Tag Archives: clothbound

Waverley Scottish Plaid Notebooks

Something new and different! Spotted at Kinokuniya bookstore in NYC:

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I haven’t seen these for sale anywhere else, but they’re made by a UK company: Waverley Books. Two sizes are available. Here’s the full product description from their site:

The Waverley Scotland Tartan Cloth Commonplace Notebooks Anderson has 176 pages (left side blank, right side ruled), acid-free, threadsewn, 80 gsm cream shade pages, are bound in genuine Scottish tartan cloth over board, with round cornered cover and bookblock corners, stained edges and a matching elastic enclosure.

Each volume has a ribbon-marker and an expandable inner note holder made of cardboard and cloth, and removable booklet with background notes, with a Clan Map of Scotland, and with an individual bookmark, giving detail on the specific tartan used for the binding.

The tartan cloth is supplied by and produced with the authority of Kinloch Anderson Scotland, holders of Royal Warrants of Appointment as Tailors and Kiltmakers to HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales.

Trimmed page size: 90 × 140 mm

Hardback, 176 pp.

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The pocket size notebooks are available on Amazon for $14.95.

Review & Giveaway: Stamford Notebooks

I’ve had my eye on Stamford notebooks for a while–  in fact, probably since they first started producing them in October 2013! In following their brand on Facebook, I was always impressed at the huge variety of colors and materials offered for their covers, and the fact that they are made in the UK. It was great to get some samples to review– let’s take a look!

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I received two pocket size notebooks, one in a blue lizard-embossed glossy paper cover, and one in tan linen cloth. They come nicely packaged in a paper sleeve that completely protects the notebook.

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They have the usual paper band with the Stamford branding. Inside, there is also a removable card with a greeting from the company and their contact information. I was surprised that neither the band nor the card had specs such as the page count, size, and paper weight used in the notebook, as is typical with many other brands.

The usual ribbon marker and elastic closure are included, but there is no pocket in the back. The inside front cover has some brand info, but other than that the endpapers are just a plain grey. Compared to a pocket size Moleskine, the Stamford notebook is very slightly larger due to the cover overhang, but the page size is somewhat smaller. It’s also a bit thicker, with a bit of room in the binding at the spine. If I am counting correctly, the notebook has 176 pages– 11 signatures of 16 pages each. The notebook opens pretty flat, but there is a bit more glue in the spine so it feels a bit stiffer when you first bend it open.

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The paper inside feels wonderfully smooth and creamy from the moment you first touch it– it reminded me of Clairefontaine paper in its cool, sleek feel. In my pen tests, it was lovely to write on, with average show-through, and better than average bleed-through. Fountain pens worked nicely, though drying time is a bit long, and the J. Herbin ink in my Lamy pen seemed to feather a wee bit. The Pilot Varsity fountain pen was flawless.

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Stamford says their notebooks are hand-bound using traditional bookbinding methods (photos and videos of which they sometimes share via social media– pretty cool!), and they do seem to be made with above-average quality and good materials. The samples I received did have some slight imperfections, like the overhang being slightly wider on one side of the cover than the other, but the round corners were neatly tucked, which I always see as a sign of good workmanship. I really love the linen covered sample I received– it’s a cover material that I wish more people would use! (The only other examples of it I can think of are HandBook’s watercolor journals.)

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My only problem with these notebooks is that I don’t like the wide cover overhang. But for those who aren’t bothered by that, these notebooks will be a treat. They can be ordered in so many colors and materials and sizes, with either ruled or plain paper. They even offer personalized embossing of your initials for £5 extra. The pocket size starts at £14.95 for most cover materials except for leather, which starts at a few pounds more. That pricing is comparable to many other brands– a bit more than Moleskines usually go for, though I’ve seen them for that much in airport shops. Given that Stamford notebooks are manufactured in the UK with good quality materials, I don’t think they are overpriced. Currently they are only available in UK shops and Stamford’s online store. Toronto, Tokyo and Paris shops are also soon to be added to the list, and I hope they’ll expand their distribution to the US!
In the meantime, I’ve got a lovely blue lizard notebook to give away to a lucky reader! The winner will be chosen randomly from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Stamford Notebooks @SNCStamford @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @SNCStamford.

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Stamford Notebook Company page and post something containing the words “Stamford Notebooks” on the Notebook Stories page.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Stamford Notebooks” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday March 6, 2015 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.

Moleskine Monday: The Voyageur Traveller’s Notebook

Here’s a new product from Moleskine that looks kind of cool: The Voyageur Traveller’s Notebook.
When I first saw it, I thought, “Wow, Moleskine’s trying to get a piece of the Midori Traveller’s Notebook action.”
There are lots of differences, but this new Moleskine is brown, which seems to be the most popular Midori color, and has a new trim size of 4×7″, which is smaller than the Midori, but a bit closer to its proportions than the usual Moleskine shape. (They say the size is “designed to store printed emails, itineraries and maps” though I’m not sure why 4×7 was considered the best size for that– a taller size would more easily hold anything printed on letter or legal size paper with just a fold or two.) Beyond that, the similarities are limited. The Moleskine has a cloth cover, which is a first. It comes with sections of different page formats– lined, plain, and dot grid, as well as some travel-themed stickers.

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Find out more at Moleskine’s website. You can also pre-order it on Amazon, with stock due July 23, 2014: Moleskine Voyageur Traveller’s Notebook, Nutmeg Brown, Soft Cover

Review and Giveaway: Notes and Dabbles

I was excited to discover this new brand, as I’m always looking for nice, basic notebooks with simple extra touches that differentiate them from the pack. I really liked the look of Notes & Dabbles’ cloth-covered notebooks as well as the leather-look hardcovers and softcovers, so I immediately wrote to the company to request samples. They very generously complied! Look at all the goodies:

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My immediate favorites were the softcover notebooks. They are a really nice size that just fits nicely in the hand, and in the pocket. You can see below that they are noticeably smaller than a pocket hardcover Moleskine. Though all the notebooks I received are supposedly 90 x 140 mm, these softcovers are actually 87 x 137mm– I’m not complaining, though. The red and dark navy covers are pleasing shades, in a somewhat glossier cover material than other similar notebooks I’ve tried. The covers have an extra layer of reinforcement that stiffens them a bit and hopefully would prevent corners from curling with prolonged use. The brand is stamped on the back cover. Inside the front cover there are lines for contact info. Inside the back cover, there is an expanding pocket, with an extra little slot where you can tuck a business card. There is an elastic closure but no ribbon marker. The last few pages are perforated. The notebook opens nice and flat.

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The paper is very similar to what you’ll find in a Moleskine– nice and smooth and a pleasure to write on with fine point gel ink pens. Unfortunately it is a bit worse than average in terms of show-through and bleed-through, and fountain pens seem to feather out a bit.

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Given the somewhat too-light paper, this would not be something I’d want to use for heavy-duty journal writing or as a sketchbook, but it would be a great daily jotter to throw in a bag or jacket pocket. I really love the size and feel of this notebook, and couldn’t tear myself away from the sample as soon as I’d unpacked it!

The cloth-covered notebooks have true 90 x 140mm sizing on the outside, though there is a bit of cover overhang so the book block within is about the same size as the softcover notebook. I love clothbound covers on notebooks like the HandBook Artist Journals, and wish they were used more. I also love colored page edges. The black covers with yellow and orange edges are a bit bright but fun. The grey is nice, but I’d prefer it with a different contrasting color than blue. My only disappointment with these was the construction– the spines are very loose, as if the cover was sized to have a thicker book block inside it. The extra material tends to bulge out unevenly and it just looks a bit sloppy. These also have the back pocket with the business card slot, and a nice bonus feature: two ribbon markers, in colors matching the rest of the notebook.

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The pen-loop notebooks were my least favorite of the batch– for one, I personally never use pen loops and I generally don’t like the way they throw off the clean edges of a notebook. But it did seem like a clever concept to put the loop on the spine instead of the edge where the notebook opens– since it’s elastic, it sits pretty flat against the spine and is a lot less obtrusive when you’re not using it. The construction of this notebook is rather unusual (though not unique, as the Fabio Ricci “Goran” notebook seems to be almost identical). The hard leather-look front and back cover each end in a line of stitching near the spine, and the spine is made of cloth in a contrasting color, with the black elastic pen loop on top. I don’t love the white with blue or pink color combos, though there are more attractive black and grey versions also available.

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All these notebooks are available in plain, lined and dotted page versions, and also in larger sizes. Notes and Dabbles doesn’t seem to have US distribution yet, but keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates about retail availability. And in the meantime, I’ve got lots of samples to share with some lucky readers!

I will send two notebooks each to 5 lucky winners from entries received in the following ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Notes & Dabbles” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories .

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Notes & Dabbles page, and post something containing the words “Notes & Dabbles” on the Notebook Stories wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Notes & Dabbles” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday May 2, 2014 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.

Review: Kapdaa Offcuts Notebook

The folks at Kapdaa contacted me from India to offer a sample of a very cool concept: notebooks covered in leftover fabrics from clothing. An offcut is the material that remains after the clothing pattern has been cut out. Often it just goes to waste, but Kapdaa uses these remnants to make attractive cloth-bound journals (as well as other product like iPad sleeves and bookmarks). They have 3 lines, all hand-bound in India:

– Formal offcuts (such as Pinstripe suits offcuts);
– Casual offcuts (including Casual shirt offcuts); and
– Indian offcuts (Bright cheerful colour offcuts).

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I received a 4×6″ lined journal. It’s covered in a dark navy pinstripe fabric with a pleasantly soft feel. The binding is nicely done, with tight squared corners and everything precisely aligned. I personally prefer rounded corners and less cover overhang, but others will like this just fine! kapdaa notebook8kapdaa notebook7

The endpapers are black, with some information about the company. I love the way black endpapers look, even if they aren’t very practical for being able to write your name! There is no ribbon marker, pocket, or elastic closure.

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The binding opens completely flat. The ruled lines are a medium grey, with a bit of extra space at the top. The paper feels very smooth. The cream color is just slightly cooler than the paper in Moleskine notebooks.

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All my usual pens worked well, with fountain pen ink looking a little lighter in color than in does on some paper. Show-through was average, and there was no bleed-through except with the Accu-liner and Super Sharpie.

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The company is still just getting off the ground, so there’s no retailers or pricing information yet, but you can follow their Facebook page for the latest news. If this early sample is any indication, I think they’ll be a nice addition to the many notebook brands in the market.

Review: Rebel Arts Notebook

Here’s a neat little notebook that I picked up at the DIA Beacon shop, which was an interesting place to look for notebooks, as some of them seemed to be shelved in amongst all the art books, according to whatever artist made them.

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In this case, the artist is Shepard Fairey, who is best known for his iconic Barack Obama poster. Oddly enough, Fairey’s name appears nowhere on the notebook– if I hadn’t seen it described on other museum store websites when I did a search for more info, I would never have know he designed the cover image.

The notebook has a small, pleasingly chunky shape to it. It’s a tiny bit shorter than a pocket size Moleskine, but quite a bit thicker. Unfortunately, there is more cover overhang, so the pages inside are smaller. The corners of the notebook are quite sharp and square, not rounded off at all. The binding doesn’t allow the notebook to lie totally flat.

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I love the clothbound cover and the image on the front, which seems to be printed into the cloth itself rather than glued or stamped on. The endpapers are also very cool. There is no other branding on the notebook. It’s also quite stripped down in terms of not having a ribbon marker, elastic closure, or back pocket.
The paper inside is a bit rougher than most, with almost a lined texture to it. I thought it might feel a bit scratchy with some of my fine point pens, but it didn’t– all my pens wrote nicely on the paper, though there was some feathering and bleed-through with a few, and I would say show-through was worse than average.

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The $12.95 retail price seems right in line with other notebooks of this quality, though some people might think it should include the usual ribbon, elastic, and pocket. Black and green versions are also available. I’ve seen them for sale at McNally Jackson bookstore in NYC, and various museum stores also seem to carry them.

Review & Massive Giveaway: Arwey Notebooks

Arwey is an interesting brand of notebooks you don’t see too often. The company is based in Turkey, but even on my trip to Istanbul, I only saw their notebooks sold in one store. I first discovered them at A.I. Friedman in New York, but they don’t seem to be carried there anymore. However, the company kindly sent me a generous batch of samples to review. Let’s take a look!

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As you can see above, I got quite an assortment of samples. Arwey makes a wide variety of styles and sizes, with different cover materials and features such as built in pens or exterior pockets. Below is my favorite of the batch, which I’ll look at in detail in this review.

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Once you remove the paper band on this notebook, you’ll notice its most interesting feature: the outside cover features interior and exterior pockets, and is in fact reversible! You can remove it from the notebook within so that either yellow or red appears on the outside. It’s a clever design, and the color combinations are striking.

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I don’t love the fact that the cover overhangs the paper edges so much, but it’s unavoidable with this sort of design.

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The cover is made of a soft, almost suede-textured vinyl. It’s pretty flexible but did stay open a bit instead of closing fully.

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The nice thing about the cover is how you can use the pockets inside and out– this would be a great notebook to bring to a trade show– you could keep your own business cards in one side and cards you collect in the other.

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The size and flexibility of the notebook make it very pocketable– shown below with a pocket Moleskine for comparison.

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On the inside cover is the Arwey logo and a few lines for your personal info.

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Inside the back cover you get a slip of paper with some Arwey advertising, which can be quite amusing:

Arwey, with its newest colour combinations, quality material, important infirmation inside, usage comfort different from each other and unique designs is fronted with you as the most functional detail of your life, or plainest from of the life. [typos theirs!]

You also get a useful extra– a card with traceable lines and ruler edges. Most of Arwey’s notebooks seem to include this card.

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The paper is light enough that the grid lines show through for tracing lines or just to use as a guide to keep your writing straight.
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The pages inside the notebook are blank, but at the end there is a section of the kind of helpful information that is usually only included in diaries. Why is that, anyway? I think area codes and size conversions and maps make perfect sense in a blank notebook too!

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The paper has a similar creamy color and texture to Moleskine’s but it is thinner at 70 gsm. Some of the pages in the back of the notebook are perforated for easy removal. My usual pens all went on smoothly, but fountain pen feathered a bit and others showed through quite noticeably.

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Here’s a quick look at the other samples I was sent:

This first one has a unique cut-out in the pages that allows you to tuck away a pen, but I find the resulting shape of the pages a bit weird.

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This one is a cloth covered book with blank pages. It has a magnetic closure that wraps around from the back of the notebook– I don’t love the way the rivet looks on the back.

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The back pocket is on the left side, and does not expand, so it won’t hold much more than the ruler/grid card:

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It has a nice fold-out map:

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This cloth-covered notebook is a tri-fold binder with a magnetic closure that just blends into a nice square edge:

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Inside, you get a blank notebook, a pad with spaces for each day of the week, and an address book, but unfortunately, they’re glued in and not refillable.

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Here we again have a cloth-covered notebook where Arwey throws in a pen tucked in a handy storage loop hidden in the middle. The pen is visible through the cut-out on the spine:

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Inside is a blank pad and the week-view pad.

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This larger blank notebook has blank pages, some of which are perforated, and a section of useful info pages. The cover is made of a soft vinyl similar to the first notebook I reviewed, but in this case it’s not reversible.

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The inside front cover has a little slit that is meant to function as a pocket for business cards, I guess, but it’s not that easy to get at.

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The inside back cover has another cut out meant to function as a bookmark:
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All in all, I feel like Arwey has put quite a lot of thought into ways they can make their notebooks stand out from the crowd, with some handy extra features. As their website claims, these are “functional notebooks,” though I think there’s a few things they could have done better. They seem to be well-made, especially the cloth-bound notebooks– though it’s a shame they haven’t made these nice sturdy covers refillable. While the vinyl covers are colorful and practical, I can’t totally embrace the material– it feels a little cheap to me and the edges and stitching were a little uneven in spots. Some of the notebooks carry the FSC certification noting that the paper is from mixed sources.

As I already mentioned, these notebooks aren’t easy to buy– their website lists availability mostly in Turkey and France and a few other spots in Europe. I don’t know what other retailers may carry these in the US. But since I did promise you a “massive giveaway,” 5 lucky winners will be getting an Arwey notebook for free! As usual, I’ll do a random drawing– you can enter in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing the words “Arwey” and “@NotebookStories.

On Facebook, “like” the  Notebook Stories page and post something containing the word “Arwey” on my wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Arwey” and “NotebookStories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday October 8 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!

Notebook Addict of the Week: Missy

This week’s Addict emailed me this photo of her stash– I love the variety, from simple spiral notebooks and composition books to large journals and looseleaf binders. (It’s interesting how some notebook addicts have a lot of repetition of the same notebooks, and others use many different kinds…)

Here’s what Missy had to say:

I love reading your blog. Attached is my stash…..glad there are others out there obsessed like me….and even more so. I love the photos of other peoples notebook collections and also your product reviews with the photos and the tests you do….all of it!

Thanks Missy! I love all of it too!

Notebook Addict of the Year: Carmen

You might think April is a little early to be declaring a Notebook Addict of the Year. Well, I’m ashamed to say I have been trying to get this post ready for months, so it really should have gone up last year. But I’m not sure it even matters what year it is, because Carmen has to win the prize for notebook addict of the decade, or century!

You know how they say if you really love something, you let it go? That’s how much this notebook addict loves notebooks. She found all these fabulous items while traveling in France and Germany, and she sent them to me, to share with all the rest of you notebook fans. There are so many, I won’t even attempt full reviews of all, but there are plenty of photos below, and you can see larger versions of them on Flickr.

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My favorite was the notebook below, from Rationella. I’d seen the brand mentioned online and was very excited to try one– it’s a Swedish brand, though this example was purchased in Germany. It’s got a clothbound cover that makes it similar to the HandBook Journal (shown here in blue), but it’s slightly smaller and thinner, and includes a pen loop. Rationella’s website says their products are produced according to “old bookbinding traditions,” and that comes through in this notebook– it just seems like a really nice, tight, good quality product.

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Below is a German notebook, this one slightly taller than the usual pocket Moleskine size, shown next to it for comparison. It’s got deep notches that keep the elastic in place. The colored page edges are a neat touch. Here again, there’s also a pen loop on the edge.

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This next one is pretty cool– like some of the notebooks sold by Levenger, it has pages that can be detached and then reinserted, keeping the slim format of a spiral notebook without the bulk added by the usual looseleaf rings of most refillable notebooks.

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An attractive black and red journal:

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This Le Zippe notebook is another one of my favorites. It can double as a wallet. I just love how different it is from anything else I’ve ever used– funky coloring and materials, and really practical features. I’m not sure how the plastic would hold up to being stuffed with a lot of cards and papers and money, but it would be worth a try!

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The slipcased notebook below is interesting– it comes with its own pencil, but it’s a bit awkward to have to take out the notebook and then shake the pencil loose from deep within the slipcase.

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This one reminds me of the Xonex notebooks you see in some shops in the USA. It’s a little taller and wider than a pocket Moleskine.

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I didn’t realize TeNeues made any journals like this– they have other small notebooks that I’ve seen, as well as calendars and art books– this large notebook resembles a Moleskine, but with an embossed cover and silver page edges. Very snazzy.

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Another German notebook, with two ribbon markers.

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A slim exercise book, with a little cut-out in the cover

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A basic lined notebook from Muji

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Another thin exercise book:

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A hardcover journal:

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The whole pile again:

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Whew, that is a lot of notebooks! I’m sure you can imagine how it felt to open a box filled with all these fabulous goodies. A HUGE thank you once again to Carmen– you are truly a notebook queen!