French Factory Worker’s Notebook

Isn’t this a lovely old notebook? Seems to be phone numbers and assorted jottings kept by a guard named Andre who worked at a now-defunct Renault factory, from what I was able to translate of the website where I found it.

“Prenez un bleu et suivez moi à travers le carnet de André. Lui était gardien, donc pas de problème pour rentrer. Ce petit carnet qui a du être dans la poche depuis le début de son poste ou au début pour retenir ce qui devrait être des numéros de téléphone pour joindre les quatre coins du Trapèze.”

carnet andré

Read more (in French) at A quelques pas de l’usine: valise_11.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Emmanuel

This week’s addict has a habit of filling Moleskine and Rhodia notebooks. Look at these nice stacks!

The Moleskine stack is pretty impressive given that he says he remembers first holding a Moleskine in his hands in January 2012. The Rhodias are from 2003-2006. Emmanuel says he wrote the first book in French about the “Quantified Self” philosophy, which involves keeping track of a lot of personal data– that’s what filled up all those Rhodias!

But I liked his thoughts below:

J’aime ce travail d’écriture, mi manuel mi intellectuel, quand la pensée se met peu à peu en formes, quand les idées s’inscrivent dans la matière par le contact physique entre la main, le stylo, le feuille… Et puis de temps en temps ça repose des écrans !

I translate it roughly as “I love the work of writing, half manual, half intellectual, when thought little by little takes form, when ideas are inscribed materially by the physical contact between the hand, the pen, the page… and then from time to time this rest from screens!”

Read more (in French) at Les tours de carnets, après Rhodia vint Moleskine.

Review and Giveaway: Paperblanks Mini Reporter Notebooks

The folks at Paperblanks were kind enough to send me some samples after seeing my review of their “Old Leather” notebook. I am so glad they did, as I really love the notebooks they sent. Though there are things about them that are not 100% what I tend to look for in notebooks for my daily personal use, these are gorgeous, high-quality notebooks that I would totally buy if I found them in a store. Let’s take a look at why.

Each of the notebooks has a different cover style, and a different interior page style. (Other combinations may be available.)

The Black Moroccan is based on gold-tooled Renaissance-style leather bindings, and has blank pages inside.

The Safavid is lined inside and is based on Persian Safavid Islamic design, reproducing an image from the Düsseldorf Museum Kunst Palast.

The Grolier is based on an antique book bound by Jean Grolier (1479-1565), from the collection of the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. It has squared paper inside, which I was very happy to see, as I didn’t know Paperblanks ever offered graph paper options.

These 3 styles are shown from left to right in the first photo below.


I’m always impressed by the richness and elegance of the Paperblanks cover designs, and these are no exception. They feel very faithful to the antique designs they emulate, and the delicate stamping and spots of metallic inks indicate real care taken in the printing process. I’m amazed that they can offer these for $11.95 with this level of quality. (They are made in China.) With most notebooks, I don’t like it when there is a groove between the spine and where the boards start– I like a smooth, flat transition where the spine wraps around cleanly and the edge of the boards is pretty much lined up with the spine of the book block– but in these notebooks, it seems so in character with the designs, it doesn’t bother me, and it does allow the cover to easily fold back on itself completely without breaking, which is not possible with some other reporter notebooks. A softcover Moleskine reporter will manage it, as will a hardcover Brunnen I reviewed, but I’m not sure a hardcover Moleskine will survive long with that treatment! (A pocket Moleskine watercolor sketchbook is shown above, as the closest comparison I had handy.)


Aside from the decorative elements, the notebook construction is solid. Neat corners, edges that don’t stick out too much, supple spines that open flat. I would prefer the page edges to be cut straight rather than follow the roundness of the spine, but it doesn’t bother me that much. The last few pages are perforated. The lines in the ruled notebook don’t go all the way to the page edge, which might bother some people. The graph paper is perfect– the thin grey lines are nicely sharp and thin and light.


Inside there is some info about the brand and the design, as well as a back pocket, and an elastic closure that tucks neatly behind it so  it doesn’t show on the back cover when you’re not using it.


The paper is such a pleasure to write on, especially with my favorite gel ink fine point pens. It’s smooth and creamy and the pen just glides over it. Fountain pens work nicely, though when I looked closely a little while later, I noticed some very slight feathering with the Pilot Varsity. I don’t usually test drying times, but the Lamy Safari stayed wet a lot longer than the Pilot did. Alas, the paper is a bit on the lightweight side and show-through and bleed-through are a bit worse than average, though if you use mainly gel ink fine point pens like the Uniballs I use at the top of the page, I think most people would find the level of show-through tolerable.


So I’ll say it again, I love these notebooks and if I hadn’t gotten them for free, I’d buy one! Paperblanks are available in quite a few retailers, including online at Amazon. But you can also try to win one in the giveaway! The Safavid and the Black Moroccan will each go to one of the two lucky winners I’ll select from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “@Paperblanks,” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @paperblanks.

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Paperblanks page, and post something containing the words “Paperblanks” on the Notebook Stories wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Paperblanks” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday April 18, 2014 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.

Notebook Addict of the Week (again): Joe

This week’s addict is another one whose collection has grown since we first saw it. He sent me this message and the photos below of his excellent collection, which now includes his own home-made notebooks:

“I was a notebook addict about a year ago and just recently returned from Afghanistan after 7 months. So I thought I would let you in on what I have been doing notebook wise and vie for the coveted notebook addict of the week (again). The first photo is of what I used in 2013. Date books, journals and work. The second photo is my home made notebooks. As prices go up and the sizes available are pretty standard across the board I wanted something different so I have been making them at four by six inches. The third pic is what is in current use, there is a moleskine for work, sketch book, a journal each for my 2 children, and a book journal. Lastly is what is on slate for the year to come. It is ever expanding as I reside in Germany presently and there are many great stationary stores with everything you need to keep an obsession going.”


joe addict 1

joe addict 2

joe addict 3

Thanks for sharing your addiction, Joe, and glad you are back safely from Afghanistan!

A French Artist’s 1948 Diary

The 1948 diary below belonged to Martin Vivés, an artist who lived in southwestern France. He also seems to have been a museum curator there in the 1940s-1960s, and he met some famous artists including Raoul Dufy, as shown in the notes made in the diary. March 2 shows the phrase “visite Dufy.

It’s an interesting-looking diary. I can’t figure out why it would have that cut-out in the middle…

Read more (in French) at Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) « Martin Vivès.

More on London Notebooks

When I was complaining about the bleak landscape for London notebook shopping, I didn’t mention the most frustrating part of the trip! I was there on business, and during my last meeting of the trip, when I already knew it was pretty likely that I’d go home without buying anything, I spotted a really gorgeous notebook. Unfortunately it belonged to one of the people I was meeting with! It was about 4 x 6″ with a nice soft-looking black leather cover, with stitching around the edge. It looked a little beat up and worn in. It was very distracting to have that sitting across the table from me while trying to talk business! The owner of the notebook never opened it during the meeting, though he did jot a few notes in a larger Black & Red notebook. He wasn’t someone I knew well enough to be able to say, “gee, that’s a really nice notebook! Where’d you get it?” So it was just a tantalizing glimpse of possible London notebook splendor…

The other missing piece of the story is that another friend of mine, who does know me well enough to be aware of my notebook fetish, snapped these photos of notebooks and sketchbooks in London museums– probably the V&A and the British Museum, but she forgot which! The only identifying detail is a card identifying the first ones as belonging to artist Sigmar Polke.

london notebooklondon notebook 2london notebook 3


Review: Hahnemuhle Travel Journal and Travel Booklets

I forget exactly how I stumbled across the Hahnemuhle Travel Journal, but this is the website where I first remember seeing it, and the photo that got me all excited: Heaton Cooper Studio

Nice plain black covers, a somewhat chunky shape, and no yucky cover overhang! I had to have one. I went searching around to see where else they might be sold, and there didn’t seem to be too many options. Those I did find were all in the UK. The best price I ended up finding was at The Pastel Shop, about £6.02 for a 9x14cm hardcover journal. I also bought a two-pack of softcover journals for £2.78. I waited anxiously for the notebooks to arrive– it ended up taking almost a month due to a software error in processing my order, but they finally arrived, just in time for me to take the hardcover journal with me on a trip to the Galapagos. (You’ll notice that it looks a lot more beaten-up in all the photos except the first few where it has its wrapper still on! I don’t usually manage to field-test notebooks so thoroughly before reviewing them!)


I was not disappointed when I first unwrapped the sketchbook. It was just as lovely as it looked in the photo– thicker than a Moleskine, and with a slightly different texture to the black cover, but very minimal cover overhang. The spine had a funny wrinkly-ness to it, but the binding was sturdy and supple and opened totally flat. The interior was without any branding. The exterior just had a cute little rooster logo on the back. The elastic closure was just the right tightness and the ribbon marker was the right length. The inside pocket was a bit smaller than usual, and there was a slight mis-alignment between the book block and the cover, but nothing I couldn’t live with. In short, it was almost perfect.

The paper inside seemed just like the paper in the Handbook Artist Journals. That is basically what this notebook is, a HandBook Journal interior with a Moleskine exterior. Since these are the two notebooks that have long been my favorites, you would think I’d have died and gone to heaven finding the Hahnemuhle. I almost did.

So why the almost? Well, first of all what I really want to find is a replacement for my favorite Moleskines, the squared and sketchbook versions. If I want toothy sketch paper, I already have my HandBook Journals, which are totally satisfying just as they are (knock on wood, lest they start cutting corners like Moleskine has). If Hahnemuhle offered options with squared paper and a smooth heavy-weight sketch paper, I’d probably buy a hundred of them tomorrow. But I was still glad to have another option with the kind of paper I use for pencil drawing and watercolors a lot.

So it was disappointing to actually test the paper. There was just something about it that was not quite what I was hoping for. My watercolors seemed to look greyish and muddy, just somehow a bit dingy. Other pens and pencils work fine, or about as you’d expect with a paper of this texture. It’s pretty good on showthrough and bleed-through but not perfect. Fountain pens feather out a bit.


It’s not that different from the HandBook paper, but there is something very subtle that makes it not quite as pleasing. Neither Hahnemuhle or HandBook makes any claim that their notebooks are appropriate for watercolors– both of them can only take light usage of watercolors and even wet markers. But I think the paper in the Hahnemuhle has a slightly cooler tone to it. When I look at my watercolor tests side by side, it seems very subtle, and sometimes I even wonder if I’m imagining it, but I do remember just feeling disappointed when I tried my watercolors, and they do seem duller than they do in some of my other HandBook journals. Despite all that, I used the Hahnemuhle very happily all through the Galapagos and had no complaints when  using it for pencil sketches. And one advantage it does have over the HandBook is that that wrinkly spine allows it to open much flatter– the HandBook’s rounded spine sticks out rather stiffly, while Hahnemuhle’s tucks itself right in.

Below are Hahnemuhle vs. HandBook comparison shots:


And here’s Hahnemuhle vs. Moleskine:


I hadn’t tested the little Travel Booklets til writing this review. They’re a great idea– I always wondered why Moleskine didn’t offer a sketch Cahier (though they’ve now introduced something along those lines) and that is basically what these are. One signature of sketch pages, sewn up the spine. 20 sheets of 140 GSM paper, so it bulks up to a nice thickness. The back has a glued-on pocket, which isn’t very easy to access but would allow you to tuck away a small receipt or two.



The travel booklet almost seemed to perform a bit better with watercolors– I realized I was using a better-quality set of paints so I did another test in the original journal just to be sure. I do think the paper in the booklet performed a bit better– the wetness didn’t seem to scrub up the fibers of the paper as much, and the colors seemed a bit cleaner. The fountain pens both worked better in the booklet too.


All this has made me wonder if the original Hahnemuhle journal I got was the best representative of its kind, and whether another example might have somewhat better paper… which is a good excuse for me to buy a few more, especially since the Pastel Shop now has them priced at £5.40 (as of this writing), a reduction from their now-higher regular price of £7.20. (I bought my first one almost a year ago.) Unfortunately their “rest of world” shipping charge has increased from £5.95 to £12.95, so it’s not a great deal outside the UK either way… It’s still hard to find them elsewhere, but I did see that you can find the larger size on Amazon. I’m excited all over again at the thought of giving these another try as a sketchbook, even if they won’t become my everyday go-to notebook. With any luck, some US retailer will start carrying these so they’ll be easier and cheaper to buy here.


Plumb Goods Notebooks

Here’s a new line of notebooks that seems to be getting a lot of press:

You can buy them here.

Via Plumb Goods Notebooks – Cool Hunting.

Notebook Addict of the Week (Again): Gerard

Here’s another repeat addict: Gerard is a Canadian artist and arts educator whose notebooks were featured here a few years ago. Looks like his collection of idea books and studio journals has kept on growing! Some Whitelines journals are now added to the mix too.

Check out Gerard’s site: MIX AND SHIFT: OVER 60.

Tips from Readers

More from my inbox:

A tip from M:

“I have issues with the binding cracking/splitting on my Moleskines.  The solution – black duct tape.  Check out the photo.  Works great and doesn’t look too bad.”


Peter shares some sketchbook pages and a tip on transfering art to notebook pages:

“Just wanted to give you some of the insides of my drawing journal. this is a Daycraft  Signature Sketchbook that I got for about US$6.
not sure if this is expensive or not but I just love the leather like cover.
Anyway just submitting some pages inside. I just discovered from another website on how to transfer nice images using an inkjet printer & transparencies.
You just get the image that you want, go to photoshop & reverse or flip the image horizontal. You need to do this because you are doing something similar to a T-shirt print on. After reversing the image you just print it onto the transparencies (ordinary ones, not the ones for inkjet printers). The ones designed for inkjet printers will have the ink dry when it comes our from the printer. You want the ones without the chemical layer so that the ink will transfer to your notebook page. Once printed just let it settle for a few seconds then insert into your notebook, close the covers & press!”
p1 p2 p3
Erik at Notes From the Road shares some of his travel journals:
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Jim Rugg, whose notebook drawings I featured here, has more artwork you’ll enjoy:
“I have a Flickr set with a bunch of notebook drawings here:”
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Former Addict of the Week LizAnne’s tio:
“I just finished reading David Sedaris’ new book “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls“. In it there is a lovely story about his relationship to his diary. It is called “Day In, Day Out”.”
Thanks to everyone for the great info!
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