Product Review: The Leuchtturm 1917 notebook

The Leuchtturm 1917 is perfectly competent. It’s slightly larger than a Moleskine, when a notebook should be, if anything, slightly smaller. This is a small point. The paper quality is, to my eye and hand, indistinguishable from Moleskine’s, which in turn is very similar to Guildhall and most of the other non-Rhodia notebooks I’ve tried. It has one other annoying feature: the last 30 or so pages are perforated; this is another way of saying, “They’ll eventually fall out.” If you’re the kind of person who wants to desecrate your notebook by tearing out pages, then the Leuchtturm 1917 is for you. To be sure, perforated pages are a minor annoyance. But if you’re not trying to avoid minor annoyances, stick with Moleskines, since they’re widely available.

The only major problem with the Leuchtturm 1917 simple: it doesn’t offer any major, obvious improvements over the Moleskine. It doesn’t offer any real disadvantages, either, other than its departure from the canonical 3.5 x 5.5 size and the perforated final pages. Unlike the Quo Vadis Habana, however, the Leuchtturm 1917 isn’t so much larger that carrying it around becomes a chore.

If this review seems slight, that’s because it is—the differences between this notebook and a Moleskine are trivial. They experience the same corner tearing, although I didn’t use the Leuchtturm long enough for the tears to develop into the cover partially coming off. If you’ve used a Moleskine, you’ve already in effect used this notebook; both are decent, but neither beats the Rhodia Webbie.

More on that soon.

Product Review: Guildhall Pocket Notebook

This is part of a series of pocket notebook reviews that I began after Moleskine’s quality control problems and from reading Rands’ notebook discussion.

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.

%d bloggers like this: