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).

Moleskine Monday: Voyageur Notebook Review

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The Moleskine Voyageur notebook was introduced last summer, and so far remains a unique outlier in their product line. It’s an odd size, in between the classic pocket and large notebooks. It has a brown cloth-bound cover. It has a fancy die-cut paper wrapper with a travel-themed collage element. It has colored endpapers. I guess you could say it’s a departure from the norm (pun intended).

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There are other aspects of it that seem like an offshoot of their City Notebook series, which makes sense, given the travel theme. (The City Notebook line has been scaled way back to only the biggest destinations. It’s a shame, but understandable, as they must have been very expensive to produce in the first place, let alone trying to update transit maps as needed. But I love them nonetheless.) There are 3 different-colored ribbon markers, and a section with useful travel info. This part is similar to what is found in many diaries by Moleskine and other brands– dialing codes, time zone map, places to write extensive personal details including loyalty card numbers, etc. There are pages titled “Places to Go” and “Places I’ve Been,” as well as one meant for stamps, and at the end there are perforated packing list and to-do list pages. There is also an index, and a sheet of stickers. In between are numbered pages in 3 sections– lined, dot grid, and plain.

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Some of the elements of this notebook sound very similar to the Travel Journal in the Passions series. I haven’t looked closely enough at one of those to really compare it to the Voyageur, but it does make me wonder why they decided to create this other product which would seem to target the same niche. Perhaps the Passions format was seen as being a little too structured, and the Voyageur was aiming at a better balance of pre-formatted vs. blank pages.

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And yet… there are a LOT of instructions to this notebook. Before you even open it, you’re being instructed to use the paper wrapper in your travel photos to say “I Am Here,” and hashtag them to connect to “the Moleskine community.” (What does that even mean anymore? It’s like trying to connect to “the Diet Coke community” or “the Nike community.”) Then there’s a whole how-to page telling you to download things and paste them in your notebook, share your travel details in a Flickr group, and turn your snapshots into a Moleskine photo book. It’s a shame so much of this is printed on pages in the notebook itself rather than in a removable booklet.

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The overall impression is that there’s a lot of elaborate fuss over how to use this “traveler’s notebook for the digital age,” and it’s rather a shame, because A) utter simplicity and blank-slate-ness is what made Moleskine’s notebooks iconic in the first place, and B) when you get past all the fussy stuff, I think it’s actually the best notebook Moleskine has made in years, at least in terms of its construction. The brown cloth cover is lovely. The notebook is beautifully made, with a tolerable degree of cover overhang, everything even and square, and very neatly tucked corners. It’s as if they brought their quality control team out of hibernation for this product. Some of the features, such as numbered pages and an index, have been on Moleskine fans’ wishlists for years, and have driven them to switch to Leuchtturm to get them. I love the extra ribbon markers and the colors they chose for them. I even like the size– it’s not one that I tend to use a lot, but at 4.5 x 7″, it is the same proportion as the pocket notebooks in 3.5 x 5.5″, and that ratio always seems to appeal to me. I like having the sections with different paper types, and how they used different color inks for the page numbers, dots, and lines. The colored tabs along the edges might encroach a bit too much on the page space for some people, but as a design element they are attractive and I like the idea of putting a subject header or date in them, though some inks may bead up on the tabs.

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Moleskine paper is the major thing that has driven many fans away, and the Voyageur is no different in that respect– lots of show-through, and bleed-through with quite a few pens. Fine point gel ink pens are ok, though, and fortunately those are what I use day to day. I did a side-by-side paper comparison with one of my old Modo Moleskines– bleed-through performance wasn’t great in that one either, but you can see how much better it was on show-through. The only test where the Voyageur out-performed the older paper was the 5-second stay-in-one-spot test with the Accu-Liner, which spread out more in the Modo notebook.

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I bought my Voyageur online— I was intrigued by the description of the features when I first heard about it, but I had my misgivings. It had already been a while since I bought any current-production Moleskines due to the quality issues, though I still snag old Modo & Modo ones from time to time if I come across them. Fortunately, the quality of the Voyageur was a pleasant surprise when it arrived. It has that hard to define “wantability” that would have drawn me to it on a store shelf, and “wantability” is exactly what the rest of Moleskine’s products have been lacking for me the past few years. I don’t know how or when I’ll use this notebook, but I do want to find a way to use it. But just out of orneriness and dislike of redundant instructions, I probably won’t use the Voyageur for anything related to travel!  #m_iamnotthere

Notebook Addict of the Week: JournalJoy

This week’s addict emailed me some lovely photos of an extensive collection!

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In her own words:

I have been writing since I was 13 years old and have had passion for journals ever since. A good notebook inspires me and tickles my creativity, makes me wanna express myself on it’s crisp untouched pages. It’s always there, nudging me to explore life and to dig a little deeper.
I mostly use Leuchtturm 1917, along with Moleskine, Ogami, Rustico and many more.
About a year ago I started a YouTube channel called Journaljoy, https://www.youtube.com/user/journaljoy
where I mostly do notebook reviews and comparisons, like this one:

I am looking forward to watching some of those videos so I can see this collection in even more detail! Thanks for sharing your addiction, Journaljoy!