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.
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.
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.
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.
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.