In praise of the Leuchtturm 1917, A5 notebook.

Those who enjoy writing with fountain pens like to find ideal combinations of pen, ink and paper where the nib glides effortlessly over the page, leaving a beautiful line of fresh ink without feathering or bleed-through.

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Ah, that new notebook feeling!

I am a relative newcomer to the Leuchtturm range, although the company was founded in 1917. I started using their A5 size notebooks about a month ago when my Taroko Design “Breeze” (Tomoe River) notebook was full. The Leuchtturm notebooks are readily available in our local Rymans stationers and although the paper is not Tomoe River, I find it very pleasant.

Available in a wide range of bright coloured hard covers, there are also options for plain, ruled or dot grid pages. In each case, you get around 250 numbered pages. Depending upon which you chose, you get a number of good features (listed on the distinctive wrap-around flyer inside the cellophane), such as:

  • a table of contents;
  • some perforated sheets (8 in the plain or ruled page version, or 12 in the dot grid version);
  • an expandable pocket in the back cover;
  • two ribbon page markers;
  • an elastic loop, for those who want closure;
  • stickers for labelling;
  • thread bound, to open flat and for durability;
  • ink proof paper (that is, fountain pen friendly);
  • 80 g/m2 acid-free paper.
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There is no mistaking the Leuchtturm notebooks with their distinctive wrap-around flyers, which help in finding the paper type that you are after.

I began with the plain paper version. This included a guide sheet to place behind the page you are using, with 18 rows at a width of 10mm, or, on the reverse, a grid of 5mm x 5mm squares.

I have been using the 10mm space guide. This is quite wide and if your handwriting is not large, the spacing may look too wide in relation to your writing size . Of course, you can experiment and make you own guide sheet, ruling your lines at whatever width you choose. For me, an 8mm width is about right and is what I am most used to for general writing and note taking, when using pads of file paper. But I have now made up a few guide sheets of approximately 8, 9 and 10mm for use with different nib widths. You could do this with your perforated pages.

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Line spacing at 10mm. TWSBI Classic (medium nib) with Registrar’s blue black ink.

With so many book colour options and paper options, there is something for everyone. I bought a ruled page version, but found that its line spacing of just 6mm, was too narrow for me. And if I wrote on every other line, 12mm was rather too wide.

The dot grid paper, with dots at 5mm spacing, is a good option and can be used easily to write on alternate rows with a comfortable 10mm row height.

One of the readers of my blog told me that he buys these notebooks when the less popular colours are on sale and then uses them for letter writing, slicing out the pages when the letter is written. This had not occurred to me and sounded quite a good idea.

Likes

The extra features listed above are all very welcome, but it is the paper itself that is the real draw here. It is a creamy, off-white paper, with a pleasant silky matte finish, having a smooth surface, not glossy or coated such as to cause drag.

A fountain pen may struggle to work on a paper that is too glassy-smooth. But a rough, fibrous textured paper is not good either and may clog the nib. Then, there is the issue of absorbency. A paper that soaks up the ink like blotting paper is no good for fountain pens as the ink will “feather” and spread out. And you do not want the ink to bleed through to the other side, so that you can use only one side of the paper.

There are many factors to juggle, depending too on whether your pen and ink writes on the dry or wet side.

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Writing sample with Diplomat Esteem (Medium) with Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red. Paper copes well, with even this juicy wet writer. Note also the minimal degree of show-through from the other side.

Dislikes

There is very little to dislike. If I were being picky, I could say that the page numbers could be a bit bigger. However, they are slightly clearer on the dot grid version than the plain.

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Pre-paginated pages.

A degree of “show through” or “ghosting” is inevitable unless the paper is very thick. With this notebook, whilst it is noticeable, I find it perfectly acceptable. There is a certain amount of compromise involved here as thicker papers, whilst reducing show-through, are heavier and make the notebook bigger.

Conclusion

As someone who currently has around fifteen fountain pens inked with a variety of nibs and ink types, I am finding the Leuchtturm notebooks very satisfying. The main problem that I have with them is that I keep wanting to buy another one whenever I pass the shops.

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8 thoughts on “In praise of the Leuchtturm 1917, A5 notebook.

  1. For a long time, before I discovered Tomoe, Leuchtturm was my go-to work notebook. I think I went through about nine of them in a row. Some people really complain about the paper stock, saying it’s as bad as Moleskine now, but I always found it performed flawlessly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In my (limited) experience it seems to depend which notebook you buy. I have an A5 dot grid Leuchtturm that takes any ink you care to throw at it. I previously tried a B5 softcover Leuchtturm (also dot grid) and it contained some of the worst paper I’ve ever used in a ‘proper’ notebook. Feathering, bleedthrough, oh and the binding disintegrated for good measure. Not a pleasant experience.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you. It sounds like the soft cover one was not intended for fountain pen ink. It would be interesting to know whether it was specified as being “ink proof”. No excuse for the binding falling apart though.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I am a big fan of Leuchtturm. The hardcover ones have excellent paper, and the covers come in so many colours they’re almost collectable! I eventually realized that this is the same Leuchtturm that produces the stamp albums I’ve used since I was a child.

    Like

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