Drawing on the essence of harmony through the ages comes a breakthrough in the page design of print Bibles for the 21st century, starting with Scripture in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and New International Version (NIV) Bible translations.
Bible Gateway interviewed Melinda Bouma, vice president and publisher of Bibles for Zondervan, about Passagio Setting Bibles (Zondervan, 2021).
What is the significance of the term passaggio, and what is its connection to Bible design?
Melinda Bouma: The term passaggio comes from the world of classical singing. It’s used to describe the shift that a performer makes between vocal registers: between the lower chest voice, the middle voice, and the higher head voice.
We use the term as a picturesque description of a new kind of Bible. Instead of shifting vocal ranges, these Bibles contain shifts between settings of the Bible text. The typesettings of these Bibles strive to create a strong transition between (1) highly readable single-column text for prose writing and (2) clean and efficient double-column text for poetry.
One of our important roles in Bible publishing is to use formatting to help readers know what type of content they’re reading. Passaggio Setting Bibles allow us to clearly indicate to the reader when they’ve changed from narrative to poetry, providing a benefit for them contextually as they read God’s Word.
What makes reading prose a better experience in a single-column format and poetry better in double-column?
Melinda Bouma: Reading prose in a single-column allows the reader to experience it in the same way they would read a book, and it also helps the eye not have to work as hard as they read the longer lines on their way down the page. The reader enjoys a smoother read and can then read for longer periods of time. But when it comes to poetry, this setting retains the double-column formatting readers traditionally think of when they read Psalms or Proverbs, and it also saves so much space.
One of the only downsides to the full single-column reading experience is the fact that it creates a bulky Bible. A large Bible can be unwieldy, and a large part of that is the amount of unused white space when poetry is set in single-column. Setting the poetry in two columns retains the traditional look of poetry while also saving hundreds of pages, creating a more portable Bible.
What were some of the unique compositional challenges you faced in switching between single-column and double-column?
Melinda Bouma: It’s much more complex to do than it sounds! Each time we came across the start of a list or poetry, sometimes a brief sentence and sometimes two-to-three sentences or more, we had to step back and analyze how it looked and what we communicated to the reader. We had to decide how the columns should balance for poetry when it was placed within prose—how many lines should we have in each column? If the poetry was only two-to-three lines, that wasn’t worth having in two columns, but would we then confuse the reader? These are just some of the challenging questions we asked ourselves page-by-page as we composed this unique arrangement.
Passaggio Setting Bibles will be available as a Heritage Bible and a Thinline Bible. Could you tell us the difference between the two?
Melinda Bouma: There are just a few differences: the Heritage as a brand is known for having a deluxe typesetting: larger print size, two-color page design, and more generous margins. A Thinline by design is created to be one inch thick, slim, and portable. The Passaggio Setting Thinline has a one-color page design with the words of Jesus in red, and a smaller print size than the Heritage. What we love about the Passaggio Setting Thinline is that it does help us achieve something our readers have asked for over many years: a single-column Thinline! Single-column text always runs longer than double-column, so getting a Thinline edition with single columns would be impossible or would require a print size so small as to be unreadable. But this Passaggio Setting arrangement allows us to achieve single column for all of the prose, while keeping the entire Bible portable and readable. We’re thrilled we could find a solution to allow us to meet our readers’ request!
Passagio Setting Bibles are published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Melinda Bouma serves as the vice president and publisher of Bibles for Zondervan. She loves God’s Word and seeing its life-changing impact on the world. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband and two young children. She enjoys running, reading, good food & good friends, and looks forward to a day when her kids let her sleep in again!
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