Designing the Bible

Since Crossway announced their new Single Column Legacy Bible I’ve been intrigued. I appreciate good design, and the language that they used to describe this Bible (e.g. “fresh,” “Renaissance ideal of a perfect page”) really caught my attention. There is something expressed through the beauty of good design that resonates with Creation itself. I suppose it find it’s roots in the fact that God is a creative God. And thus, being made in His image, it’s no wonder we are attracted to the beauty of the creative process as well.

I began thinking through all of this while reading a post on the Bible Design Blog, an interview with Crossway. And as is usually the case when reading or studying something new, I was lead down a rabbit trail of discovery. Here’s how it went. The writer asked a question about the Colophon for the new Legacy Bible. They answered with the following details:

Printer: Legatoria Editoriale Giovanni Olivotto (located in Vicenza, Italy)
Font: Lexicon, 9 pt / 10.75 pt
Paper: 36 gsm Thincoat Plus

I found this interesting because I’m fascinated by typology as well, and I wanted to know more about the “Lexicon” font they are using for this edition, as I wasn’t previously familiar with it. After a little research, I discovered it is the same font that is used in the ESV Study Bible. The font itself was designed by Bram de Does to be read at very small point sizes, and was initially commissioned by Van Dale for his Dictionary of the Dutch Language. The first rough drawings were made with a felt-tip pen, so the story goes.

This satisfied my curiosity concerning the font’s origins. But my interest was further peaked as I continued reading about the design of the typeface. Most people probably take fonts for granted, never thinking about where they came from. Even myself, one who appreciates typography, had no idea how fonts came to be produced.

Traditionally fonts were hand-drawn, though I’m sure many are designed on the computer now. If they are hand-drawn they must be cleaned and marked-up in order to be digitized for use in printing and on screen. One of the programs used to do this is called “Ikarus.” Here’s how the process works:

This involves putting tick marks around any curves at approximately 30 degree intervals along with extra tangent points where a curve blends onto a straight line. Some form of accurate graphics tablet is then used to input three types of points: curve points, corner points and tangent points. Any irregularities (e.g. lumps and flat spots) are then edited out by adjusting the position of the points on the computer… As the computer screen displays a rasterized image at relatively low resolution, high quality print outs  or cuts in film are used to proof the digitized shapes. (source)

That’s just fascinating to me. And this is only a conversation about the font they used for this Bible. I could go on and on about the other details of the the Colophon (i.e. the printer and paper). I’ll end here as my curiosity didn’t extend that far just yet. Needless to say, I’m excited about this edition and believe the attention to detail in the design of this Bible will make for a beautiful reading experience. Now, to get my hands on one!

Here’s where you can find them: Crossway, Westminster, Amazon


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