Intro (mostly whining about the poor, poor, poor Swedish pen/paper/ink market)
As most people who like to write and are conscious about which pens they write with – I’m on a perpetual hunt for a real good notebook. I find it harder to find a good notebook with fountain pen friendly paper than to find a reasonably priced fountain pen with a pleasant nib or a beautiful ink. If I should add how hard it is to find a good notebook or high quality writing paper here in Sweden you’d be surprised. I live in a country covered with forests (OK – we have meadows and cities also, but a substantial amount of forests) with a long history of making high quality paper. Tumba bruk (Tumba paper mill – now Crane currency) is one of the oldest and most reputable paper mills there is. Founded in 1755 by the Swedish Central Bank – now owned by Crane currency- making not only Sweden’s high quality notes – but notes to many other countries. My country is one of the world’s biggest producers of paper and it is almost impossible to get hold of a notebook with good paper at an ordinary brick & mortar.
From top to bottom: Moleskine, Rhodia webbie, Leuchtturm.
Moleskine – yes, but it isn’t particularly good for fountain pens or roller balls and a Moleskine now costs equivalent to €20/$30 here – no joke. And…it is also hard to find a proper brick & mortar here. Pen & paper shops barely exist. There is a big chain store for office products, but they carry a very boring and surprisingly narrow range of notebooks. Pens and paper is mostly to be found in a (small) pen/paper department of a book store. One of the few non-Moleskine brands with decent paper that can be found in real life is Letts of London (see earlier review here) which some stores carries. Otherwise the pen and paper market is a gigantic black hole. It is significant that it is cheaper and easier to buy from other countries than to buy in a B&M here. Rhodia webbies aren’t sold here (see earlier review of the 90g webbie here). Leuchtturm 1917 can be bought from a Swedish internet retailer to a quite good price, so even if they are almost impossible to buy in a store, they are easy to order.
As usual – click on photos to view them in full size
Anyway. Due to kind response from Leuchtturm 1917 I got a bunch of notebooks for making this review (and a giveaway). It is an old, German brand with origins from 1917. This version of the notebook is a traditional model, but with their new, fountain pen proof paper. The former paper was, just like the former Rhodia web notebook, not much better than Moleskine’s – too much feathering and bleed through to be a serious competitor to Moleskine. So, I was very curious to try this version. It has almost the same dimensions as the Moleskine and the Rhodia, but is a tad wider. These notebooks come in various colours beside the standard black. I’ve yet to know exactly how many colours, but the ones I have come in black, green and lilac, but there is white, red and blue as well – take a look here at notizbuchblog to see more of the available colours. The texture of the cover is real pleasant – without the slight sponginess that Rhodia webbie has – with a nice faux leather feel. They have three or four standard sizes for these notebooks – from A4 down to A6 and a reporter size.
Paper Quality & Options
These notebooks can be had with blank, lined, squared or dotted pages. I haven’t managed to find out which weight the paper has.
I would guess 80 or 90 g/square metre, though. For the review I chose the lilac medium-sized notebook with dotted pages. I was very curious to try to write on the dotted paper – neither blank or lined or squared. For a hard-core lover of blank paper (even if I’ve learned to like Rhodia web notebook whose only option is lined paper) it is surprising to learn that dotted paper is a serious alternative to both blank and lined paper. I am seriously considering making this dotted paper as a part of my regular arsenal.
It adds navigation, but doesn’t disturb in the way lines and grids do. One can draw and dot without having disturbing lines or grids. They are discreet, but still usable. The paper is off-white. Not pure white – which I don’t like – but not as creamy coloured as Rhodia webbie paper. The surface is quite special – it is velvety smooth and offers a kind of “control” when writing without being rough. It is thinner than the webbie equivalent, but it feels more dense than the webbie paper which is thicker, but also more porous than the Leuchtturm. What impresses me is that this thinness doesn’t give the paper a cheap feel – quite the contrary in fact. It is something about it that I like very much. I also find it positive that Leuchtturm offers this notebook with no less than four paper layouts. This is where Moleskine often excels over its competitors since Moleskine offers three layouts – blank, gridded and lined – but it seems like Leuchtturm is the winner in this aspect. For me this is quite important and I see it as rather parsimonious of the paper companies that offers only one or two side layouts.
The feathering is in most cases very slight or none. It handles the Diamine Royal Blue – the big bad featherer – very well, with only slight feathering. It handles wet nibs like the Aurora Talentum italic, the Delta Profili M and the Stipula Ventidue 1.1 mm italic in an impressing way – without bleed through or feathering. The only drawback in this respect is that the thin (but dense and non-flimsy) pages are a bit transparent. On the other hand I’ve yet to find a notebook that is fool-proof in this regard – even in the Rhodia webbie I only write on one side of each page. I think I dare to say that is - with regards to bleed through and feathering – slightly second only to the Rhodia web notebook.
Some of the special features – except the regular features as rubber band for closing and expandable pocket – include: table of content, numbered pages, stickers for cover (both front and spine) and 8 detachable sheets (perforated). It is also possible to buy (approx €2) a pen loop to fasten to the cover. It feels like Leuchtturm has given a lot of thought on how to develop and refine the function to optimize a notebook. I guess the numbered pages and the table of content can be very useful for writers and journalists that are working on multiple projects. The stickers are great when archiving – especially for those who, like me, prefer this kind of simple and clean notebook and have need for good ways to mark them.
From left to right: Leuchtturm, Rhodia, Moleskine.
It is not easy to see the difference (click to see them in a bigger size), but the Moleskine is definitely more prone to both feathering and bleed through while the Leuchtturm and the Rhodia are equals – which one to prefer is a matter of preferences. The Leuchtturm comes in a broader range of sizes and page layouts and has some smart features. The paper is truly fountain pen friendly with only a slight feathering with very feathering prone inks – it handles broad and wet nibs in an excellent fashion. The Rhodia excels when it comes to all kinds of feathering and bleed through, but not in a way that makes the Leuchtturm more than a tad behind. For someone who likes the possibility to choose between colours, page layouts and notebook sizes I think the Leuchtturm might be the winner. For someone whose primary choice is lined paper that is a bit thicker with a slightly more impeccable performance and is satisfied with the orange/black concept Rhodia might be the choice. Both are worthy of the label fountain pen friendly, though.