Earlier this year, I ordered quite a few notebooks from The Journal Shop, but then I didn’t get round to reviewing them (I’ve discovered that, despite my beliefs, there is a limit to the number of notebooks one can use at a time). I currently have 24 notebooks to review!
I ordered some Italian notebooks, because they’re just so darn exciting. The Italians make brilliant notebooks. The one I’m reviewing today, the Ciak notebook, is a bright yellow leather notebook (don’t be alarmed, there are lots of colours available!).
I ordered the medium sized notebook, which is 12 by 17cm. You can buy the notebooks with plain or lined paper. I don’t like lined paper at the moment, so I ordered the plain paper version.
Ciak notebooks have a unique elastic closure, which according to the notebook blurb that accompanies the notebooks, is patent protected. The elastic closure lies horizontally across the notebook cover, instead of vertically as with other notebooks. There is a slight ridge in the edge of the cover that holds the elastic in place when it’s shut.
I don’t know if my life will be revolutionised by this new method of closing my notebook. Do people get annoyed with the elastics on the back cover of notebooks? Does it ruin their writing experience? Personally, it doesn’t bother me that often. I can see the benefit to Ciak’s design, and I admit it does help the notebook lay flat on a flat surface, but it’s not going to make me throw away all other notebooks with vertical elastic closures. However, one excellent result of this feature is that you can attach your pen securely to the notebook.
I love the range of colours available in the Ciak notebooks range. Black notebooks may have style, but I love colour in my life and this is coloured Italian leather! The front cover is blank, and the back cover has a small embossed statement letting you know that the product is handmade in Italy. Beautiful and sleek! On the spine of the notebook there is a small embossed Ciak logo.
The notebook has 224 archival quality, acid-free pages. The paper has got a warm cream tone to it, and a lovely toothed feel. It is marketed as being suitable for use with pencils, ballpoints and fountain pens. The pages are bound in seven signatures, which are stitched and glued to the binding.
The notebook does not lie flat when open. The binding is quite tight. The cover is leather though so it will soften with use, and it’s possible that the notebook will loosen up and lay more flat with use (I’m not too optimistic about this though, having flexed the spine a bit to see how much give there is). I’ve noticed from flexing the notebook spine that the leather is creasing where I’m bending it. As you probably already know from my tastes, this doesn’t bother me at all because I don’t care if my notebooks look worn. However, if you’re one of those folk that hate it when books have creases, you may not like this notebook!
The notebook doesn’t have an envelope on the back cover, and there is no contact page on the inside cover. I miss this, as I do like filling out the little box with my details, and I think it’s a nice touch in notebooks. There is a black ribbon marker in the notebook, which is fairly standard nowadays.
I tested the paper with my three Lamys. For no reason other than that I’ve been playing with my new camera lens again, here is a photo of them:
Don’t they look great at the moment! ANYWAY, they have three different nibs; Fine, Medium and Broad, so they make for good fountain pen testing. The paper is a pleasure to write on. The textured surface makes the ink flow beautifully, and I had no feathering with any of the nibs.
There is slight show-through with the inks, and very little bleeding. The show-through isn’t enough to ruin the writing experience (for me), but to be honest any paper could perform better than the notebook I’m using at the moment!
The most visible writing is that of the broad nib (top line), which is what you’d expect. The ink in that pen is also very watery at the moment as I made a very poor attempt at flushing the pen and there’s still a lot of water in the nib! I’m surprised that there is no bleed-through from the medium nib, but there is a tiny bit of bleed-through with the fine nib. I think the issue may be the J. Herbin ink rather than the nib itself. The medium Lamy was inked up with Lamy ink. However, I would happily use all three nibs in this notebook!
All in all, this is the kind of high quality notebook you’d expect from Italy, and it will be a pleasure to use. I will be using mine as a journal when I’ve finished my current notebook. I’m considering also buying the blue version of the notebook. I love the vibrancy of the colours that are available (apart from the orange, which looks a bit muddy).
These notebooks are priced fairly averagely, I feel. They cost a few pounds more than Moleskine, but they’re much better quality and have more pages. I think they’re excellent value for money, and given the price of some leather notebooks, they’re a bargain!
The only negative point really, is that the ribbon marker is not cat-proof, which shows a lack of foresight on behalf of the designers*.