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.
Feathering and Bleed Through
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.
If you want to read more about the Leuchtturm 1917 you find other info & reviews here, here, here and here.
for bullet journaling which tends to work better the dotted or the squared I have both the Leuchtturm dotted and squared and nor sure which to use or is it just your preference…thanks!!!
I’m not a fan of squared notebooks – I’ve ever only used squares for math, so I’m afraid I can’t give any valuable advice here.
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A medium and a master size Leuchturm hard cover purchased Dic. 2013 that have the label “ink friendly” bleeded so badly that they became useless fo using with fountain pens. Not journals I would buy again nor recomend. Havana on the other hand are very good, as well as Deusto notebooks; http://www.edeusto.es/edeusto/index.php/cuadernos-notebooks.html
I just bought a Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, but I’m finding that the paper isn’t porous *enough* — when I write with a roller-ball pen, the ink remains wet on the paper and transfers to the facing page when I close the notebook! Do you think the Rhodia would be more suitable for me? I want a nice notebook for work, where I use roller ball pens rather than fountain pens. Thanks!
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Lady d, thank you for your review. i’m still mourning the loss of Exacompta Sketch Book journals. they have 100 gram almost unlined ivory paper, item number 9921, 5.5 x 8 inches. The lesser substitute is the Exacompta Journal with 90 gram lined paper, item numer 9931, 5.5 x 8 inches. The 100 gram paper is heavy enough that there is no bleed through, a little show through, the slight lines are enough that you can keep your writing semi-even on the page, not so obvious you are disinclined to do a sketch and the ivory paper is easy on the eyes. Exacompta is now owned by Clairfontaine and are made in France. Can we start a write in campaign to get them to issue the sketch books again?
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What a thorough review! I don’t use fountain pens, so I can’t speak to the feathering issue, but I absolutely LOVE Leuchturm 1917 for its numbered pages and ‘table of contents’ pages at the front. Really useful for trying to find where my notes from a particular talk or event are! I am also a big fan of the dotted paper. Usually I prefer blank, but I have now fallen in love with the dots.
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Ladydandelion. Thank you for your interesting reviews. Having read them I purchased two “ink-proof” A4 Leuchtturm1917 Master Notebooks from Papernation – dotted and squared versions – very disappointing – both were unusable with my fountain pen (Private Reserve/Watermans inks) due to feathering. This was particularly bad on the squared paper which to me seemed heavier than the dotted paper. I’m assured they are the new ink proof paper. I will continue to read your blog but I think my search for quality fountain pen friendly paper has come to an end. It is simply not out there. I’m going back to my gel pens which performed pretty well on the dotted version. Thank you for the glimmer of hope….now extinguished.
I’m sorry for your bad experience with Leuchtturm. Paper, pen and ink reviews are tricky since different people write differently and can get very different results using the same tools. I agree that the Leuchtturm isn’t foolproof. At the time I made this first review (have actually made two follow ups since I am a bit ambivalent when it comes to the Leuchtturm) I hadn’t tried the Quo Vadis Habana which set a totally new standard for me. My experience isn’t as bad as the one you describes – I have used a variety of inks in it – but there has been some feathering and bleedthrough. I’d recommend you to try one of the Quo Vadis Habanas or the Rhodia Webnotebook before giving up your quest. Again: so sorry about your bad experiences.
This is a really useful review. I started using the Leuchtturm 1917 with my fountain pen but found that it feathered quite badly. I couldn’t understand why the books were described as ‘fountain pen friendly’. However, after reading your review I realise that I must have one of the older versions. I’ll certainly look out for the new ones and give this a go.
My experience is significantly different. With the inks I have used (Noodler’s, Private Reserve, and some mundane Pelikan and Parker) I have noticed far more feathering and bleed through than with Rhodia. It is on a par with Moleskine and pretty unuseable with a fountain pen.
Interesting. I didn’t say that it is as good as Rhodia, but I found and still find it far better than Moleskine – it feathers significantly less. The issue as I see it is the bleedthrough and see through. I have used it a lot and that is my experience, but everyone has different standards.
Thank you for this very timely and excellent review. Papernation have just started stocking these, so given your favourable impression of them, I shall be ordering one soon.
Those Moleskine notebooks are super expensive in the US and Canada too. A mid-sized watercolor notebook runs $40. I personally think that that’s a lot. Nice books though. If I ever get over the sticker shock I may actually buy one.
****pool pump**** installer but artist at heart.
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do you know if the leuchtturm’s are soft or hard cover?
Both are hardcover.
Forgot that they actually have a soft cover version too.
Do you know if the pocket size leuchtturm’s are soft or hard cover?
The pocket size are available both in soft and hard cover :)
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Ladydandelion, are the pages buckled in the images of the Leuchtturm? The paper certainly appears to have buckled in the photos, especially in the final comparison shots.
pssst. Webbies now come with blank paper.
This looks interesting but the paper almost looks like it’s gotten wet or been in a very humid environment. Is that my imagination or something distorting the images?
What do you mean when you refer to “feathering?”
I have used Moleskine notebooks for years with fountain pens (medium to fine nibs) and all kinds of inks, but don’t recall bleeding through the paper. I am now looking for a notebook that is not made in China. Thanks to your review, perhaps Leuchtturm will be my next.
Feathering is when the paper absorbs the ink forming “spider legs” around the text. A little is OK, but a lot makes the text blurry. Check http://www.fountainpennetwork.com and their paper etc section for more info. :)
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THank you for an excellent review. The pen and papermarket is, sorry to say, even worse in Norway than in Sweden. Where can you order the Leuchtturm note books in Sweden? I do not live far from the border, and there is always the possibility of delivery “Poste Restante” at the Post Office…
I’ve ordered (not these Leuchtturms though) at deskstore.se – they ship all over and are quite fast. Just check that they carry the Leuchtturm with the new, fountain pen friendly paper. I also think Leuchtturms German site sells Leuchtturm and ships – at least – to all European countries. Sorry to hear that Norway is as dark as Sweden when it comes to pens and paper – the whole Scandinavia seems to be strangely poor when it comes to pens and paper. I wonder if that might be connected to our positive view view on modernism and enthusiastic embracing of new technology – which has lead to discarding of some good traditional – analogue – things as pens and paper – in a very unnecessary way. Thanks for your kind words on the review!
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I thought I had commented already about how nice a review this was but I did not! My memory is a colander. I love the color this Leuchtturm is in.
I love notebooks! I can never have enough to get all my thoughts down.
Excellent review, LadyD – thank you.
They sound like fine notebooks. On par with the Habana, or…?
In any case, I’d certainly try one, if it were available.
I have not had the opportunity to try the Habana yet, but will try to get around to do that asap – I am very curious about the Habana. If you want the opportunity to win one – enter a comment in the giveaway post – about why you like to write by hand.