Engineer’s Field Notebook, late 1980s

A couple months ago I posted about the artist David Fullarton and wondered where I could get a notebook like the one he used for his work. Well, it turns out I had only to look in my own collection! The unusual gridded pages appearing in Fullarton’s artwork come from an engineer’s field book like this one:


I’d forgotten I had this notebook, which I bought when I was in college and used for notes and sketches. It measures 7 1/4 x 4 5/8″, with a hard cover faintly embossed with the words “Field Book 1308” (1308 is the Boorum & Pease product number).

The inside front cover has the Boorum and Pease logo and item number, and boasts of the following features:

This book contains a superior 50% rag content paper having a high degree moisture resisting surface. Waterproof ink is used and it is sewed with Bing Enamel Waterproof Thread. The binding material is also waterproof.


The pages all have the strange grid format– horizontal rectangles on the left side, and a small grid pattern bisected with a red line on the right side. It’s funny, both my dad and brother-in-law are engineers, but I’ve never known them to have a notebook like this, and I have no idea why an engineer needs that particular kind of grid layout! The same exact page layout is also used in something called a “Mining Transit Book,” which is even more mystifying to me, urban thought-worker desk-jockey that I am.

Here’s a few of my odd notes and sketches. I have to say I found the bathroom stall one rather amusing and have no memory of having drawn it!


In the back of the notebook, there are several printed pages with information that I suppose an engineer might use, or would have in pre- laptop computer days– mathematical formulas and various other tables.


I still really like this notebook. The paper is quite sturdy and the binding also held up to being knocked around quite a bit. And there’s something about that weird grid pattern that really appeals to me! I also love the old-fashioned look of the cover. The brown color is kind of ugly, but it’s sexy-retro-ugly, somehow. I think more notebooks should be made in these sorts of colors– black covers can get a little boring after a while but it’s a bummer when the only alternatives are too bright and cheerful. (Kikkerland’s Writersblok notebooks are one of the few pleasingly muted alternatives.) If this notebook could be shrunk down to the pocket size 3.5 x 5.5″ format, I might never use anything else.

I haven’t seen a notebook like this in a retail store for a long time, but similar ones are available online from

8 thoughts on “Engineer’s Field Notebook, late 1980s”

  1. I’ve got one very similar to this as well, purchased for a college surveying class. They’re extremely useful and hardy (they have to be to stand up to field work like that).

  2. Oh, and I forgot to mention: the ‘strange grid pattern’ is specifically for surveying. It’s laid out in such a way that you can record dimensions, bearings and station names on the left hand sheet and use the right hand side to draw a small map/plan/layout of the area you’re surveying.

    I learned how to do it by hand in 2000/2001 but I’m guessing it is no longer taught because it’s really, really fiddly and time-consuming and there are new surveying tools that make it more-or-less a pointless skill to have.

  3. The Rite in the Rain company produces a full line of such field books, including some with regular lined pages that make great outdoor journals, including some pocket sized versions. I’ve used their journals on backpacking trips and they live up to their weather-proof billing. However, if you’re looking for understated, you might not like their bright yellow covers (but they sure make them easy to find on a dark and stormy day).

  4. Actually, not all Rite in the Rain notebooks are that bright yellow– here’s one in a nice green.
    Thanks for the tip, Steve, as I hadn’t realized they offer this page layout!

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