Brian W. Davidson

sharing things I enjoy

Crossway’s Large Print Compact ESV is a Bible I could not get out of my mind. A number of questions kept swirling in my mind about this particular Bible. How readable is a “large print compact” Bible? Compact Bibles usually have a font that is around 6-point, 7 at best. For me, even 7-point font is too small for any sort of extended reading, and if I am going to own a print Bible the font has to be big enough to actually read comfortably. If all I wanted was quick reference on the go, I would just use my phone. Would a large print version of a compact Bible make that much of a difference?

Another question I couldn’t get away from: What is a buffalo leather cover like? We know goat skin is a truly premium Bible cover material, but some people think a goat skin Bible is too nice for everyday carry. Could buffalo leather be a more affordable option while still offering everyday carry durability and a step up from bonded leather or the grab-bag quality of “genuine leather”?


For many people, the ESV Large Print Compact Bible is an ideal everyday carry. The cover is a beautiful, dark brown buffalo leather that offers rugged durability fit for tossing in a bag without much thought. The 8-point font is just big enough for longer reading sessions while being small enough to accomodate a compact size. Because the binding is Smyth-sewn, you don’t have to worry about it falling apart with regular, repeated use. Finally, you have to check out the spine hubs, those glorious spine hubs! Crossway outdid themselves by putting really nice spine hubs on this very affordable compact Bible. The spine hubs go a long way toward making this Bible, which you can purchase for less than fifty bucks, feel like a premium, high end Bible.


Crossway lists the size of this Bible as 4.5” wide and 6.5” tall, and it’s just over an inch thick. Getting a sense for the size of the Bible is tricky without a comparison to other Bibles so let’s take a look at how it compares to other Crossway editions.

In the picture above, the Large Print Compact is on top followed by the latest edition of the ESV Large Print Thinline in the middle and a ESV Heirloom Omega Edition on the bottom. While each Bible is similar in thickness, this picture above and the one below make clear that the Large Print Compact is truly compact in size.

One of my favorite things about this Bible is how well it pairs with the recently released abridged version of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer.

They are very similar in size and fit nicely in a bag together, spine-to-spine.

The Large Print Compact ESV fits comfortably in one hand and takes up hardly any significant room in a bag.

Cover, Binding, & Gilding

The Large Print Compact Bible lies open well, and the gold gilding is really very nice.

While the Large Print Compact ESV lies open well, it isn’t exactly a floppy Bible. The buffalo leather is more stiff than what you would find in a goat skin or calf skin, but it’s more soft to the touch than genuine leather.

The cover is stitched around the perimeter, distinguishing it from the genuine leather Large Print Thinline.

Font, Paper, & Readability

The 8-point lexicon font is readable, but there is some significant ghosting. This is where the affordability compromise shines through: paper quality. I don’t know what the paper weight is officially, but it is similar to what you see in the Large Print Thinline.

Let’s take a look at the Large Print Compact and the Large Print Thinline side-by-side. The Large Print Compact is on the left; the Large Print Thinline is on the right.

Now, take a look at these two Bibles next to the ESV Heirloom Omega Edition, which is on the far right below.

Most people considering this Bible are considering it as an everyday carry, and one of the main questions I’ve had as I think about an EDC Bible is what level of quality is appropriate for a book you are going to pull in and out of a bag multiple times a day. While the cover is an important consideration, paper quality is just as important. After all, it’s the paper you are going to be staring at every second you are using the Bible. In the end, I don’t think the paper quality and bleed through are deal breakers with this Bible, but it’s a noteworthy consideration.

One of the things that makes smaller, compact Bibles like this actually readable is the fact that you can sit back and comfortably hold the Bible up as you read. You don’t have to sit it in your lap or on a desk. You can hold it closer to your face as you sit back, making the 8-point font feel larger in experience. At the end of the day, however, I’m still not completely comfortable with an 8-point font, but most people are. It’s the compact design and the versatile ways you can hold a compact Bible that make it readable despite the smaller size.

One final note on the font: The ESV Large Print Compact does include the words of Jesus are in red.

One other feature to mention before we turn to the spine hubs: Crossway includes a concise concordance in the back of this edition.

Spine Hubs

The spine hubs are my favorite feature of this Bible. They give the Large Print Compact an aesthetic that far exceeds the roughly fifty dollar price tag. In the picture below, combined with the perimeter stitching, I think the Large Print Compact looks like it belongs to the same world of quality as the ESV Heirloom Omega edition.

I’m not saying these two Bible are the same quality. They obviously are not. The Large Print Compact ESV doesn’t have art gilding, it has a paste-down liner, the page quality is far inferior, it isn’t edge-lined, and buffalo leather isn’t goat skin. Nevertheless, the spine hubs and perimeter stitching work together with the buffalo leather to truly distinguish this Bible from other comparably affordable alternatives.


The ESV Large Print Compact is an ideal everyday carry Bible for many people because it strikes a remarkable balance between affordability, durability, readability, and quality. It is a big step up from other Bibles in its price range. It’s distinguished by having 8-point font in a compact size, a buffalo leather cover, perimeter stitching, and gorgeous spine hubs. The most significant compromise you make with the fifty dollar price tag is the paper quality, which leads to what I consider significant bleed through.

Whether or not this Bible is right for you likely depends on how comfortably you can read the 8-point font on thinner paper that has some bleed through. For me, it’s too much. I would rather have a slightly larger EDC Bible, like the ESV Heirloom Omega edition, which has higher quality paper and larger 10-point font. For me, the 10-point font and higher quality paper outweigh the benefits of the smaller footprint. My wife, however, loves this Large Print Compact Bible because of how easily it fits into her purse. For her, the size of the Bible itself out weighs issues of paper quality and font size.

The ESV Large Print Compact is defintely worth considering as your everyday carry Bible, and I hope this post gives you a better feel for whether it might be the right Bible for you. Thank you to Crossway for providing me with this Bible for review.