wondering is if you could post or email me some pictures of the bible in hand or beside some sort of object for size comparision, i cannot seem to imagine how big or small the ESV Personal Size Reference really is.


  6. Thanks Nate, that helps, I cannot wait to receive my ESV PSRE from Leonards

  7. I definitely will, but unfortunately turn around time is 4-5 weeks, so thats going to be around June.

  8. Nate,
    The PSR ESV has been my reading and preaching Bible for about 3 years now. My binding broke, due to me bending it backward on itself, a month ago. I tried a Cambridge ESV but I missed the layout of the PSR. In searching for a good bindery I ran across your blog post and am happy to say that my Bible is currently at Leonards having the exact same treatment yours underwent, minus one ribbon (two is enough for me). I admit that you did the heavy lifting in picking the binding and blind stamping etc and I am just piggy backing on your hard work! Thanks for posting this. I look forward to getting it back, home sweet home!

  9. Blake, I’m delighted that you’ve benefited! You’ll have to let me know what you think after you have the Bible in hand.

    I’m going to have to talk to Eric about a discount on my next project… πŸ˜‰

  10. P.S. I have a theory that you can tell if someone preaches from a lectionary or not by how many ribbons they want in a Bible. If they want 3 or 4, chances are that they often use a lectionary, if less, they probably don’t. Let me know if my theory bears out…

  11. BTW, in the reading I have done on rebinds, some are better than others. Does your calfskin generally lay open and flat, even when you are reading in Genesis or Exodus?

  12. Gah – It was late when I wrote that. Of course I meant deerskin.

  13. Yes Nate, in this case you are correct. I don’t use the lectionary instead I preach expository messages through Scripture. Currently I’m in the book of Luke. So I use one ribbon for my personal reading plan and one to mark where I am in my preaching schedule.
    I received my Bible today and am very pleased. So, once again thanks for your ideas and posting about them.

    P.S. I would like to peruse your bookshelves. From what I can make out in the picture, we would have a lot of commonalities.

  14. Wow! I had to wait 5 weeks for mine, that’s a great turn-around.

    Ahh, a fellow bibliophile…it’s nice to know I’m not the only one that looks to see what books are on someone’s shelves!

    You can peruse my shelves. Go to and you can see about 14% of my library…getting the rest of it online is a project I’m not sure I’ll complete till my kids are old enough to pay to do it ;-), so for now I just try to add every new book I add.

  15. Hey Nate,

    i received my bible today, i tried posting in this comment box but i got a ‘discarded’ message i guess its too long. anyways i email you it instead let me know what you think

  16. I found your site while ‘googling’ “Personal Size Reference Bible (ESV). Thanks for such an insightful review of this Bible. I’m going to buy the PSRB in Tru-tone, Forest/Tan and then most likely have it rebound in calfskin, since this Bible is sewn.

    By the way, nice blog you’ve got going here. Keep up the solid posts.

  17. Erik, beware, the Tru-tone version of the ESV Personal Size Reference Bible you’re considering is most likely glued, not sewn. The genuine leather version is the only one that has a sewn binding, as far as I could determine (from internet searches). My genuine leather one arrived today, and I’m already considering having it rebound. It’s stiff as a board! Cardboard, in fact!

  18. Michael, I warned Erik about this also, but he felt confident that the Tru-Tone edition was sewn, and found a page on Crossway’s site that said so.

    He checked the Bible out physically before ordering it, and sure enough the Tru-Tone edition is also sewn!

    Erik has provided photo-proof at

    I thought I had handled a Tru-Tone PSRE that was glued not sewn, and Mark Bertrand blogged about a glued copy, so either I was mistaken (which is entirely possible) or there are two “editions” out there. Perhaps Crossway came out with an intial glued run and then began running them sewn. It would be good to find out.

  19. Thanks for the link Nate.

    After a few days with my Personal Size Reference Bible, I couldn’t be more thrilled. The overall Scripture layout, 7.4 font and physical size of the Bible make for a great ‘take-anywhere’ Bible.

    Thank goodness I live only 30 minutes from Monergism Books so I could examine their selection of PSRB’s and see the sewn from the glued.

    At the bottom of my blog post with the 50 Pics of my PSRB, I provided links to the Bibles that were Smyth sewn and those that were glued.

    For those looking for a Bible that won’t ‘break your bank’ and want to bring with you to church, work, study, etc, then this is the Bible for you.

  20. Nate…I love the look of the deerskin and was curious to know if you’re still pleased with the bible after having used it a while. I’m thinking of having one done for my son-in-law who is leaving for the military soon. I wanted to have one done just like yours….do you think it is sturdy enough to travel in a duffle bag?

  21. Barbara,

    I still love it. However, the one thing I don’t do with it is carry it around in my backpack. The deerskin is so flexible that I wonder sometimes if a backpack or duffel would be good for it.

    Calfskin or goatskin might be more durable. On the other hand, perhaps the flexibility of deerskin is precisely what is needed for travel in a duffel or backpack. I just haven’t wanted to find out because I’m weird like that about books.

    You really ought to call Eric at Leonard’s Books…he would be able to tell you better. (574) 652-2151

  22. Thanks Nate.
    My son-in-law has the calfskin ESV, he’s had for about 5 or 6 yrs and it’s nearly worn completely out. He used it thru college and in his ministry with the youth…it goes everywhere with him. I’ll take your advice and ask for Eric’s advice on the best choice for durability.

    I think I’ll get one like yours for me πŸ™‚ I just love the blind stamping…so classy.

  23. Nate, I just stumbled upon your blog, and was in the market for a deerskin rebound ESV from Leonard’s Books.
    I’m curious about yours: is it natural grain deerskin, hand-dyed to a glossy medium brown finish, or is it a natural, unfinished (undyed) material? I’m trying to determine which way to go, and he’s too far away for a road-trip and a hands-on comparison.

  24. mine is natural, unfinished, and is definitely the way I would recommend. however, they also have a soft-tanned goatskin that is phenomenal. I have a classic edition thinline done in the goatskinned and I think I may prefer it over the deerskin…perhaps not, difficult to say, they’re both great. The deerskin is a bit softer and therefore easier to get deep scuffs in it.

    If you’re going to go deerskin, however, I would definitely recommend unfinished/untreated.

  25. Thanks for the response, Nate. I know what you mean about the goatskin; I have one of Allan’s classic reference ESV’s in highland goatskin, and it looks and feels amazing.

    This one is for a premium thinline ESV that currently has a Tru-tone cover. I don’t know what Crossway did, but the Tru-tone material on this one feels nothing like the Tru-tone on my PSR ESV. It’s stiff and inflexible… ok, let’s face it, Mark Bertrand’s blog has made me a Bible cover snob!

  26. I just found this post while searching for a deerskin rebind. Do you still have it? How has it held up? Was this whitetail deekskin? thanks for any help you can give me.

  27. I presume it was a whitetail, but don’t actually know that. It is still holding up very well. I no longer have it, however, as just a couple months ago I gave it to a brother who didn’t have an ESV. I still loved it, and would recommend going that route. It is likely it may not have held up long term as well as goat or calfskin, but it was worth it, in my opinion.

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