Review – Monsieur Notebook A5 Blank “Fountain Pen” Paper

One way to make your notebook stand out in this new notebook market is to have high-quality components that are durable and look good. Monsieur Notebook has tried to do that, with their new leather notebook competitor to Moleskine.

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First a little story. Monsieur Notebook has been available in Europe for a little while now, using production from India, if I’m not mistaken. They recently had an Indiegogo campaign to distribute in the U.S. and get more local production (for them in the U.K.). I pledged (purchased) on Indiegogo for two notebooks and got laser engraving thrown in to review.  My notebooks were however caught up somewhere in the delivery process and ended up taking quite some time to get here. During this process I discovered that the customer service is very nice and expedient for being across an ocean from me. Anyway, some time later I have an extra notebook for my troubles and am getting on the review track. I should note that these books were sent to me directly and not through a distributor, so they did get a bit damaged in the post because they were not in a box, this will not happen if you simply order a book from them.

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The notebooks are a nice A5 size, a bit wider than a Moleskine. With 100 sheets of “royal executive bond” (100gsm) paper (that’s what the watermark says anyway). The cover is leather, and comes quite dry, so it will need some maintenance to make it more supple. The cover is completely plain (unless laser engraved) save for a tiny logo on the back in the right bottom corner. The cover sticks out from the pages just a bit to provide them some protection. There is an elastic band on the back that is loose when not in use like a Moleskine but tightly closes the book when necessary. The cover is glued to some heavy cardstock and opening the front reveals another logo with a website and a contents page with a place for a name and other information. There are no other features, this includes the conspicuous absence of a back pocket common to these types of books.

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Now to the paper, which in mine is blank, and meant for fountain pens. The promise of being fountain pen-friendly is a bold one, and one that is almost thoroughly lived up to. The paper is a very stark, almost perfect, white (with a watermark as previously mentioned). It has a bit of a grain to it, so it provides some feedback when writing, but it isn’t unpleasant. It is a bonded paper, so some paper fibers may come up and clog nibs on fountain pens after extended use, but that is only a fountain pen concern. As for writing, it’s smooth, with some feedback. There are very few inconsistant places that would cause hang ups, or strange ink behaviors. Bleed-through for liquid inks is minimal, but it is there, the paper seems to take wide spaces of ink in stride (like calligraphy) and has little to no bleed-through. But a pen that is quite wet with a finer line will make points of bleed-through. A similar phenomenon can be noted with feathering, as finer lines tend to feather more on this paper than broader lines. Which is a strange property indeed. But the overall experience is pleasant. The ink dries friarly fast, with some notable exceptions (Noodler’s red)

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So a few more things to note. The spine is good leather and doesn’t seem to take structural damage but does easily take cosmetic. The Laser engraving is awesome but it really depends on your image. The elastic strap could cosmetically damage the cover by pulling it. And occasionally the signatures seem to be pulling away from each other, but not the spine.

So overall I think this is a great notebook. It is made of high quality materials, if not high production quality. The materials seem to be good enough to make up for the shoddy construction and make a stable book that will work quite well for an extended amount of time. It is one of the best fountain pen paper notebooks, but not the best. I’d say the paper is worse, but the book itself is better than a Rhodia book. So it all depends on what you want. This book might not look very good, but it should last at least as long if not longer than any other notebook on the market. And it’s the same price as a Moleskine. So If you want a good “beat-up notebook”, try one of these.

Review – Moleskine Pocket Softcover Notebook

I’ve already reviewed the Moleskine pocket notebook in hardback, but I’ve also used the softback version, and since there are a few key differences besides the obvious, I though I’d highlight them. So this is only half a review, if you want to know about the paper you can look up my other Moleskine pocket review.

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So the cover is obviously soft. It is a lot thinner and as such you can see the binding through it, especially on the back where you can see the attachment points for the elastic band. They are a bit intrusive and noticeable. The cover is blank aside from the name Moleskine stamped rather deeply into the back cover. The look is a bit like the regular Moleskine, but the pages are cut the the same length as the cover, and it looks a bit more shiny. The front cover can roll up on itself and then bounce back, but it never fully regains its former shape. The back is much less flexible due to the back pocket that comes Moleskine standard. The cover also feels almost moist and rubbery, and any minor scratches and such simply bounce out unlike the Rhodia Webnotebook. The softness does mean that the elastic band leaves very noticeable marks on the cover and sometimes the paper. The spine in contrast to the hardcover feels much more durable and able to stand up to long, continued use.

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Which style of cover is better is a decision you have to make. This one is flexible, easily fits in a pocket, and is harder the permanently damage than the hard cover, but it offers less page protection and stability for writing, so it’s give and take.

Review – Rhodia Web Notebook Pocket

Well, it’s that time again, time to talk about a little black book. This one’s particularly good for fountain pens. It’s the Rhodia Web-notebook pocket black version.

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The dimensions are almost exactly the same as the Moleskine, with the exception of it being slightly thicker. The cover is a strange, and easily warped, faux-leather. It is quite pleasant to hold, and the spine sustains much less damage than with stiffer cover books. Not to say the cover is flexible, it is definitely hard, though the Moleskine still holds the record for notebook most like a rock, the Rhodia does have a little give in it. Also on the front cover is a stamped Rhodia logo and an elastic band holds it all together. The standard pocket in the back tops it all off.

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Inside there are the same number of pages as the Moleskine. The pages are thicker though, the first page is unusable and gives you their specks. They are slightly off white with a bit of an orangish tint. This version has them lines with thin grey lines and a slight margin on top. The paper is insanely smooth, as in the smoothest paper I’ve ever written on, right there with Clairefontaine, being made by the same company that makes sense though. It takes ink well, and it even dries relatively fast on there, though there are some problems with bleed through on broader nibs or wetter inks. It should be noted that the paper is different from the larger notebook paper.

So overall, if you have a fountain pen and need a notebook, this is a better choice for you than almost any other notebook on the market. Though if you’re drawing with flex pens or thick brushes be aware that you’ll still only be able to use half the pages in the book. Though bleeding onto the next sheet is something I haven’t seen. Are these the best pocket notebooks? It depends on what type of pen you’re using, and how much you care about the feel of your notebook, because this one does feel quite different.

Review – Leuchtturm 1917 Pocket Notebook

Notebooks again. Is Moleskine your style but you find the paper a little lacking? Well Leuchtturm claims to have you covered with the 1917 line of notebooks. Specifically I’m reviewing the black pocket (dot) hardcover version.

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Starting with the outside, the dimensions are nearly the same width- and thickness-wise as the Molsekine, but about half an inch taller. As the Field Notes and Clairefontaine pocket books are the same size (lacking thickness) you could compare it to them as well. The cover is in the black Moleskine style and is almost indistinguishable. It is also fairly flexible, something entirely absent in the Moleskine. It has an elastic band that feels slightly cheaper, but nonetheless works well. The most disappointing thing is the spine, which constantly creases, cracks and groans. The problems appears the be that the cover on the joints is separate from the binding. The binding does feel solid, so I don’t believe it will fail, but the spine will definitely encounter cosmetic damage with prolonged use.

Inside there is a standard back pocket, an address and name blank, and several table of contents pages, helpful little things if I do say so. Also the last few (six) sheets can be torn out and are as such perforated. Each page is numbered and of course there’s a bookmark ribbon. It has about the same sheet count, and same page color as the Moleskine, but with better paper. The Leuchtturm has 80 gram paper that is supposedly ink resistant. I can say it is, I didn’t even get bleed-through with a flex pen. That being said, everything shows through to the point of being annoying, even a ballpoint pen. Only pencil makes for a clean, two-sided drawing experience. Though the paper, unfortunately, is not very smooth at all, especially not as much so as the Molsekine or Clairefontaine books. You’ll get a lot of feedback on this one. The rulings are all standard and nothing to write home about.

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So, how does the Leuchtturm perform? Well. It performs well. It’s cheaper than the completion and better in some ways. Most of these things are up to personal preference. I would say the binding is a little weak on this one, but other than that it’s up to par.

Review – Clairefontaine Staple Bound Pocket 3.5″ x 5.5″

There is a new contender in the pocket notebook category. Well, not new, but new to me. The Clairefontaine staple bound 9 X 14 cm pocket book. This is not really very comparable to the other two pocket books I’ve reviewed as it is much thicker, but it is still around the same size, so here we go. The book is twice as thick as a Field Notes book and about a millimeter wider, and the rounding on the corners is about the same.

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The cover is a fairly thick but flimsy card stock. There is a website URL, paper weight, dimensions, and page count listed on the back cover, and no other information save the logo. The inside cover is a simple white, while the outside is the standard Clairefontaine cover, which I consider to be fairly ugly. The cover also has a blank space which I assume is a subject line or a name space.

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Inside is 48 sheets of 90 gram Clairefontaine paper, which is superb. This is one of the few notebooks where the page count, rather than the sheet count, matters, as you can write on both sides, even with a fountain pen. The paper is lined with a 7mm ruling, a small margin at the top, and an infinitesimal margin at the bottom. The lines are a very pale purple and not at all intrusive. As far as I know they only come in a lined version at this size. Writing-wise, the paper is buttery smooth. Very easy to write on, but ink resistant enough to have little to no bleed through, except for the nano-liner which can bleed through tables it seems. The paper is also heavy, it takes effort to bend it along the spine to write with it, and once you have bent it, it stays there.

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Finally the binding: it’s bent over and squared with two staples each about a quarter of the way in. It seems far from the sturdiest binding, but it can take a fair amount of flex before buckling. Though with no support at the edges they do tend to get a little banged up. Because of its interesting folding style and large page count, the binding does seem a bit weak, in mine the staples aren’t even fully stapled, so pulling this book apart intentionally would be easy. But unintentionally it seems to hold up fine, more due to the paper than the binding. It will buckle and get bunged up at the edges, though. I’m skeptical about it’s ability to take some hard wear and tear for all 96 of its pages to be used.

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Overall this is a great little pocket book. I personally won’t use them as much as some other books because of the terrible, intrusive cover designs and its thickness. But for writing or drawing with fountain pens, dip pens, or ink brushes, this thing can’t be beat. It’s a great, sturdy little notebook with especially good paper.

 

Review – large Blank Moleskine

A little while ago I reviewed the Moleskine blank pocket book. Now in the same notebook direction I’ll take a quick look at the Moleskine blank large book. Will the classic renowned Moleskine hold up to closer scrutiny? We’ll see.

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The cover is cardboard wrapped in faux-leather. It’s fairly sturdy, though it does begin to wear at the corners with continuous use. Though if you find a notebook that doesn’t I’ll be amazed. The binding is rounded, flexible and lies flat. It does have a tendency to crease when opened for too long. It also tears eventually, and if the book is really old it even begins to split down the back. This only happens toward the end of the book’s life (the last twenty pages or so). Around the cover is an elastic band which does a good job holding everything together but will eventually bend the cover in.

The pages are super thin. There are 240 of them in this half-inch book. They are of okay stock. Anything heavier than a ballpoint pen bleeds through but not usually onto the next page, it can just be seen through the page. The paper is smooth and writes well, the fine texture is just enough to prevent slips of the hand.

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The first and last pages are attached to the binding, rendering them mostly useless. In the back is the standard pocket, which contains the story of Moleskine (and a quality control number which is actually quite useful). In the front is a ‘who owns this’ page with a reward blank. I don’t find those particularly useful but they are there.

So are they worth it? Like all notebooks it depends on what you’re looking for (unless they just fall apart, those are useless no matter what). They are great for free range writing with sketches to enhance the look. As a sketchbook they work best with pencil as most anything else will bleed through. They are very solid in construction, the front cover especially can take a severe beating. They have very few organizational features, which some may find liberating and some infuriating. Like I said, best as a free range writing/sketch book. Alright as a travel log or such. They’re decent, and the ones I use all the time.

Review – Dolgen Mini Composition Book

Okay, this is kind of a cheat. But little notebooks are art supplies to someone. Even with the small price, should you get these small Dolgen composition books? Are they worth it?

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These little books contain about 60 pages of narrow lined paper. The stock is thin, and bleeds easily, but it is still about the same as average copy paper. They’re about 3½ X 2¼ inches, so they fit nicely into a pocket. They aren’t that great for drawing, but they excel at little notes and ideas.

The binding is fairly poor. I get the impression that it will fall apart quickly, but not as quickly as it takes to finish the book.

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These things are small, easy to carry, and really handy. They’re great for jotting down notes and the like. While they obviously aren’t made for drawing, a quick sketch or two definitely won’t hurt them, one just has the lines to contend with. At the three for a dollar price I paid for them, they are superb little notebooks.

Review – Escalada 3.5 x 5.75 Pocket Journal

So, you’re out and about, you’ve just finished your last pocket notebook and are looking for a new one. You happen across one. It’s got 80 sheets of thick sketch paper and is only a couple bucks. It even looks kinda nice in its faux-leather binding. Is this small Escalada journal a good buy? Let’s see.

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We’ll start with the binding. It’s surprisingly good, it flexes well and doesn’t break under standard usage conditions. The binding, as well as the cover is of course cardboard covered in faux-leather with a slightly unattractive sheen. This layer holds up alright, though it does start to peel and rub off at the corners which is very unsightly. It also gets gummy in high temperatures and begins to take the shape of whatever is next to it, so where the elastic band is there will be a permanent set of grooves. But it hasn’t melted or gotten sticky in the time I’ve used it and I live in the middle of the desert.

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The paper is 80 sheets of 74 lb drawing paper. It’s thick but flimsy, it feels as if it’s falling apart sometimes and ink bleeds through and can be easily seen on the other side in some cases. Yet I have had no instances of marking on the next page. It has an easily visible grain and does at times warp ones drawings, mostly pencil though and not very much. The roughness is a bit unsightly to me but that’s just personal preference. Despite the flimsy feeling of the pages they are very stout and remain ridged most of the time. They resist bending, however I feel that if they did bend they would soon fall apart.

It’s an alright pocket sketchbook. It’s cheap, both in price and manufacturing, but it does do its job well enough. Just carrying it in a bag or a case won’t do much harm to it, especially since it only has eighty pages and can be run through fairly quickly. However, if your life is a bit more rough and tumble than most this is not for you, it will look ugly shortly and fall apart not long after. It does best if you’re looking for a notebook to store in your bag or somewhere on the cheap and don’t have too much preference as to the quality of the content you put in it.

Review – Limn Books

I am always on the lookout for new sketch/notebooks. I have hundreds already, but am hopelessly obsessed with paper. I have loads of different styles of notebooks. And when I found these fairly unique notebooks I had to have a look at them. (Disclaimer – They are made by my brother so I may be a little biased.)

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Limn Books come from Austin Texas. At the moment they come in two flavors of 5.5x 8.5. The flavors really only mean that one has red lettering and the other has blue. The only lettering is Limn on the cover and a contact email on the back. They contain 20 sheets of plain paper (no lines) covered by green cover stock. They are hand-sewn, single signature bound then covered with a binding strip.

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The covers are quite nice at protecting the books and looking nice, but they are not stiff enough to write on, so writing will require a table. The paper is almost butter, smooth but with enough grit to hold ink on the page well. Ink bleed is not much of a problem, especially if one is just writing and not drawing. They are comparable to Moleskine books in both paper and cover quality, but lack the elastic and are quite bit cheaper.20121207-001124.jpg

They are nice, inexpensive little books. They write well, are extremely portable, and are generally handy. They are good books for keeping notes, lists, and ideas. They have no real specific purpose in my mind, and are good at anything one wants to do in them, but are not necessarily the best at anything.