I recently discovered this journal visiting my local stationery shop tucked amongst the throngs of Moleskine notebooks on display. Like many other stationery aficionados, I've come to rely on the Moleskine for a lot of my noodling, project planning, and writing. I won't go over the merits of the Moleskine here as it has been debated in electronic agoras across the Internet. But if you use a high end journal, you'll know the appeal of a Moleskine.
Back to the stationery shop and this mysterious new notebook. I picked it up. Aside from the white cover, it looked like a Moleskine. I hefted it. It felt like a Moleskine. But at a $8 discount to the Moleskine sticker price, and dots featured prominently on the label, as a notebook geek, I felt it worth the effort to try it out.
After taking it home and running it through its paces, I was suitably impressed. The quality is mostly on par with or better than my fleet of Moleskines. And with all the additional details that went into its design, I think I've found the Moleskine killer - and my new notebook replacement.
The Product: The Leuchtturm1917 Medium Dots Notebook
While it seems that this product is relatively new to North America, the company has been in business manufacturing paper and stationery for about 90 years, since 1917. Leuchtturm is German for "lighthouse", and their tagline, "details make all the difference" seems to be taken to heart as we'll soon seeâ€¦
The cover of this 249 page journal highlights the following features:
- Numbered pages and blank table of contents for easy organization of notes
- Acid-free, ink proof (no bleed), 80gsm paper
- Stickers for labeling and archiving
- Thread-bound opens flat
- 8 perforated, detachable sheets
- Expandable pocket inside back cover
- Page marker
(Nota bene: The notebook comes in multiple colours, in case you were wondering. They also come in pocket and A4 sizes as well.)
When you first unwrap the polystyrene package, you are presented with a multilingual brochure introducing the history of the company, as well as a little thank you card signed by the the manufacturer, which is a nice touch. There is also a sheet of spine and cover stickers for archiving purposes. As someone with stacks and stacks of notebooks of all the same shape and colour, finding old scribblings is a little harder than a Google search. Spine stickers in particular are very useful if you have your own collection of spent notebooks.
The notebook is fairly anatomically faithful to the traditional elastic bound notebook that Modo & Modo follows in its Moleskine products. The elastic is a little looser than a Moleskine's, but not significantly so. The cover is almost the exact same width as a hard cover Moleskine, but a little stiffer. There is a pocket on the inside back cover, as the label suggests, that you can stick small bits of paper or receipts into. There is a front page for your name and address. There is also a string bookmark. Pretty standard fare so far.
Binding is threat-bound and seems to be superior to the Moleskine. I did a stress test with the notebook, folding back the spine all the way several times. The binding seemed to handle the fold-back quite well. As a left-hander, binding that can take a beating is critical, as I often have to flatten out the notebook to write comfortably. I've broken the spines of many Moleskines being this ruthless.
The pages flatten out without much effort. I'll have to give a future report to see if any construction issues crop up after severe use, but results look positive.
The Leuchtturm1917 has something I've always wanted in a high end notebook, but always seemed overlooked: page numbers! Each page is numbered up to page 249. There are additional pages in the front for a table of contents or an index. As someone with many archived notebooks, I've had to manually number my pages before starting to write in a new notebook. I use notebooks to track a lot of projects, so having page numbers is another important detail that sets this notebook apart from Moleskines.
Engineers hate the diagram inhibiting entropy of ruled lines. Writers usually hate how vertical lines interrupt their train of words. As a writing engineer, I've had very little satisfaction with either. I've usually tried to find grid lines that are printed as light as possible, or failing that, blank notebooks, but neither are really good solutions. In school, I used engineering paper extensively, blank on the front with strongly ruled grids in the back. If guidelines were needed, one only had to look a little harder to see the lines on the back.
Dots are one of those little details that Leuchtturm boasts about, providing just the right amount of guidance. Your mind can extrapolate all sorts of things. If you see three dots, your mind will interpret it as a triangle. If you look up into the sky, I'm sure your brain will interpret all sorts of different constellations. Dots are unobtrusive and can take on whatever guidelines your brain wills it to. They are certainly more appealing than those fandangled Whitelines notebooks which always struck me to have ruinous discolouration on what would otherwise be a creamy, inviting page.
- At 80gsm, the paper is thinner than I initially expected. The paper is inviting to the touch, very smooth and creamy. The tooth (roughness of the paper) is low, which may be a problem for some inks. I wouldn't go running charcoal or pastel through it, obviously. Feathering and bleed through is an important factor for me, as I enjoy the use of fountain pens, roller balls and the occasional felt-tipped marker. I have lots of bleed through and feathering problems with my Moleskines.
Included in this review is a brief writing sample with a Watermans fountain pen, a Fischer Space Pen and a Pilot G2. I had no issues with feathering or bleedthrough. The Watermans ink took a little longer to dry than in my Moleskine, but not too noticeable. I had no issue with drying when I switched my fountain pen over to Private Reserve ink, which has faster drying times. Turning the page over, you can see a little show through. I would probably stick to one side writing for archival purposes, but you can write on both sides.
The Leuchtturm1917 is on par with or better than the Moleskine in binding and organization, and aside from the show through and ink drying, this journal seems an ideal replacement for my aging fleet of Moleskines. The dotted pages appeals to both hemispheres of the brain. The price point is superior to that of the Moleskine.
Further testing may be warranted, but I think I've found a winning Moleskine killer in the Leuchtturm1917.