Review: Calepino Notebook

It’s taken me forever to get around to reviewing these notebooks, despite having basically had someone else write it for me! Below are some comments and photos from Ted, a former addict of the week:

Got my order of Calepino today. Basically the french Field Notes. Right down to some of the wording on the website. You even get the extra goodies. Ruler, Bic 50’s reissue and a pencil. This is a great notebook. Heavy duty all around. Chipboard cover in the 100-120# range. Approx 60# interior pages. A little coarse. Green grid. No bleed and only slight show through except for the obvious sharpie. 2 staple saddle stitch. We’ll see how that plays out over time abuse wise. This is thicker and heavier than a doane. The stack is FN, Moleskine, doane, Calepino. I think this book is great and easily as good as a FN only sturdier. The only negative is price. All told 20.00 & change after discounts and shipping. Auto 19% discount outside eu plus 5% email sign up. For my daily pocket book a 3 pack takes me over a year to use so for me this is totally worth it to have a great notebook like this.

Ted’s photos:

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I basically agree. I didn’t order mine from France– I was lucky enough to find them stocked at McNally Jackson bookstore in SoHo (a GREAT bookstore with an excellent selection of stationery products). My 3-pack of squared notebooks was $12.95. I like the packaging a lot– the sturdy cardboard case could be used to store used notebooks later, or to stash index cards (if anyone still uses them!).

The notebooks themselves feel substantial, with a nice heavy cover and cleanly cut corners. I like the design– it may seem like overly loud branding to some, but I find the stripes attractive, and the exterior just says what it is in a fairly straightforward way, without any smirking. Inside, the usual space for your info on the inside front cover, and a story about the company in the back, which I translate roughly as follows:

The hardcover notebook was covered with sawdust, often set down between the plane and its shavings. Or on the machine tool or the workbench in my father’s woodworking shop in the basement. With his big red wooden pencil, he made notes in it, drew his plans and sketches, then slid it into the rear pocket of his overalls.  Calepino was born with the desire to offer these notebooks again. Simple, practical and durable… to fill with your notes, creations, or memories, now on 100% recycled paper, made in France.

[As an aside, I think it is really interesting to note the different kinds of memories, nostalgia and aspirations that are encoded in the marketing schemes of various notebook brands. Moleskine wants to be all about creativity and travel, trying to associate themselves with globe-trotting writers and artists of the early 20th century. Field Notes romanticizes American agriculture in a simpler time when small-scale farmers used notebooks given to them as promotional items by companies that took the time to sell them seeds or machinery. Calepino similarly looks back at a warm memory of craftsmanship, and associates notebooks with the hand tools used by a worker in blue overalls. When is someone going to present a notebook that will explicitly appeal to our deep-seated inner desires to look like a black-clad, espresso-sipping avant-garde architect in fancy eyeglasses? Or our longing to replicate the notebooks used by a harried suburban soccer mom with long lists of groceries to buy and children's activities to plan? Or our desire to associate ourselves with the eternal cool of the pimply teenaged Dungeons and Dragons player, scribbling spells and maps on crumpled pages stained with Mountain Dew? Surely these marketing schemes will come along when enough time has passed for them to have that retro appeal?]

Here’s my own photos:

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The Calepino paper feels less smooth to the touch than many others I’ve tried, but fine point pens still somehow glide over it quite comfortably. Fountain pens worked well. The grid lines slightly resist certain inks. I also found the bleedthrough and showthrough to be better than average.

Ted also sent me a followup email after he ordered several packs of Calepino’s first limited edition:

Got my Calepino Alteration Limited Edition. #’s 37-41/500 copies. Pretty swell. Thought you might like to see them. Cover appears to be sections of a painting/paintings? Doesn’t look familiar and doesn’t look like it fits together in any way. Dark Gray ruled pages which kind of sucks with such a colorful cover. Rulings occasionally off left to right on the pages if one writes across the crease. And I’ve noticed an ever so slight amount of smearing when using my regular graph so a couple seconds drying time. I got approx. 18 euro discount for ordering so much but can’t say at what point that kicked in. It was better than free shipping anyway which I was suppose to get. Fabrice apologized for that and sent a free pack of graph so I made out pretty well considering the exchange. I can say nothing bad about this company. Great product and service on the two purchases I’ve made. Even sent a quality heavy stock card thanking me and apologizing for the mix up and free pack. Hope the pics turned out. As I’ve said before, Field Notes, but their somewhat rougher around the edges French cousin. Or something.

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If there’s anything negative to be said about Calepino, it’s only that they really do seem to be copying what Field Notes has done– packing the notebooks with pencils and pens, offering subscriptions, creating limited editions to encourage collectors, etc. But at the end of the day, these are notebooks, after all, and there’s not all that much you can do to reinvent the wheel! But they are making a very nice product and I’m looking forward to using mine.

Ruled, plain, and squared pages are available, one size only. See here for a list of retailers around the world, or you can order directly from the website.

Thanks again to Ted for sharing his photos and comments!

 

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