For the notebook enthusiast, Paperchase has a lot to offer. For those unfamiliar with the name, Paperchase is a chain of high street stationery shops here in the UK, selling pens, greeting cards, novelty gifts and stationery supplies as well as numerous styles of notebooks. The shops are bright and attractive although the displays of fountain pens in spot-lit glass-shelved cabinets, are very uniform from branch to branch. You will never see a fountain pen displayed at an angle of other than 90 or 180 degrees on the shelf and equidistant from its neighbour. Not that this a bad thing particularly. I enjoy browsing and shopping there. They also have a loyalty card offering various special offers and benefits.
On a recent visit, I noticed a new type of notebook. Available with a choice of cover design, (I chose the Inky Swirls), this measures 216mm x 172mm (8.5 inches x 6.8 inches). It contains 288 pages, of cream (not quite white) paper, with headings “SUBJECT” and “DATE” at the top of each page. Lines are ruled, in a reasonably wide format that I like, giving 22 rows per page (not including your header and footer area).
What sets this note book apart however, is that the pages are sewn AND the notebook does not have a covered spine! At first glance, it looks like a book from which the spine has come off. Instead, you look directly upon the neat row of batches of sewn pages.
The colourful front and back cardboard covers are attached, with dark grey end papers. The notebook is nicely bound, but the absence of a spine looks a bit odd at first.
The great advantage though, is that the notebook will open and lay flat easily at any page. This is quite unusual.
At home I paginated my notebook (surprisingly relaxing, thanks for asking) and then tried out a few different fountain pens on the last page to see how the paper behaved. I found it very smooth and pleasant to write on. However, the ink did bleed through the paper with most of the pen and ink combinations that I tried, to the extent that you might use only one side of each sheet, if you are fountain pen user. There were some combinations that fared better. My Cleo Skribent Classic with fine stainless steel nib (currently inked with Cross black) writes a very fine line and did not bleed through. Also My Pelikan M800, medium nib, with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue did quite well at avoiding bleedthrough, (unless you let the nib linger too long in one spot). On the other hand, a very wet Sheaffer 100 with a Sheaffer Skrip blue cartridge, bled like a stuck pig.
In the UK we have a saying, that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. This set me thinking that perhaps there may be no such thing as not fountain pen friendly; you just need to find the right friend.
For example, I have been reading a very cheap penguin paperback edition of William Wordsworth Selected Poems. The yellowed, coarse paper is of the type that you would probably not even consider writing on with a fountain pen. Ironically, some of the most beautiful poetry in the English language, printed on some of the worst paper. However with a bit of trial and error I found that the ultra fine Cleo Skribent Classic with Cross black is also able to write on this without undue feathering, bleed or showthrough. It is satisfying to find combinations which cater to a paper’s strengths or weaknesses.
I am fond of the cheap edition of Wordsworth’s poems. I don’t mind that the cover gets creased and dog-eared. And I don’t need to feel too worried about scribbling in it. In a way, the Paperchase open spine notebook looks a little like a book that has been pre-loved and worn. I rather like it.