A blog by Josh Rives


The island where John was exiled.

Why are Bibles Two Columns?

Ever wondered why Bible’s are printed with two columns per page? Of course you haven’t but I came across it at the ESV Blog.

Double columns substantially reduce the space required for poetry because many lines of poetry fit on a single, shorter line; a single-column typesetting means a lot of empty space on a page filled with poetry. Poetry comprises about 25% of the Bible, so you can imagine the amount of space saved with two columns.

You would think that two columns would waste space but apparently switching to one column increases the page count by 10 – 25%. That apparently did not stop them from publishing one.

You might also be interested to know that a single typesetting for an ESV Bible costs $50,000 to create. That is why Bibles with different covers or text sizes will be the same format inside. Every time they change the actual content (i.e. add cross references or notes) they have to create a new typesetting.

I would love to have a Bible without chapter and verse numbers. The numbering system was supposedly first added in 1205 and first printed in 1551. Obviously the original authors did not insert them as they wrote, but it has made it easier to reference. The negative effect numbering has had is taking verses out of context. We tend to just memorize pieces of the author’s letter and miss the context and overarching themes. You can witness the result of no context in Ten Verses Never Preached On. Of course, the numbering system will probably never be removed or redone because it has become so ingrained into our studies. Can you imagine trying to reference John 3:16 if not everyone was on the same system?