Doves Press and Arion Press Bibles, also The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, and the Diamond Jubilee Bible

{Ed. Note: The origin article below was published in October 2011. I have updated it on May 25, 2012, with some pictures and information on the The Folio Society’s Bible with the Apocrypha, King James version (still available from The Folio Society for $975) and the Diamond Jubilee Bible, a collaboration between The Folio Society and Sangorski & Sutcliffe (still available from The Folio Society for $7995). Thanks to Books and Vines contributor Dllphcoracl for some of his thoughts on these, and for The Folio Society for sending me some additional photos and use of their stock photos.}

A few days ago, I posted a review and pictures of the large scale and beautifully crafted 1989 Limited Editions Club edition of Genesis, with somewhat controversial illustrations by Jacob Lawrence.  A subsequent discussion on LibraryThing brought up the topic of other limited edition bibles. LibraryThing member and Books and Vines contributor ‘dllphcoracl’ sent me some pictures of two of the greatest; the Arion Press Bible from 2000 and the Doves Press Bible from 1904. Both are considered to be among the finest of the folio-sized letterpress bibles that have been printed since the Gutenberg bible.  ‘Dllphcoracl’ suggests that as you look at pictures of both the Doves Press and Arion Press editions below, notice the understated, austere, dignified appearance of their letterpress pages and how the simplicity and the contrast given by the specially designed red initial letters is perfect.

Information and pictures on The Folio Society’s Bible with the Apocrypha, King James version and the Diamond Jubilee Bible, a collaboration between The Folio Society and Sangorski & Sutcliffe, follow The Arion Press and Doves Press section below.

The Arion Press Bible

Most readers of Books and Vines are well familiar with Arion Press, one of today’s premier fine presses.  Arion’s edition of The Holy Bible, as stated on their website, is a monument to the scriptures, to fine typography, and to fine bookmaking. The Arion Press Bible is the first large folio presentation of the contemporary translation and current scholarship of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).  Instead of the archaic language of the King James Version, the NRSV uses modern English prose which makes it much more simpler to read and understand (note for those bothered with politically correct gender-neutral language, the NSRV uses it!). From what I have been told, the use of the NRSV language was one of the major reasons that Andrew Hoyem decided to undertake the creation of a new folio-sized letterpress bible to begin the new millennium. The Arion Bible was a huge success, is highly sought after and certainly will be of historical interest and value as time goes on. Edition information is as follows:

  • Two-volume set in full Nigerian goatskin binding
  • Format 18 by 13 inches, 1,356 pages
  • Designed by Andrew Hoyem
  • Large linen-covered wooden presentation box with leather label : 19.5” H x 15” W x 9” depth
  • Composed on a Macintosh computer and cast by Monotype in Romulus type, in 16 point for the main text and 11 point for subsidiary material and explanatory notes, with larger sizes (24, 36, 72 point) for display, handset from foundry type
  • Initial letters designed by Sumner Stone for photopolymer plates
  • Printed by letterpress in two colors of ink, black for text, red for initial letters, on Somerset, a mouldmade paper of 100% cotton fiber
  • Presswork done on a Miller TW two-color cylinder press
  • Tri-colored front cover with red bead
  • Limited to 400 copies

Pictures of the Arion Press Bible

Holy Bible, Arion Press, Large linen-covered wooden presentation box with leather label
Holy Bible, Arion Press, Two-volume set in full Nigerian goatskin binding
Holy Bible, Arion Press, Tri-colored front cover with red bead
Holy Bible, Arion Press, Binding and front cover
Holy Bible, Arion Press, Title Page
Holy Bible, Arion Press, Macro view of Sumner Stone initial lettering and Romulus typeface
Holy Bible, Arion Press, Sample Pages with Text
Holy Bible, Arion Press, Sample Text
Holy Bible, Arion Press, Second Sample Text
Holy Bible, Arion Press, Colophon

The Doves Press Bible

Doves Press was a private press based in London in the early years of the twentieth century. The Doves Press Bible, one of the monuments of the Arts and Craft Movement of the later part of the nineteenth century, is considered the firm’s finest publication, with numerous hand-lettered initials, beautiful clarity of design and typography that is second to none.  T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, the founder of the Doves Press, commissioned Edward Johnston to design the first page; now considered a masterpiece of design. The Doves Press Bible was printed by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker at the Doves Press, using the text of Dr. Scrivener’s Paragraph Bible, University Press Cambridge.

Pictures of the Doves Press Bible

English Bible, Doves Press, Vellum binding, front cover
English Bible, Doves Press, Vellum binding, Vellum binding, badly faded gilt lettering on top of spine
English Bible, Doves Press, Title page of Volume IV
English Bible, Doves Press, Table of Contents of Volume IV
The English Bible, Doves Press, Macro view of sample page with distinctive red initial letter
The English Bible, Doves Press, Sample page with classic red initial letters designed by calligrapher Edward Johnston
The English Bible, Doves Press, Macro image of red initial letter and Jenson’s 15th century roman typeface
The English Bible, Doves Press, Colophon

The Folio Society’s Bible with the Apocrypha

While The Folio Society‘s Bible with the ApocryphaKing James version (KJV) cannot be compared fairly with the Arion Press Bible (the Arion Press Bible is second to none in the quality of the typography and the paper, not too mention it is nearly twice as large), it does represent an exceptional value and an outstanding choice for those looking for a ‘super’ high quality collectible bible.  It is beautifully bound, easier to handle, nicely tilted, with fine paper and a well constructed and attractive buckram-covered wooden slipcase slipcase. As mentioned, the Arion Bible does not use the King James (KJV) translation, instead opting for the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). Therefore, The Folio Society Bible is the one to consider for those looking for the beautiful poetry of the KJV or for those on a tighter budget than what the Arion Bible would cost them in the re-sale market.  Edition information for The Folio Society Bible includes (pictures follow below):

  • Two volumes.
  • 1,904 pages in total.
  • Book size: 11″ x 7¼”.
  • Bound in full goatskin, blocked in gold with calligraphy by Stephen Raw.
  • Two ribbon markers.
  • Gilding on all three page edges.
  • Printed on Abbey Wove paper.
  • Presented in a buckram-covered wooden slipcase lined with moiré silk, with a sliding tray in the base for ease of use.
  • Uses the text of the celebrated 2005 Cambridge University Press edition
  • Limited to 940 copies (was originally 1,000)

Pictures of The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha (KJV)

The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Books in Slipcase
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Spine and Tops
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Endpapers
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Title Page
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Contents
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Sample Text #1 (tint is picture flaw, not the actual paper!)
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Sample Text #2 (tint is picture flaw, not the actual paper!)
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Sample Text #3 (tint is picture flaw, not the actual paper!)
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Sample Text #4 (tint is picture flaw, not the actual paper!)
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Sample Text #5
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Sample Text #6
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Letter Announcing Publication, Page 1
The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, Letter Announcing Publication, Page 2

Diamond Jubilee Bible

The limitation of The Folio Society’s Bible with the Apocrypha was reduced from 1000 copies to 940 because of the recently announced Diamond Jubilee Bible, a collaboration between Sangorski & Sutcliffe (S&S) and The Folio Society. The Diamond Jubilee Bible is based on the KJV bible (original limitation of 26) S&S created for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth 60 years ago. For this replica edition, they are using 60 sets of unbound sheets from The Folio Society KJV Bible.  As a result, the The Folio Society KJV Bible is now reduced to a limitation of 940 rather than 1000 since 60 sets of sheets and texts are being siphoned off for the new Diamond Jubilee Bible. The Diamond Jubilee Bible, hand-bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, will be limited to an edition of 60 copies and will sell for $7,995.00  In essence, you are paying an additional $7,020 for the handcrafted S&S goatskin binding and the ability to own an historical bible —- based on that used in the queen’s coronation 60 years ago. Just look at the incredible binding on this edition below! Details include (with pictures below):

  • Limited to 60 numbered copies
  • Two volumes
  • Bound in vegetable-tanned Morocco goatskin leather blocked in 22-carat gold (hand-tooled) with calf leather onlays
  • Gilding on all three page edges
  • Printed on Abbey Wove paper
  • Three silk ribbon markers in each volume
  • Hand-sewn head- and tailbands
  • 1,904 pages in total
  • Book size: 11″ x 7¼”
  • Each volume presented in a leather-entry cloth-bound slipcase.

Pictures of The Diamond Jubilee Bible

The Diamond Jubilee Bible, Sangorski & Sutcliffe and The Folio Society, Book Spines and Cover
The Diamond Jubilee Bible, Sangorski & Sutcliffe and The Folio Society, A closer look at the spine
The Diamond Jubilee Bible, Sangorski & Sutcliffe and The Folio Society, A look at the edges
The Diamond Jubilee Bible, Sangorski & Sutcliffe and The Folio Society, Inside Cover and End Page
The Diamond Jubilee Bible, Sangorski & Sutcliffe and The Folio Society, Inside Cover and End Page
The Diamond Jubilee Bible, Sangorski & Sutcliffe and The Folio Society, From the Announcement
The Diamond Jubilee Bible, Sangorski & Sutcliffe and The Folio Society, Announcement Letter, page 1
The Diamond Jubilee Bible, Sangorski & Sutcliffe and The Folio Society, Announcement Letter, page 2

11 thoughts on “Doves Press and Arion Press Bibles, also The Folio Society Bible with the Apocrypha, and the Diamond Jubilee Bible

  1. I agree that the Arion Press did a good thing in printing the RSV and that a beautiful edition of this particular translation was needed. For study purposes, the RSV is invaluable, but to my mind it is less enjoyable to read. There is a really good essay by the late Dwight McDonald on this subject in his selection of essays “Masscult and Midcult”. Most of the essays in the collection are very perceptive, and he received praise from T.S. Eliot for his poignant cultural criticism.

  2. Appropriately, the Holy Bible has been treated well by the great private presses over the centuries. Beginning with Johannes Gutenberg’s magisterial Bible printed in 1455, (the most beautiful book ever printed in my opinion, especially with the hand illuminated letters) to 2000 when Andrew Hoyem published the Arion Press Bible in the NRSV, many of the great private presses have published distinguished editions.

    Two bible sets that have not been mentioned, each at the opposite end(s) of the cost range for acquiring a set, are the Nonesuch Press Bible of 1963 (3 volumes) and Barry Moser’s illustrated two-volume set (1999) printed by his Pennyroyal Caxton Press. The 1963 Nonesuch Bible was designed by Francis Meynall, printed on fine India Paper, bound in green linen with elaborate gilt titling & decorations and featuring 105 of the 16th C. woodcuts by Bernard Salomon. A fine set can usually be found in the $200 to $350 price range. Barry Moser’s folio-sized Bible (1999, 2-volume set) is considered by many to be the greatest American bible ever printed. It was printed letterpress on Zerkall Bible paper specially manufactured for this edition and It features 235 full page and smaller engravings by Barry Moser, quite possibly the finest work of his distinguished career. For those who do not consider an illustrated bible to be unthinkable this can easily be included amongst the great folio bibles of the past 600 years. Printed in an edition of 400 it typically sells nowadays for between $12,000 and $14,000.

    My thoughts on the Folio Society Bibles recently published are as follows:

    The 2-volume set in blue full goatskin with gold calligraphy is a beautifully designed and crafted set at a very fair price point ($975). The quality of materials and design are excellent and this represents excellent value for a finely crafted folio-sized Bible. I am reminded of the FS’s superb letterpress series of Shakespeare’s plays in this regard —- superb value and finely crafted letterpress editions.

    The Sangorski & Sutcliff/Folio Society Bible is an entirely different matter. Although its cost is nearly identical to the Arion Press letterpress Bible, comparing the two bibles is problematic because they are entirely different animals. The Arion Press Bible represents the pinnacle of careful, thoughtful book design and typography. The emphasis is on the typography, the layout of the pages for the various sections of the bible, and use of the finest materials. The S&S/Folio Society represents the pinnacle of the art of book binding and will appeal to collectors who prize beautifully crafted, hand tooled, inlaid bindings. Also, for collectors in the UK the historical significance of this bible will be quite appealing.

    Simply put: the Arion Press Bible is the ultimate statement of the printer’s art whereas the S&S/Folio Society Bible is the ultimate statement of the bookbinder’s art. You pay you money (nearly equivalent), you take your pick.

  3. Don:

    The boards are not covered in blue cloth. The boards and binding are made entirely in goatskin leather and it is dyed purple and red (bead). You are looking at three different colors of the leather. If you click over the image of the front board (3rd image) to magnify it, then click over the magnified image again to further enlarge it, you will clearly see the grain of the leather.

    The edition of the Arion Bible that is made entirely in cloth is made in a linen-type fabric that is solid black, identical to the cloth that covers the large, wooden presentation box (1st image).

    1. The Folio Society Bible looks beautiful, but like so many Bibles it looks too massive for comfortable reading except on a lectern–which I imagine is its intended use. I still prefer my 5 volume LEC set.

      What rather surprised me was that the revered form of Sangorski & Sutcliffe should have produced something that looks so much like an Easton Press edition. Of course a binding like that done for The Great Omar wouldn’t be appropriate, I think, but if they couldn’t have hit on a more inspired ornamental design, I think they would have been wise to follow the path Arion took with its Bible–which is truly wonderful in its simple richness.

  4. On the Arion Bible, You say it is covered in full Nigerian, but it looks like the boards are covered in blue cloth. Can you clarify this?

  5. Beautiful books, both. I regret the Arion Press did not use the KJV as their’s is certainly as beautiful as the legendary Doves Press edition. For those who like this elegant simplicity I recommend the LEC’s 5 volume Bible, which is a pleasure to read–not requiring a lectern–and available usually at a fraction of the cost of the above.

    Incidentally, the Doves press printed all their books during their 16 or 17 year history using this same typeface, designed especially for the Press. When it closed in 1917, the type, punches and matrices were destroyed by Cobden Sanderson between when he threw them into the Thames.

    1. Robert:

      I will take the other side of this “argument”. I am especially glad that the Arion Press did NOT use the King James Version (KJV) in printing their letterpress bible. The language is clearly antiquated and is an impediment to the fluid reading of the bible, however poetical you may think the KJV is.

      It should be noted that Andrew Hoyem’s decision to use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and print the first letterpress bible in the NRSV was a major reason for his decision to commit the resources of the Arion Press to this enterprise, which took nearly five years to fully execute. Hoyem wanted to publish a bible using modern English prose for the new millennium and, in doing so, make it more accessible to a larger number of devotees and readers. Additionally, as Hoyem states in the prospectus:

      “Much progress has been made in biblical scholarship. Today the New Revised Standard Version is regarded as the most advanced translation.” Put another way, the bible is not a static document. Since the King James Version was completed nearly four centuries of theological scholarship and discovery of biblical manuscripts more ancient than those on which the King James Version was based have made a revision and modern translation a necessity.

      My only quibble with the NRSV, and it is a major one, is the decision of the NRSV committee to be politically correct in an attempt to make the bible more inclusive by eliminating ” linguistic sexism”, making the NRSV language as gender neutral as possible. It has resulted in many phrases and passages which are awkward and contrived.

      For example, consider this passage from the opening page of the Book of Genesis:

      “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, etc.

      So God created humankind in his image,
      in the image of God he created them;
      male and female he created them.

      Humankind?? Ugh! Totally unnecessary.

      1. Ugh is right, on this PC BS. That itself would prevent me from buying this as I despise this sort of PC-ness when it comes to any literature (or Bible). Looks beautiful though, that is for sure.

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