The Guildhall Pocket Notebook’s great strength and weakness is its flexibility: it has a softer cover than most pocket notebooks and stitching that allows the notebook to easily lie flat. But its cover also bends out of shape over time, like a cardboard insert or cereal box, and the pages bend with it. Still, this is a minor problem in a largely successful notebook—one that’s better than Moleskines but not quite as good or readily available as Rhodia Webbies.
The “loose” quality to the Guildhall’s binding is pleasing—insert joke here—and the notebook is much easier to flip through than the Design.Y Record 216, which I haven’t really used because my current notebook still has space (and the Design.Y’s cost precludes it from being compared with $5 – $20 notebooks). A sewn binding means the Guildhall is unlikely to fall apart over the short to medium term; though it doesn’t feel as sturdy as a Rhodia Webbie, the Guildhall did survive many months in pockets, backpacks, suitcases, and assorted other gear without corner tears.
Mine arrived smelling like fish, although I attribute that to shipping from England rather than an inherent property of the notebook. I sent them back to UKGE for a new pair, only to have UKGE send them back to me, still smelling of fish, though not nearly as badly.
The pages had narrow lines that allow more writing per page without being cramped; there are an extra two to three lines per sheet over Rhodia’s Webbie, though the lines didn’t quite extend to the page’s edge. The cover has a pleasant feel and stitching around it; I can’t tell if the stitching is decoration or essential to holding the cover in place. The paper feels good under a pen, and there’s very little bleed through (in the picture with writing, above, the back page is covered with fountain pen ink). It’s very easy to flip through the Guildhall.
Unfortunately, most of this doesn’t matter: Exaclair, the American distributor for Guildhall, isn’t producing them any longer. Christine Nusse, who works for Exaclair, sent me an e-mail saying that “the Guildhall journals are no longer available for export in the US because they were redundant with the Quo Vadis’ Habanas [. . .] and Clairefontaine’s notebooks.” To me, the Habana is quite different, but the issue is moot anyway: she also said “My understanding is that they are discontinued.” That understanding may have changed, but if it hasn’t, the notebook is gone. Some places online still list Guildhall notebooks, like The Dyslexia Shop in the U.K., but I don’t know if those retailers are getting new stock or depleting what inventory remains.
In the realm of “normal” notebooks, this is the best or second best I’ve tried, the best being the Rhodia, which I prefer only because I don’t like the cover bend. The Guildhall seems like a natural fit for the U.S., and that Exaclair chooses not to distribute it is puzzling, given its superiority over the market-leading behemoth.