Paper Cut: Paperblanks Journals
Even before I was into fountain pens, I was a big notebook and journal nut. I would often pick up blank notebooks or journals with the intent of starting to journal again, to write the next great American novel, to record the performance of my garden, or to keep track of the song lyrics I wrote. So it comes as no surprise to me that, as I continue in this fountain pen hobby, I find even more reason to be on the lookout for journal and notebooks. Only, this time, I have a couple of additional criteria. First (and most obviously) the notebook needs to be made from fountain pen-friendly paper. Especially for journals, it is better if the paper is slightly absorbent so the dry times are a bit faster, and I can turn the page without smearing what I just wrote or losing my flow. Secondly, the journal NEEDS to lay flat. If a journal doesn’t lay flat, I will hate every second of writing in it. So, when Pen Habit viewer Indira reached out to me about doing a review of Paperblanks Journals—a line which had been picked up recently by Andersen Pens—I jumped at the chance.
One of the first things you notice about Paperblanks Journals is that they are all kinds of flashy. These are journals that are made to stand out. No solid color blacks or Rhodia oranges. Most of them feature art, architectural designs, geometric patterns, or other intricate visuals. Normally I find highly graphic journal covers to be a bit tacky…and certainly some of the Paperblanks offerings could qualify. But for most, I feel the art for the covers of the journals is wisely-selected and well-executed.
The journals come in a whole variety of sizes, but Anderson Pens carries three sizes: the mini (3.75×5”), the midi (5×7”) and the ultra (7×9”). The prices ranges anywhere from about $12 to $30 depending on the size, the cover design, or any closure systems or special bindings. I selected one journal in each size.
The Ori Dunes Mini ($12.95). This small notebook runs about the size of a 3×5 index card, and features a rich, gold pattern on the front and back cover that is reminiscent of wind-blown desert dunes. The cover has some embossing, so it is textural, not just printed on. The effect is lovely—very eye-catching. A book like this is too small for any use that I would normally have for a notebook, but it could work as an address or contact book. The book contains 176 pages (88 sheets) of cream-colored, lined paper with 7mm rules. The binding is superb and the book feels solid in the hand. There is a single red ribbon attached to the binding, and the back cover includes a memento pouch and a built-in elastic band for keeping the book closed. The book does lay mostly flat, with the inner pages wanting to stand upright just a bit.
The Grolier Onamentali Midi ($24.95). The midi-sized 5×7″ notebook is most similar to the standard Rhodia Webnotebook (A5) in size, though a bit smaller. This thick, heavy book includes 240 pages (120 sheets) of cream-colored lined paper with a 7mm rule. The binding, and especially the cover art, on this book is spectacular. The cover is colored in such a way as to imitate an old leather-bound volume, and is embossed in gold leaf on the cover with a beautiful, ornate, and intricate design. The cover spine has horizontal ridges (which I believe are called hubs) meant to imitate the stitches which bound the signatures together in medieval tomes. The entire book is kept closed by means of a bronze-colored metal hasp which hinges off the back cover and locks onto a latch on the front cover. On this journal, Paperblanks has also printed a complementary design on the edges of the pages which are only visible when the book is closed. It is an exceptionally attractive volume, and one I wouldn’t mind purchasing just to have it sit on my shelf and look like I care enough to spend great deals of money on beautiful old leather-bound volumes. The Grolier Onamentali also comes with a memento pocket in the back of the journal and a red placeholder ribbon. With the metal hasp on the side of the book, an elastic band is not necessary like it was on the Ori. Unfortunately, the binding on the Grolier, while stunning in appearance, results in a book that just will not lay flat. The covers will lay flat, but the signatures inside will not. That makes it a bit of a deal-killer for me.
The Tiffany Autumn Vines Ultra ($24.95). I am a huge fan of Tiffany stained glass…not so much the lamps (although they’re nice) but the large scale stained glass windows, which is why I was so drawn to this Tiffany Autumn Vine journal. Done in the Tiffany style, the front cover of this journal has that stained glass iridescence that I find so attractive. The back cover features a black on black glossy/matte finish that feels inspired by Maria Martinez’ pottery from the American Southwest.
This journal is quite different than the others in that there is no cover spine. Instead, the front and back covers are hand-stitched to the signatures of the journal via a stitching style called Coptic stitching. The result is a journal that lays completely, 100% flat. It makes the journal a joy to write in, but not quite as attractive on the shelf. The two covers are held closed with a leather strap containing a magnetic closure. The journal contains 128 pages (64 sheets) of 7×9”, lined, cream-colored paper. With no cover spine, there is nowhere to attach a ribbon in this journal, but the back cover does contain a memento pocket. As much as I like the design of the Grolier, if I had to pick a journal to actually use on a day-to-day basis, I would pick the Tiffany Autumn Vine, simply for the unique lay-flat sticking.
Paper Quality. No discussion of journals on this blog would be complete without a discussion of how the paper performs when you put water-based ink to its surface. You can see the video for full results, but overall, the performance of the paper in these Paperblanks Journals was a little disappointing. When using fine, medium, or oblique broad nibs, none of which were too wet, the paper performed admirably. There was no noticeable feathering or bleed through. Once we moved up to the stub nibs, flex nibs, any pen with a particularly wet nib, things went a little south. This paper does not like pooled ink. Wet inks tended to feather quite a bit, and everything beyond a standard broad nib with moderate wetness bled through.
In summary, the Paperblanks journals are beautiful, well-considered, nicely-constructed journals that will look really nice on your desk or your shelf. They’re the kind of journals that should hold together for a long time. And if you’re the kind of journaller or writer who prefers to use finer-lined pens or you avoid inks that run too wet or have particular history of feathering (I’m talking to you, Noodler’s Baystate Blue), then I think the Paperblanks journals could be a really nice way to track your daily thoughts. I have no doubt that they will perform admirably with ballpoints, rollerballs, gel pens, etc. You just don’t want to be practicing your flex writing or italics calligraphy in one of these.
Disclaimer: The journals for this review were provided free of charge by Pen Habit viewer, Indira, who provided me with a gift certificate to Anderson Pens for the express purpose of purchasing Paperblanks Journals to review. No additional compensation was provide. All opinions expressed are my own.