I was meaning to write a review of Crossway’s Thinline ESV in Cordovan leather for quite a few months but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. I was again reminded of my intended review when I was asked about the calfskin leather that Crossway uses for their Bibles in the comments section of my review of the Pitt Minion NASB. Now, the pictures of all my Bibles already saved on my computer all I needed was a spare five hours to type my review. (Five hours because I do not know how to type plus I am hampered with fat sausage fingers)
The name Cordovan comes from the leather that is used. Although this is not true Cordovan leather it was made to resemble it. Cordovan leather is actually made from horse hide, specifically a section from either side of the horse’s rump. Real Cordovan leather is very expensive as shoes made from it can easily cost over $500.00. The reason for it’s expense is the fact that it is a process that is time consuming, requiring a lot of hand work and with the advent of the horseless carriage, there are fewer and fewer horses around. It’s not just the rarity of the leather but the quality of the finished product. Cordovan leather is soft, luxurious yet very strong. It has a beautiful color and a sheen that only gets better over time. The name comes from Córdoba, a city in the southern province of Andalucia in Spain where this process is believed to have had its beginnings.
Sadly, I have yet to see a picture that truly does justice to this fantastic leather. I have spent many hours trying to fully capture the color, look and to transcend the feel of it through pictures. These pictures were the best I could come up with, you can click on the images to enlarge. Even though these Bibles are not made from real horse hide, and I do not know whether or not this leather underwent the same tanning process to produce real Cordovan leather it nonetheless is the softest Bible leather I have touched. Softer than other calfskin from Crossway, Lockman or Thomas Nelson; even softer than the goatskin from Cambridge or R. L. Allan.
Comparing Bible leather can be like comparing apples to oranges, there are many factors that go into the feel of the leather as an end product. This Cordovan calfskin is smooth, the grain has been removed. One of the features I like about goatskin is the grain, even the other calfskin Bibles I have all have visible grain with some even looking striated. But this Bible is smooth and buttery, the only visible lines in it now are the creases that have developed with use which gives the leather cover even more character. In other picture that I have seen the leather looks like plastic or in the very least, patent leather. This is not the case! My lil’ Bro Mark was here from Hawaii during Thanksgiving and he brought his Classic Reference in Cordovan and it was just as soft and buttery as my Thinline.
As I’ve already mentioned, the leather is smooth and it has a sheen to it. It is not however as slick as the goatskin used by Cambridge and R. L. Allan. I compare it to the goatskin because of the finish. The black calfskin used by Crossway is flat or matte and it has a feel that one would expect, the goatskins have a finish that has more sheen and feel a bit more slick but this Cordovan, although slick has a more tactile feel than the goatskin but much smoother than the calfskin. One needs to be held to truly appreciate not just for the feel but also to appreciate the color and the great detail of real stitching around the edge in a gold thread which is complimented by the gold ribbon marker, gold stamping on the spine and the gilded edges. Once you open the Bible the leather lining with the grain is a great compliment to the smooth cover.
The Thinline Cordovan like the other premium leather Bibles from Crossway is Smythe sewn. It measures 5.5″ x 8.5″ x .75″, a real thinline Bible. It does not have cross references even though it is in a double column, paragraph format. The font size is 9.5 and is very readable. The paper is the thinnest used by Crossway at 19 lbs. or .0013″ thick. Although thin, bleed through is not problematic unless there is a lot of open space. I haven’t written in mine at all so I can’t recommend with certainty which size pens to use, but if you want to underline in it, maybe you should buy the Classic Reference. If you insist on writing in the Thinline, start with a .005 in an inconspicuous spot like in the concordance. The Cordovan Thinline is also the only premium leather ESV that is red-letter, a bonus for some a scarlet letter for others. It also has presentation pages and maps.
The Thinline Cordovan may not be for all. It is not suited for extensive note-taking or underlining, the Cordovan leather may be too delicate for a careless toss into a busy book bag with paper clips, staples, pens with chewed tops and a half eaten Power Bar. It is however a great example of Bible craftsmanship that should last a lifetime, and not just that it is a bargain luxury that can be had for less than $100.00. Click here.