To All the Notebooks I’ve Loved Before

The more I think about stationery, the more I feel that this is all about love. Irrational, hard-to-explain devotion, even when you know all the faults of your particular object of affection. For example, I’ve held on to a few extras of my very favorite notebooks over the years, even though I know they may not make the cut anymore, not now.

These notebooks are from Illums, a Scandinavian-themed interior-and-lifestyle brand in Japan. They are not stationers by any means; their shops feature furniture, kitchen and dinnerware items from brands like iittala, Bodum and Marimekko. They just happened to have a trolleyful of notebooks at one point, and I scooped up some and then went back for more. I was a Hi-Tec-C user at that point in my life, and the smooth white lined paper suited me perfectly (although I now feel, many years down the road, that the paper was just average). 

Looking at it now, I think what I liked best about the notebook was its thick cover. You could knock on it like a door. The average spiral-bound school notebook tends to feel somehow disposable, but this particular feature bestowed a sense of permanence on this A5-sized notebook, like you wouldn’t feel comfortable throwing this kind of thing away. I used several as travel journals, one for transcribing literary quotes, and the rest for studying Hebrew.

This was the apex of my “neat” period. It all went downhill from here… and I can no longer read my own notes. Still, the memories of my youthful effort live on ;)

My second “special” notebook was from Semikolon with very similar features – A5, spiral-bound, with sturdy covers in pleasing solid colors. The paper was wonderful, a smooth but not overly coated cream-colored paper ruled in nut brown. The laid pattern was visible when you held the paper up to the light, but did not interfere with fountain pen nibs. I used these notebooks to record my son’s babyhood. 

I had such good memories of using this notebook that I was overjoyed to find this brand in Montreal. However, it had undergone a complete change of character! Granted, I didn’t know this brand that well (I bought these notebooks in a store in Yokohama, where they were displayed on their own, and didn’t get to have a look at the full range of products Semikolon offered at that time), but it seemed as if they had adopted a dusty-pastel color scheme centered on storage systems while I wasn’t looking. I bought a couple of the current offerings for old times’ sake – a Creativo to use as a planner, and another hardcover notebook for my son – but fell out of love quickly. The paper wasn’t the wonderful one that I knew, and all their notebooks, even bound ones, featured perforated pages, which baffled me. I mean, who wants to tear the pages off a bound notebook in hardcover? Isn’t permanence the main point for these kind of notebooks? I do hope that the notebook I loved lives on in some form and that I will be reunited with it someday.

And now a couple of current favorites: the L!FE Schöpfer notebook, and the Maruman Mnemosyne, both in square rulings. (One more favorite is the Nanami Seven Seas Writer notebook, which I’ve written about in a separate post.) The Schöpfer notebook features velvety-smooth paper with an understated grid pattern; I love writing with fine Japanese nibs in them. These are usually employed as vocabulary notebooks. The quality of the paper in the Noble Note on the right is supposedly superior, but I can never break out the Noble! It’s too intimidating! Must have a go someday. The Maruman Mnemosyne’s rulings are a bit unconventional (the back of the page is blank), and the perforations mean that I tend to tear a lot of pages out, so it mainly serves as a sort of deluxe doodle pad. 

P. S. I’m writing this long post in part to distract myself from the storm raging outside. The weather is usually balmy and very nice around here, but when the wind starts up, it gusts at alarming speeds (>100km/h). It gets on your nerves… Some pencil therapy is in order :)

10 thoughts on “To All the Notebooks I’ve Loved Before

    1. Thank you for your concern – the storm passed and the sun is shining again :) It’s really amazing how much a little sunlight changes things.

      Regarding languages, to my shame I haven’t made the slightest effort to learn Chinese, although it is the language with the largest number of native speakers in the world (848 million, I learned yesterday. Spanish is second with 415 million, and English a distant third with 335 million). I guess it’s a bit too close to home to be attractively exotic? I’d welcome the chance to learn Greek if that’s in the cards – you’d get to know the names of all the diseases, it would be a little like going to medical school ;)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. While reading this post, I cannot think of any ex-notebooks in my past rotation. Perhaps I have switched around quite a bit, but usually around similar brands (Kokuyo, Maruman, or other Japanese brands). The closest would be Rhodia, which I still like but have been used less frequently than before.
    I hope the weather on your end will improve soon! The lightning and storm were the things I do not miss while living on the East Coast.


    1. I don’t remember any storms on the East Coast except those involving snow… Maybe because I spent summers elsewhere? Anyway the wind here is really fierce. Thanks for your kind words! :)

      Do you keep your used notebooks? I realized that while many notebooks are good enough for everyday use, not many qualify as keepers. Even the Schöpfers I mentioned above don’t tend to survive that much, despite the sublime feel of the paper. I guess the ones I wrote about were just alternative choices for one who doesn’t much like stitched and bound hardcover notebooks…


      1. The summers in Virginia comprise of tornado alerts and storms. In a typical storm day, you literally see a sheet of rain. Someone must be busy pouring buckets of water up there :)
        I keep all my used notebooks, especially when a majority of them are recipes that I have collected over the years. I do not have much luck with stitch bound hardcover notebooks, even though they are sturdier than glue, spiral, or staple bound notebooks. Lots of spaces are wasted because the binding obstructs on the opposing pages.


      2. Ah, you don’t like the “seagull phenomenon” (as I’ve heard it referred to in Korean forums) either! I think that’s one reason I prefer spiral notebooks and Tomoe River notebooks that lie flat too.

        I have yet to fill a single notebook with recipes, I envy you! I started out with a flimsy Muji notebook and I always mean to migrate to a more proper, sturdier one, but I can’t seem to find the right moment.


      3. The spiral notebook got a bad reputation when the spiral is less than sturdy, but I personally do not mind them– at least I can deal with that more so than the “seagull phenomenon.”
        In the past couple years I have felt that a recipe book is worthy of passing it on, so favored dishes can be repeated. Plus, a great way to exhaust a mountain of notebooks I have hoarded these years :)


      4. That is a great idea :) and from what little I attempted in the same line, I found that recipe notes call for pencils, because fountain pen ink tends to run when spattered (and this is inevitable in my case).

        I also had this habit of checking for any crooked wiring when purchasing spiral-bound notes, but I’ve gotten more relaxed about it over the years. You can always straighten them by hand ;)


      5. My recipe copying process is rather cumbersome. During first couple attempts, I will jotted the recipes down on a notepad. They will not make to the notebook until I tweak them to preferences. Usually a corner of my desk has a recipe queue for penmanship practice :)
        Spiral bound is really not as bad as it used to be. I especially like ones by Miquelrius.


      6. Miquelrius is an unfamiliar brand to me, I’ll keep my eyes out for it since I’m curious :) And you definitely sound like a better cook than me! I just jot recipes down any old how and cross some out and it all gets very messy and I think about transcribing everything neatly to another notebook but never get around to it…


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