Bible Paper Is Used for Printing Many Kinds of Books

Bible on table

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Bible paper is an extremely thin, lightweight, opaque printing paper with a basic size of 25x38 inches. This specialty paper is generally made from 25% cotton and linen rags or flax. It is a premium grade of book paper that typically has a long life. Its thinness and light weight make it ideal for use in large books with many pages including dictionaries and encyclopedias, which would be bulkier and heavier if they were printed on lesser grades of book paper.

Working With Bible Paper

Bible paper is suitable for offset printing — specifically text, four-color process, tritone, and duotones. Digital files are created as they are for any weight of paper, and images can be printed with the usual screen settings. However, where heavy ink coverage is called for, graphic artists (or their commercial printers) should use under color removal on the images.

Because it is so lightweight and thin, this paper is difficult to work with. It is hard to handle and easily damaged. Extreme care must be taken with it at every stage of the production process. Because of this, printed projects destined for bible paper often carry a price premium to cover the additional handling and spoilage that occur. 

Grades of Bible Paper

Bible paper comes in three grades: groundwood, free sheet and blended.

  • Groundwood — used in economy Bible editions. It has a brownish color to it, and the paper becomes yellow and brittle in time. It is thicker than the other two grades of bible paper and it not recommended for high-quality projects.
  • Free Sheet — the grade most often used in Bibles. The paper is whiter than the groundwood grade, and it contains wood. To increase the opacity necessary for such thin paper, titanium dioxide is added to the paper to refract light. This paper is thinner than groundwood and costs more. However, it is recommended for most uses.
  • Blended — paper relatively new in the market. It has wood, rather than titanium dioxide, for opacity. It is difficult to tell the blended grade from the freesheet grade. Because it is new, no information is available on its longevity.

Because it is so thin, the sheets of bible paper are not as stiff as most papers, and the page edges may curl. Also, opacity (or lack thereof and any accompanying bleed-through) is a major concern when using bible paper.

If you are tasked with choosing bible paper, the safe choice is free sheet grade bible paper. Some suppliers may refer to it as India paper. Look for a commercial printer that specializes in working with this paper. 

Other Uses

In addition to Bibles, this paper is used for other types of publications. Typical uses include large books and:

  • Prayer books
  • Hymnals
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Insurance rate books
  • Deluxe guides
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