Jordan Deane’s grandfather passed away years ago at age 90, but a part of him lives on when Deane preaches—just as Grandpa did—at Sandy Bottom Church in Elkton, Virginia.
As assistant pastor, Deane teaches from his grandfather Buzzy Deane’s Bible, a King James translation that he had refurbished and rebound two years ago. Before that, it was falling apart at the seams, apt to lose pages, and hard to turn in and read.
Imprinted on the front cover is a heritage of faith passed down: the name Buzzy Deane inscribed in gold above another name, Jordan Deane.
“It’s amazing to read these Scriptures, see these verses he highlighted,” Deane said. “It’s like, you think in your head, This is proof this worked for my grandpa, that he had a relationship with God, the Word, this Bible, this road map, and it’s worth living out.”
Multicolored highlights illuminate key passages, and tiny notes are scribbled in the margins. Faint underlining points to verses that stood out to Buzzy decades ago, a reminder of the Bible’s eternal inheritance.
Now, rebound in black tobacco cowhide, the new cover includes intricate internal perimeter stitching and gilt line. The pages have been secured for another generation of flipping between passages and referencing verses.
This is a common story for those seeking Bible restoration. Often, older family Bibles are fragile or stacked away collecting dust, but rebinding services offer the possibility of fresh life.
Deane had the Bible refurbished through Logos Rebinding, a small business that offers covers in goatskin, cowhide, and exotic leathers like sharkskin.
Daniel Thrailkill started Logos Rebinding three years ago and has an ongoing waitlist of customers, most of whom found him through their friends’ social media posts. They come to him to restore well-worn family heirlooms and preserve the history on their pages. The oldest Bible he’s encountered was a large King James Version from 1870.
Thrailkill, 26, grew up reading Scripture as a homeschooled son of a preacher in Mount Ulla, North Carolina. He listens to church history podcasts in the five or six hours it takes to do the rebinding.
Thrailkill normally works on a batch of 12 Bibles over about two weeks out of a home studio set up in a spare bedroom. He plans to build a more official shop in his garage in the near future.
He says most Bibles are Smyth sewn, which means the folded pages are bound together in groups called signatures. Signatures are held together by threads, which can loosen over the years.
Others have a glued binding, which comes apart more easily. These Bibles must be reinforced by cutting grooves in the spine and inserting small binding cords to help the binding last longer.
Logos is part of a growing niche industry, including specialized companies and individual artisans, that are helping faithful Bible readers hold on to their favorite Bibles.
“I get the opportunity to kind of look at someone’s life,” Thrailkill said. “I get to pray through these Bibles about how they might help people.”
Dan Litevich, the founder of Scriptura Bibles, became interested in Bible rebinding after the pages of the Book of Philippians completely fell out of the English Standard Version thinline he had received in 2010 as a high school graduation gift. Though it was less than five years old at that time, he saw it as “irreplaceable” because of the season it represented in his life.
“I couldn’t imagine replacing that Bible since it was the first one I owned after beginning to take my faith seriously,” said Litevich. “That Bible meant something special to me—it represented who I became in Christ, my new identity as someone who loved Jesus.”
Instead of replacing it, he attempted restoration, seeking out training under a veteran bookbinder who helped him put it back together. The binder, a former Yale University librarian and book conservationist, taught him the craft of bookbinding. Terms like signature, folio, gutter, and headband entered his lexicon. He learned how to repair damaged pages and resew a Bible’s spine.
Litevich never intended to start a business, but people heard about him and asked him to help with their Bibles. He began Paul’s Leather Co. in 2014, which grew and recently rebranded as Scriptura. It has rebound thousands of Bibles in the past decade.
The main criteria for hiring at Scriptura squares on one question: Do you love the Bible? “We believe if someone loves the Bible, especially their own, then they will also care for someone else’s Bible well,” Litevich said.
The company has rebound several Bibles from the early 1800s, which Litevich said has a “powerful Hebrews 11–like effect—the saints of old cheering us on, giving us the endurance to finish our race well.”
Author Ray Ortlund has had Bibles rebound by Scriptura. The latest was one he used over 50 years ago at Wheaton College. He passed it on to his daughter.
“It stands on her shelf in her home as a prophetic testimony to the time-tested reality of Christ not just to me but to her and to our entire family,” he said.
Bible collectors are also very interested in rebinding services.
Pastor Scott Woodruff said he “follows a lot of rebinding groups behind the scenes” and collects old Bibles as a hobby. He discovered Thrailkill’s work on Facebook and was impressed with the “clean-cut lines, perimeter stitching, stamping, and corner work.”
Woodruff has had a total of 14 Bibles rebound but especially values the one he uses when he preaches on Sundays.
“It has all my notes, highlights, writing, coffee stains, blood stains, tears,” he told CT. “There are wrinkled pages, torn pages with tape on them. It’s been through the ringer, but now I’ve got it back and it’s not retired, and I can use it again.”
In the digital world, where the YouVersion Bible app has been downloaded more than half a billion times, nostalgia for a physical Bible can be especially potent. According to the 2023 State of the Bible survey, Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Zers use digital Bibles nearly half the time. But surveys continue to show that, despite the ease and popularity of apps, most still prefer a physical Bible to hold in their hands.
“As humans, I think we crave tangible ways of connecting with God and others,” Litevich said. “While our culture becomes increasingly saturated in digital technology, the more we truly need physical items—like a beloved Bible—to strengthen both our faith and, God willing, the faith of our children.”
Depending on the company, the materials, the Bible’s size and condition, and the level of customizations or additions, the restoration process can cost anywhere from $80 to $500. Litevich has encountered “every imaginable problem,” like dog-chewed pages, covers burned in house fires, and Bibles swollen with water damage. Bibles with thinner paper or an excessive number of pages can also take more time and care to restore.
Will and Courtney Kassner started Crew and Co. to sell products with hand-lettered Bible verses. A few years into the business, Courtney pushed Will to consider adding Bible rebinding. Today it makes up the bulk of their revenue, and they’ve incorporated Courtney’s signature hand-lettering and art as a customization option on their chemical-free, full-grain cowhide leather Bibles.
Based in Byhalia, Mississippi, they work out of a building that is half office space, half warehouse, with space for their laser engraver, leather stock, product inventory, incoming Bibles, and workstations.
“We like to say it has an old-fashioned family workshop vibe,” said Courtney Kassner. “We put in around 100 hours a week on Bible production, processing, and shipping.”
Crew and Co.’s social media videos document the painstaking work of cutting away old binding with an X-Acto knife, scraping away the glue without ripping delicate pages, and replacing covers with new end sheets, plastic binding tabs, cheesecloth, and a black cloth to secure the new binding.
Once a year, Crew and Co. offers completely custom Bibles. One woman wanted to honor her grandmother who passed away with dementia. The one thing her grandmother could remember at the end of her life was the song “To God Be the Glory.” The customer sent in samples of her grandmother’s handwriting, and Crew and Co. was able to replicate that writing to imprint “To God be the glory” into the leather cover of the rebound Bible.
“This work is like pouring yourself into someone’s personal connection with God,” Will Kassner said. “Scripture means so much for our faith, and to be able to catch a glimpse of someone’s walk with Christ and preserve something so important to their foundation is really cool.”
Bible rebinders like the Kassners view their work as a calling; they say they see the hand of God move throughout generations in the pages, notes, highlights, scribbles, coffee stains, and inscriptions inside well-loved Bibles.
“In a world of throwaway excess, clutter, and waste, a treasured and much-used Bible stands out as holy, sacred, divine—and therefore hopeful—beyond all the world,” Ortlund said. “What could be greater?”
As the practice of Bible rebinding grows, the faith of old will be preserved.
“We hope that by training more bookbinders, especially younger ones,” Litevich said, “we can help preserve this vital craft.”
Ericka Andersen is a CT contributing writer based in Indianapolis.
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