Writing in your Bible is something that many people do but few do it judiciously. Many people only mark their Bible according to what they hear from the weekly sermon and after a while they underline or highlight everything making the actual process of marking your Bible pointless. There are many people that do not make any additional marks in their Bible and some even consider it heresy. I believe that if done properly marking in your Bible can be a very useful way to better understand the Word of God.
Wide margin Bibles were made for just such a purpose. They have a wider margin than most Bibles and are usually printed on thicker paper to avoid any bleed through when using pens or highlighters. Even though you don’t have a wide margin Bible you can still underline and make small notes in whatever Bible you own.
So now that you want to write in your Bible, what to use? First I will tell you what not to use. Do not use hi-liters. Aside from looking ugly they are usually too fluid and bleed through to the other side of the page that may make it a bit distracting. After a while the pages look like one big fluorescent stain. The ink in most cases is not of archival quality thus over time the ink will degrade the paper. Dry mark highlighters are nothing more than colored pencils. I do not recommend the use of pencils as they can fade or smudge but more than that, they also damage the paper. Bible paper is thin and if you use a pencil or a even a ball point or roller ball pen you will dent the sheet you are writing on as well as a few pages below. If you have used pens or pencils in the past you will be able to feel the words on the back side of the page you wrote on.
No pencils, no pens, no highlighters… ‘den what? Archival quality pens. These pens are a type of technical pen used by engineers or draftspersons. They are cheaper and more durable than most technical pens and can be found at most art stores as well as large office supply stores. They have a long metal tip with a soft writing nib which is ideal for using with a ruler. The soft nib also helps prevent damaging the paper or denting the pages you are writing on. You have to press really hard to make the sort of indentations you can easily make using a pen or a pencil.
The biggest reason for using an archival quality pen is the ink, or rather the pigment. These pens use pigment ink rather than dye ink. Pigment ink is chemically stable, its pH is neutral, it is non-acidic and non-alkaline so it will not cause the paper to degrade over time. The pigment molecule is also larger than the dye molecule. It will outlast dye ink under extreme sun exposure… not that any of you will leave your Bible open for days at a time the next time you visit the Sahara but at least your notes will not fade. The larger pigment molecule is not just less susceptible to degradation it also helps in preventing bleeding or spreading which is a plus when you consider the thickness of most Bible paper. The pigment stays on the surface of the paper more than dye inks. The stability of the solvent used for the ink will prevent it from bleeding even if you wet the paper, it dries instantly so it is nearly impossible to smudge.
There are three brands of archival quality pens. Staedtler Pigment Liner, Prismacolor Fine Line Marker and Sakura’s Pigma Micron. All are high quality pens available with different sized writing nibs with the Prismacolor and Sakura available in different colors as well. With most publishers using lower and lower quality Bible paper using these pens will help in keeping your notes and markings looking neat. With the thicker paper used in wide margin Bibles I use the 05 size for underlining and the 005 for writing my notes. On thinner paper I wouldn’t suggest using the 05 or anything thicker as it may be too visible from the other side. Stick to using the thinner nibs like an 03. You can also use one color to underline and another to write your notes or you can come up with you own system. I use these with my ESV Deluxe Heirloom Reference Bible which was printed on 27lbs. paper. The 05 is slightly visible from the other side where as my notes using the 005 are barely noticeable.
These pens will be useful for those looking for an alternative to highlighters, pens or pencils. They will help in keeping your markings looking neat and are a great way to help you in your studies of the Word.