Robert Smith’s Notebooks

Robert Smith is a journalist who works on NPR’s Planet Money. I love this photo of his notebooks!

Here’s part of his story on how they ended up this way:

“I started to put photos on the front of my notebooks because I kept losing track of which one I was using. I would just pick up the closest pad, and the next thing I knew I had 7 different notebooks going. It was crazy. So I started to snip photos out of magazines and review copies of books, and glue them on the front.I guess I grew sort of fond of each notebook. You know, you carry them around all day and they become symbolic of certain stories. My hurricane Katrina notebook has a fire breathing monster on it. The notebook I used during a difficult week I spent as a host has a falling tree on it…”

Read more at » Here’s what NPR ‘Planet Money’ journalist Robert Smith does with his old notebooks JIMROMENESKO.COM. Photo by @ryankailath

Notebook Addict of the Week (again): P. W.

This week’s addict was first featured in 2012 with this photo of their collection:

As of January 2015, here’s the current collection:

Annotated on Flickr as follows:

my stack of blank notebooks. from left to right:

- moleskine large weekly notebook planner 2014, le petit prince edition

- little prince diary, gift from a friend, purchased in hong kong

- hardcover notebook, souvenir, purchased at the vatican museum

- staple-bound softcover notebooks, souvenirs, purchased at vertecchi, rome

- hand-decorated softcover notebook, souvenir, purchased at il papiro, rome

- hardcover notebook, souvenir, purchased at cartoleria pantheon, rome

- moleskine large weekly notebook and small daily planners 2013, le petit prince edition

- moleskine weekly notebook planner 2012, pacman edition

- moleskine large ruled and small plain notebooks, the hobbit edition

- stone paper softcover notebook, souvenir, purchased at the royal ontario museum, toronto

- moleskine large weekly notebook planner 2011

- moleskine large ruled and small plain notebooks, star wars edition

- moleskine large ruled notebooks, indigo exclusive edition

- large hardcover twine-bound notebook, gift from brother, purchased in mexico city

- moleskine large ruled and small plain notebooks, le petit prince edition

- moleskine large weekly notebook planner 2010

- large hardcover notebook with handmade paper

- moleskine small blank notebook, peanuts edition

- moleskine large ruled notebooks, indigo exclusive edition

- moleskine small ruled notebooks, van gogh edition

- tarpaper notebook, souvenir, purchased at la feltrinelli on via di torre argentina, rome

- stifflexible notebook, souvenir, purchased at la feltrinelli on via di torre argentina, rome

- leather cover notebook, souvenir, purchased at san lorenzo market, florence

- handmade notebook, souvenir, purchased at montserrat

- softcover notebook, souvenir, purchased at park guell, barcelona

What a great idea to take regularly updated photos of the collection as it grows, with notes on where each one was purchased. A lot of these are from Rome, which I think will have to be my next major notebook shopping destination!

Diary of a WWI Soldier

A beautiful old notebook containing the recollections of Alfred Gougeon, a French stretcher-bearer in World War 1. It sounds like he kept daily notes during the war, and then returned to them in the 1960s to write more about his experiences, given the two sets of dates on the cover. His family kept 3 of his notebooks, with writings about the war and also his post-war life as a maker of surgical instruments.


See more interior images at Europeana 1914-1918

Review: Essentials Notebook

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I first saw the Essentials Notebook brand on the Barnes & Noble website– an accidental find, while looking for the Piccadilly Essential Notebook. I don’t know if the similar naming was deliberate, but the products are from two different companies. This Essentials Notebook is made by Peter Pauper Press, and I bought it at the lovely Montclair Stationery shop in Montclair, New Jersey. (If you are in the area, please go and buy something from them! See this post for some examples of the time-warp gems they have stashed amongst their shelves.)

I bought this notebook purely for research purposes, because it was a brand I’d never tried, and at $8.99 it was relatively cheap. I was pretty sure I’d never use it, as the 4 x 5.5″ shape is a bit too wide for me– and though those are the measurements cited on the packaging, the actual size according to my ruler is about 4.25 x 5.75″– even further from the 3.5 x 5.5″ standard I prefer. (Though if I’m really going to be a stickler about it, I should admit that most supposedly 3.5 x 5.5″ notebooks aren’t quite that size either– Moleskines are actually about 3 5/8 x 5 5/8″.) I could also see that the cover overhang was big enough to get on my nerves, and not quite symmetrical, though it at least wasn’t crooked. The notebook was shrink-wrapped, so I couldn’t really get much of a feel for it otherwise, and figured it was just another cheapo Moleskine clone.

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My first impressions after taking off the shrinkwrap weren’t much better– the binding is a little wonky around the spine. Worse, when I opened the back cover, there must have been some stray glue between the pages, as the inside back cover stuck to the expanding pocket and ripped. Despite all that, I felt like the notebook had a nice heft and somehow felt solid and substantial.

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The branding is mostly on a removable paper band tucked around the front cover. There is nothing else on the inside front, but on the next page there is copyright info– this is standard in books, but not something you usually see in notebooks. The Essentials name is stamped on the lower back cover. Inside the back cover, there is some background info on Peter Pauper Press.

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The notebook opens nice and flat, and the paper inside is smooth and bright white. The paper weight is not specified, but it feels great to write on, and I was pleasantly surprised at its performance. A little less show-through than average, and quite good on bleed-through. Fountain pens did show very slight feathering, but drying time wasn’t too bad– the Lamy smeared at 5 seconds but both were dry by 10 seconds. I think most users would be quite happy with this paper.

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I ended up being a lot more charmed by this notebook than I expected to be. There’s something about it that just feels solid and good, and while it’s far from perfect for my particular preferences, there’s nothing about it that makes me want to throw it out the window. (See the Metro notebook review for an example of a notebook that DOES make me feel that way!) Although I’m usually so picky about the proportions of my notebooks, I felt like this is one I could happily draw in and be glad to have the extra width, especially with the pages opening flat so easily.

The Essentials Notebooks come in pocket and large sizes, with grid, lined, and plain formats. Black and red covers are available. Amazon has some value-priced two-packs available also.


Sketchbob’s Sketchbooks

Sketchbob has a website you could spend hours on. In the Gallery section, he posts every page of a dozen amazing sketchbooks, including these:

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He also has a great page of resources. The blog portion of the site doesn’t seem to have been updated in a couple of years, but I hope he’ll go back to updating it someday!

Italian Notebook

I love this image of what seems to be an old diary written in Italian.


Found at the link below– I’m not sure how the text and image relate, even after a translation to English!
Via Taccuino di prigionia (17) | Brotture.

Quo Vadis Memoriae

I came across these Quo Vadis notebooks while randomly browsing the web. Looks like a similar concept to Moleskine Passions– themed notebooks for subjects like wine, children, relationships, etc. I’d never seen them before and figured they must be new, but further searches showed me to be quite wrong. Stephanie at Spiritual Evolution of the Bean wrote about them back in 2008, and noted that the folks at Exaclair had told her this series isn’t distributed in the US. No wonder I hadn’t seen them!
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See more at Carnets de notes « Quo Vadis Agendas. I was amazed to see how many gazillions of different notebooks and agendas Quo Vadis offers in Europe, as their offerings here in the US seem very limited in comparison.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Erica

This week’s addict tweeted me a link to a video of her collection, which you can see below. You’ll love all the variety of her journals, and how densely filled they look! Lots of tantalizing glimpses of pages fulled with text and art.

Erica also blogs at The Nerd Journals, where you’ll find even more videos and photos of her collection, as well as reviews. Thanks for sharing your addiction, Erica!

A Sketchy Sketchbook

I love seeing sketchbooks that are really sketchy– not finished, perfect works on each page, but a mish-mash of lines and colors, where you can really see the artist working things out in a process.
The one below is from ANOBELISK, where the artist, an illustration student, says:

“I fill a sketchbook with images and text every month or two. They are invaluable tools for supplementing my imperfect caches of memory and inspiration. Beyond that, their pages act as snapshots of my state of mind, my daily affairs, my goals, and my fears. Patterns of material and subject reveal the rhythm of my week, in terms of the demands of my classes, and of idle and active imaginings that fall outside of what is asked of me.”


The sketchbook itself is a 5×8″ version of the Pentalic Illustrator’s Sketchbook.

See more at October 2012 Sketchbook.

An Anonymous Sketchbook

A lovely and mysterious sketchbook from an Australian archive:

“One of the most intriguing items in the James Cook University Library Special Collections is a private sketchbook dating from the end of the 19th century. It is considered an anonymous work because its creator, and/or copyright owner, is unknown and so far cannot be traced.

Appearing on the early pages are the initials NB, which we might reasonably assume to be the artist’s. But the full name, and gender, of the person who sketched and painted the plants and landscapes are hidden. So what can this book tell us about its mysterious owner and his or her travels?”


Read more at White Gloves: Victorian lady’s sketchbook – ABC Queensland – Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

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