Most of my life I have kept a planner (with a boring ballpoint!) to keep my business life in order. Then I retired and got out of the habit. But when I reintroduced fountain pens into my life, I started keeping a journal/planner again. Thus began the hunt for the perfect journal.
I didn’t want to write in just any old notebook and so ended up spending hours surfing on the internet searching for books that were both beautiful and fountain pen friendly. Another of my requirements was that it lay flat, or at least almost flat, to allow for easy writing. After some trial and error, I also realized that I didn’t want one that was too thick, or too small. If it was too thick, it became difficult to write in when I got down to the bottom of the page, and if it was too small, well, let’s just say, I don’t write teeny, tiny letters and do better with more room. I also wanted it to have enough pages in it for me to be able to write in daily for at least 6 months, but preferably an entire year.
I had already experimented with several different types of paper such as Tomoe River, Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Apica, and others, but it was hard to find a journal filled with these fountain pen friendly papers that also met my other qualifications. So, I ended up buying lots of different journals to try out. Some were simply not fountain pen friendly at all. Some had fountain pen friendly paper but were not quite as smooth as Clairefontaine and didn’t reveal all the lustrous shading, sheens and shimmers of inks like Tomoe River paper did. And some had the great paper but not nice covers or not enough paper. However, I did find a few that I love and I now use every day. So, I thought I would share the fruits of my labor. But, instead of going through all my failures, I am simply going to list my Top 5 and give a brief description of my reasoning. All of these notebooks are fountain pen friendly.
If you’re looking for a beautiful journal look no further. Simply put, these books are gorgeous. From the serious to the silly, these journals are offered in a multitude of cover designs and sizes. Some are designed with gold-gilded ornate patterns with beautiful metal closure clasps and printed book edges. They look as if you found them stuffed away in an antique chest in the dusty attic of a monastery. Others are humorous and fun and yet others are true works of art. The creators visit museums, bazaars, libraries, and browse art galleries to come up with unique and compelling cover designs. The paper is a cream color in dot-grid or lined format and the books are available in various styles and sizes. I love these journals and the paper is nice but not quite as nice as some of the others and they don't lay perfectly flat. But I use them anyway because they are so beautiful! You can learn more about them at:
Both the Mystique and the Enigma (below) are made by Taroko Stationery. The Mystique contains what is known as “poor-man’s Tomoe River” paper called Taroko Orchid paper. The paper surface is smooth and is thick enough to support watercolors with minimal crinkling. The book is a soft-cover A5 size, hand-sewn to lay flat, and has 352 pages of 5mm dot-grid 80gsm paper. This notebook is great and the price is reasonable. But I really prefer the thinness of Tomoe River paper. You can visit their shop at:
Leuchtturm1917 notebooks are a favorite among the Bullet Journal community. Don’t know what that is? Don’t worry. You will learn more about it in a future blog. But the very short answer is, they are planners. The paper is an off-white, almost cream color and is available in dot-grid (my personal favorite). You can get them in a hard or soft-back cover in lots of different sizes and yummy colors. I like these notebooks because they don’t need a cover and some have two ribbon bookmarks and a closure band. But I prefer a whiter paper as I feel it shows the true color of inks. Also, the paper is not very watercolor friendly and some fountain pen inks may feather. To learn more about them, visit their website at:
This notebook is also by Taroko Designs (see #4 for website). As of this writing, it’s available in an A5 or A6 size. Like the Mystique, it has a soft cover with sewn signatures that allow the book to lay flat. But unlike the Mystique, the Enigma is filled with 68gsm Tomoe River White paper. It has 384 pages and the paper is printed with a 5mm dot grid. Although I prefer the thinner 52gsm, the 68gsm provides for less shadowing and stands up to wet inks and watercolors better.
The Crossfield is made by Nanimipaper and is an A5 notebook with 480 pages (240 leaves) of Tomoe River White 52gsm cross-grid paper. Cross-grid simply means instead of the grid being made up of tiny dots, there are tiny light blue crosses. The flexible but sturdy coated-fabric cover is very similar to those of both the Mystique and Enigma by Taroko. Like all Tomoe River paper, it handles fountain pen ink extremely well and I even watercolor in it! Yes, the paper crinkles a bit when it dries, but I kind of like the texture and sound that creates. This is by far my favorite notebook. But I sew my own covers with a ribbon bookmark and a closure band. So if you like those options, this may not be the notebook for you unless you are willing to buy a cover with those features. Unfortunately, as of this writing, the Crossfield is not available since the manufacturer has decided to offer a MicroDot version of it instead. It’s still the same great notebook but in lieu of tiny blue crosses, there are micro-dots with a circle around each. There’s also a style called “Studio Note” which is an A5 with grid paper similar to the Hobonichi. Learn more about these notebooks here:
You probably noticed that the “beautiful” requirement I started with is not present in four of my favorites. Yes, that item fell off the radar once I found I could get lots of fantastic paper in journals that laid flat. So instead, I now make my own covers and am able to pick the style of my choice.
Of course, I have only barely scraped the teeniest surface of the expansive selection of journals and notebooks available in the marketplace today. There is a growing list of pre-formatted planners such as the Tomoe River paper Hobonichi line of planners, the ever-popular Moleskin notebooks, and of course Clairefontaine notebooks and journals. And who knows, I may even find a new favorite myself one day. If I do, I promise to let you know! But for now, I hope this small glimpse of my favorites right now helps you find a notebook you will enjoy writing in every day with your own fountain pens!