A “dream” is how Crossway’s executive VP of creative, Josh Dennis, describes the publisher’s newest edition of the Bible, the ESV Illuminated Bible (art journaling ed.). The elaborately detailed work, which features 500 illustrations, is, as Dennis puts it, an edition created to “highlight the beauty of the Scriptures themselves and invite readers in.”
On shelves October 31 and available in four different cover designs—green hardcover, navy cloth over board, burgundy TruTone, and black top-grain leather—the Illuminated Bible is not the publisher’s first foray into illumination, an ancient practice of beautifying holy works to help explain and ultimately preserve their messages. In 2011 Crossway released an illuminated edition of the four Gospels. This edition, however, is the publisher’s first illuminated treatment of the entire Bible.
Dana Tanamachi, the Seattle-based hand letterer who did the lettering and design for the book, worked with a team of researchers to create more than 500 images. Noting that the final product incorporates a number of traditional elements of illumination—the use of gold ink, expressive flourishes in the typography, and so on—Tanamachi explains that, just by leafing through the book, one can get “a healthy introduction to the storied art and practice of illumination.”
Not only does the Illuminated Bible offer a fun, and visually tantalizing, history lesson on illumination, it also celebrates the act of journaling. The Illuminated Bible joins Crossway’s expansive line of journaling Bibles, which welcome readers to make notations on the page through features such as wide margins and, in some cases, lines for readers to add text. As a Bible edition that makes art an integral part of experiencing the text, the Illuminated Bible beckons readers to add their own marks to the holy book, something that many had already begun to do with Crossway’s journaling Bibles.
Noting that the response to its journaling Bibles has been extremely strong, Dennis says that many readers have used these editions in unexpected ways. With this in mind, Dennis says, Crossway saw the Illuminated Bible “as an opportunity to design a product from the ground up that would be ideally suited for anyone who desired to add their own illuminations or artwork to their Bible.” Crossway recognized, Dennis says, that there was a “need for a product like this because of the way that people were using our journaling Bibles.”
Crossway is filling a gap in the market with the Illuminated Bible, and the company sees the the new edition as a logical extension of its existing lineup of Bibles.
“The Illuminated Bible includes a lot of what people have enjoyed about past journaling Bibles—wide margins, and space for note-taking, drawing, or journaling,” Tanamachi says. “But it takes it a step further by including beautiful, thoughtful, and inspiring artwork that hopefully sparks even more creativity and self-expression within people.”
Dane Ortlund, Crossway’s executive VP of Bible publishing and Bible publisher, sees the work fitting well into a larger context of mainstream Christianity: “The mainstream Christian tradition has a long history of offering a meaningful way of revering the text and acknowledging it as special and sacred,” Ortlund says. “The Illuminated Bible is inspired by and stands in that venerable tradition.”
For Dennis, the Illuminated Bible also allows those with several editions of the holy book to have a copy that they can interact with in a different way. “A study Bible is a great choice for deeper digging into the Scriptures—loving the Lord with your mind,” Dennis says. “The ESV Illuminated Bible provides space to visually connect with Scripture, to imagine, and, as the psalmist prayed, to invite the Lord to open our eyes to the beauty within his word.