Buying a new journal is a wonderful thing. There is the anticipation of unwrapping it and opening its crisp new pages, trying out the paper and putting it into service, with all the potential enjoyment that this offers.
While prowling the aisles at Paperchase recently, I picked up this Paperchase NOTO journal. Available in different colours and sizes, I first saw a smaller, black covered version, unwrapped for display. The nicest thing about it is the leather-look cover, which does look very much like leather with its mottled tones and grain. It feels like leather too, soft and pleasant to the touch.
I decided to get the larger one, in brown, which appeared to be A5 (although not exactly), with an elastic loop closure, a ribbon page marker and 224 ruled pages.
This was sealed in shrink-wrap and so the only other visible indication of its specifications was on a paper insert saying “specially handmade for Paperchase in Italy using recycled paper” and bearing a symbol of ruled lines and then the price sticker on the back: “LRG JOURNAL NOTO BROWN 120 PAGE”, made in Italy, and the price. On Paperchase’s own website, where you can order online, the description includes the statement, “Being made in Italy especially for Paperchase, it has natural quality and style”.
As a veteran of notebook purchases, I now have a three-point routine on getting my new notebook home. First, is to number the pages. I find this inexplicably soothing and satisfying. There were 224, not 120. Second, is to try various fountain pen and ink combinations, starting from the back pages. This gives you a good sense of the type of paper that you are dealing with and its limitations, as you check for bleed through, absorbancy (or woolliness and feathering) and show through. It also overcomes first page nerves.
The third thing, (which I have now learned from purchasing this notebook) is to check the line spacing properly, preferably before you buy. I am a wide line person. Given the choice when buying a pad of file paper, of wide or narrow line spacing, I pick the wide.
I had not before measured what line spacing I liked and at what point the narrowness veers towards irritation and annoyance. However a simple and accurate check can be made by counting the rows in your new notebook, measuring the total height of those rows and then dividing the total height by the number of rows.
In the case of the Paperchase NOTO (large), you have 26 rows in which to write, measuring 182mm in total, which gives a row height of 7mm.
I noticed that this was somewhat narrower than the spacing on the paper insert behind the shrink wrap would suggest, which I later measured as 44mm / 5 = 8.8mm. I also noticed that the page lines do not quite go to the edge of the paper, but stop with a margin of 9mm. Ha! This means that you cannot see the ends of the printed lines when looking at the closed notebook sideways on, which might have given you an idea of whether the line spacing is suitable or not, when the book is sealed in shrink wrap.
This led me to get out a pile of different notebooks and journals that I had used, of varying line widths, to find my preferred row height. What I learned from this exercise, is that most of these had a line width of 8.00mm or above. The widest (another Paperchase A5 journal with bonded leather cover) actually gave a very generous 10mm. The worst, was a Ryman A5 diary which I had very nearly given up on after a few days’ use, having a stingey line width of just 5.8mm. This annoyed me every day for a year. On some days I wrote on alternate lines.
A difference between 8mm and 7mm might not sound much, but it is a drop of 12.5%.
Coming back to the NOTO, it does feel well made, with proper stitched binding. The pages measure 142mm x 210mm, (which I think is just slightly narrower than A5, but the same height). The paper is of a cream or ivory colour. The weight in gsm is not given but it is reasonably thick and not flimsy. It is a recycled paper, acid free, chlorine free and pH neutral.
I do like the appearance and feel of the leather-look cover. It remains to be seen how this will wear over time if carried around.
Having bought it specifically to use with fountain pens, I was eager to try some. Whilst the paper looks and feels smooth and pleasant, it did seem a little on the absorbant and fibrous side, leading to a slightly wide and woolly line. Some feathering can be seen, especially if examined under a loupe. I have used other Paperchase notebooks with crisper results. Waterman Tender Purple ink in a Platinum 3776 Century, produced a particularly high level of bleed through. Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine, (my current favourite blue black) in a Kaweco Dia 2, also suffered bleed through, such that the other side of the page was border-line unusable. On the other hand, Waterman Audacious Red ink which I currently have in a Cross Century II, a Lamy Vista and Noodlers Ahab, fared well although you can produce bleed through if you try, by adding some pressure for a wetter line.
For black inks, I remembered my Sailor Kiwa-guro black pigment ink. I tried this first in a Platinum Preppy 0.5mm (medium nib). The ink performed well with this paper with no bleed through, minimal show through and with less feathering than with the other inks, thus giving a crisper edge to the lines. However the 0.5 nib was perhaps too wide for my smallish handwriting and for the 7mm line width.
The best match that I have found so far, is the same Sailor Kiwa-guro black ink but in a finer nib. I used a cheap, £2.00 cartridge pen from Tesco, a clear and red plastic demonstrator yet which has a nib that I particularly enjoy, unmarked but I would guess a medium/fine with a pleasant feedback. I use this with a converter. I have often marveled at how good this pen is, defying its modest cost.
Since buying the NOTO journal, I have looked for reviews online. An old one from 9 April 2010 on FPN by ImolaS3, compared a variety of notebooks then available in the UK and concluded that the Paperchase NOTO was the best by far. I wonder whether the paper might perhaps have been different then from my example with its recycyled paper, since my experience was rather mixed, until I discovered a winning combination of pen and ink to pair with it.
In summary, I think this is a good-looking journal, in a practical, portable size. The 7mm line width is slightly narrower than my ideal row height but this is a matter of personal preference. The key issue is whether the paper will work for you. But if you are prepared to experiment a little to find which pen and ink combinations suit the paper, then you will be fine.