How Did Your Notebook Collection Start?

A reader named Marjorie wrote to ask how my notebook collection started. It’s hard for me to remember exactly, because I’ve loved notebooks since before I can even remember!

My parents have said that when I was about 3, I was already folding pieces of paper in to little booklets to scribble on. A few years later, I was given one of those free calendar booklets that Hallmark stores or drugstores used to sometimes give away. I remember having a few of these– with at least one of them, I cut it down from a squarish shape into a more pleasing rectangle, so that would have been my first attempt at notebook alteration. These earliest notebooks I’ve just described are almost the only ones I don’t still have today.

By the time I was about 8, I started sometimes using my 25 cents a week allowance to buy a 3 x5″ spiral notebook. I think one of the first ones was the green memo book you can see in the center of the top row of notebooks in the header photo of this blog. My obsession with these caught the eye of my aunt, who started giving me the diaries she got for free each year as a member of the Harvard Coop– you can see 4 of them at top left in the header, but I have even more than that. These were the first notebooks I truly adored and I carried one with me everywhere. When it was obvious how much I loved the first one, my aunt dug around in her drawers to find older ones she’d never used and gave me those too. The way the notebooks were made changed slightly over the years, and I remember comparing them closely– whether the plastic cover was glued onto the pages, or whether they slid into a detachable cover, whether the texture of the cover was smooth or leather-like, etc. After those notebooks, I still bought lots of spiral notebooks and other styles, but I think they instilled a long-lasting affection for the “little black book” form that was later reawakened by Moleskines and other similar notebooks.

I never got rid of any of my early notebooks– I just started stashing them in my desk or in shoeboxes and the collection kept growing. Many were stored at my parents’ house when I left for college, and many more continued to accumulate. In 7th grade, I had a notebook I really liked that was lost or stolen, and I’ve never forgotten it, because I don’t think I’ve ever lost another one, and because I was never able to find a replacement just like it. So the collection I have now is truly a lifetime of notebooks.

How about you, readers? Tell us how your collection started!

10 thoughts on “How Did Your Notebook Collection Start?”

  1. I had kept a journal on and off since I was about 14, but then in 1997 I took a spiritual journaling course and started keeping a journal faithfully from that point till now. I found that I needed different notebooks for different purposes — a daily diary, a reading journal, a journal for general writing, a pocket notebook for the minutiae of daily life, and so on. So I started accumulating different notebooks as I came across ones that appealed to me, until I now have quite a cache. I imagine a good many of them I will never use and they will wind up being left to my descendants. Fortunately, my wife finds my notebook obsession fairly innocuous as obsessions go, so I can get away with a certain level of notebook acquisitiveness.

  2. Wow, awesome question. Like Jen, I’m going to have a think about this and write a blog post. I’ll post a link here when it’s done!

  3. I have the same ” disease” .
    I love notebooks for many years, lately the handmade ones. I would love to have them them all,
    I can spend hours on internet hunting something special. With the introducing of Etsy I found beautifull notebooks?

  4. i also have a obsession with notebooks. i can remember that i hoarded a lot (really a lot) of little paper pieces when i was about 5 years old. i was (and i’m still) fascinated of paper. i don’t know why, but just to feel paper makes me happy, exactly like writing. and so i began a few jears ago to buy me notebooks. a lot of them are already used, but the other ones i just have to have them. i love to look at them and to know that i have so many. for me this seems a little bit crazy and maybe i have to go to the therapy but nevertheless i think that this is a common disease and so it gets normal… 😀

  5. I began in my teens…at least when it became an obsession. It kicked into high gear in my 20s. I moved to new york and without anyone to talk to…my journals became my lifeline and it exploded from like 10 notebooks to like 60 notebooks.

  6. For me it started in college when I finally learned that I needed to write down such important things as due dates for assignments. (Funny, I didn’t have a problem remembering times for extracurricular activities.) Anyway, the notes I kept were much like the survey notes I took when working with my Dad. Since then, I have always kept a date book of one type or another to help record the history of my life. Once I discovered Franklin planners, it just sort of mushroomed. Now, I use it to record EVERYTHING; from the mundane, to the extraordinary, to the “cover your…”, to the truly eventful, and everything in between. Now, if I can only find a place to store this 30 some-odd years worth of notebooks.

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