Tuesday, August 16, 2022

New Society and Conference on Bible Craftsmanship


Here’s a new development that looks really great. It’s a new organization called the Society of Bible Craftsmanship (SOBC) for the promotion of quality Bible production. From what I can tell, it’s being started by the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) and is maybe funded by it (it’s not clear). The announcement explains:

The Society of Bible Craftsmanship celebrates beauty, creativity, and innovation in the field of Bible publishing. The society’s mission is to nurture and highlight excellence in the industry and to help the general reader discover and appreciate all that goes into the finest examples of Bible craftsmanship—in all languages, in all media.

A central task of the society will be to periodically gather and exhibit new Bible publications from around the world. The society’s awards program will recognize the finest work in a broad range of categories, with winners exhibited at Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.

The Bible is one of the most important books ever to be published and also one of the most challenging in terms of design and production. Today, the innovation displayed in meeting these challenges is at an all-time high. In partnership with publishers and industry professionals, the society will host events and virtual seminars though Museum of the Bible to explore every aspect of craftsmanship, illuminating the work of translators and editors, designers and typographers, printers and bookbinders, and many other contributors to the production process. The society’s e-newsletter will also showcase the best writing on Bible craftsmanship. 

Museum of the Bible hopes, through the Society of Bible Craftsmanship, to promote the flourishing of contemporary Bible publishing and reading.

One of the people behind this is J. Mark Bertrand who we’ve had occasion to blog about in the past. For a long time he reviewed Bible design at the Bible Design blog (which now redirects to his new site lectio.org). He’s on the steering committee along with Jeff Kloha, chief curatorial officer at MOTB and Klaus Krogh, the CEO of the creative firm 2K/DENMARK that does a lot of Bible design.

J. Mark Bertrand

The Society is hosting a conference on August 27 in D.C. and online to kick off the new society. There is also a new book out from 2K/DENMARK about seven new typefaces they’ve designed just for Bibles.

One of the pleasures of studying the earliest printed English Bibles the last year or so has been appreciating just how many design decisions these early printers had to make. Yes, they had some precedents they could follow from manuscripts as well as Bibles in other languages. But, in other ways, they were inventing the wheel, so to speak, making decisions that would set the course of Bible production for the next 500 years. Everything from the names of books to chapter titles, marginal notes, maps, introductions to the reader, indices, cross-references—you get the idea. And beyond this there are the myriad questions of format: typefaces, layout, columns, spacing, book size, and more. 

I like what the new president of the society says about good design having a “gentle authority.” Whether we know it or not, the design of anything written is always communicating something additional to the words on the page. That design will either serve or hinder the meaning; it’s never neutral. Nowhere is that more important than the Bible.

1 comment

  1. What we need is a complete abandonment of the modern so-called “Bible paper.” Modern Bibles are just tissue paper and glue. If they studies early English Bibles as objects, hopefully they realized a complete Bible with maps and notes can be printed, in readable type, on thick rag paper, and still fit in the reader’s hand.