An excellent article at LitHub by Bradford Morrow, author of the just-published Prague Sonata, among other books. Really interesting look at a writer’s process and why he prefers physical note-taking to digital methods. Big thanks to reader Raymond for sending me the tip!
“My memory is good, but capricious at times. My scraps of paper get misplaced or wind up in the laundry. I don’t want to figure out dictation software. And my thumbs are hopeless, which is only part of the reason I hate texting. In an era of smart phones, palm-sized digital cameras, and featherweight laptops—also known as “notebooks”—the very idea of lugging around a heavy, folio-sized, hardcover Boorum & Pease record-ruled 9-300-R ledger or oversized black spiral-bound artist sketchbook, would seem at once masochistic and medieval. Yet, these behemoths, straight out of some Dickensian accountant’s office or landscape architect’s atelier, have served as my notebooks of choice for well over 20 years.”
Read more (and see lots more notebook images) at: Why Digital Note-Taking Will Never Replace the Physical Journal | Literary Hub
Here’s another simple notebook style from Boorum and Pease, and this one still seems to be available, at least in this size and format: Boorum & Pease Handy Size 7 x 4 3/8 Inch 96-Page Bound Memo Book with Stiff Tan Cover (6559)
Below is from a post by Andy at Woodclinched (a blog about wooden pencils) looking at his father-in-law’s old notebooks:
“My father-in-law built a boat. We all thought it was an improvised affair; with PVC pipes lashed to two-by-fours and duct tape. But he’s apparently been planning it for quite a while. In fact, he has a whole notebook where he planned it out and documented his project…”
Read more at Boorum & Pease | Woodclinched. Andy’s father-in-law also had a nice engineer’s field book by a company I’d never heard of, Keuffel and Esser. Andy also provides a link to this history of the Boorum and Pease company.
A reader recently wrote to me with the following question:
“I have been looking for a particular kind of notebook for quite some time. I see them more in movies than anything, and examples include JFK and the most recent Captain America movie (see pic below). It’s very similar to the one you have posted for Samuel Beckett. It’s got a brown card stock soft cover, ruled pages, and I believe stapled or stitched binding with a darker color tape (?) placed along the bound edge for reinforcement. They look like the sort of thing that would only cost a dollar or two. I’ve looked everywhere and cannot find them. Do you happen to know where I might find such a thing?”
I get so many questions about notebooks where I am completely stumped, but this time, I had some answers! I had a few of these notebooks in my own collection:
I bought these in the 1980s, in various stationery/office supply stores. Mine were made by Boorum & Pease, stock # 6086 1/2. Other brands may also have been available back in the day, perhaps in other parts of the country– Boorum and Pease was a NY/NJ-based company for many years, so these may have been more common in the Northeast. It’s rather quaint to think of regional stationery brands in today’s globalized world, isn’t it! But at least in the area where I grew up, these notebooks used to be pretty common and inexpensive. I loved the look of the reddish-brown cover with the black tape on the spine. The square corners could get beat up, but other than that, they were really handy little notebooks, and it’s a shame they seem to have gone out of fashion.
In searching for a contemporary version online, these were the closest things I could find: Oxford Side Opening 48 SHT Memo Book 5″ x 3″ – # 6080 1/2 and Roaring Springs Sewn Memo Book Item # 76096. There are similar ones on Amazon under the brand names Wilson & Jones and Adams Manufacturing. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t the same pocket sized version as mine– I mainly found listings for larger sizes. I’ve collected all the ones I could find on Amazon (plus some other fun stuff) in the Notebook Stories store under “Retro Style Notebooks.” If anyone else can suggest places to buy these notebooks today, please let us know in the comments!
I thought it would be fun to have a whole week of posts about an old brand of notebooks that used to be ubiquitous and now has become almost– but not quite— extinct: Boorum and Pease. They started out as an independent manufacturer of blank books based in Brooklyn, but since then, they’ve been absorbed in a couple of corporate mergers and the name has largely disappeared, except for a few products. Most of the Boorum & Pease notebooks that are available today seem to be larger format ledgers and record books for accounting:
These are pretty cool for their own reasons, but they aren’t pocket size notebooks for the casual user like Boorum & Pease used to make. This week’s posts will take a look a closer look at a couple of their old-style notebooks, which many notebook enthusiasts are desperately trying to find nowadays!
Stay tuned for some retro notebook goodness, and in the meantime, here’s a few posts where I’ve mentioned this brand before:
Boorum and Pease Engineer’s Field Book, Late 1980s
Notebook Addict of the Week: John Dickerson
Notebook Trivia: Boorum & Pease Building