Karen of Exaclair, the USA distributor of all things good in relation to fountain pen paper and ink, offered up free samples of the Clairefontaine Basic notebook. She did not ask for a review, but asked merely for some feedback which I have decided to write up in Peaceable Writer. I will say it was intoxicating to receive a package containing J. Herbin inks (one of my two favorite ink manufacturers), the legendary (at least on FPN) Quo Vadis Habana notebook, as well as the Clairefontaine Basic. You should know that because while I do not think it influences my reaction to the Basic notebook, it might. That said, I would like to thank Karen for sending samples to me and to so many others.
The Clairefontaine Basic in my possession measures 6″ x 8 1/4.” The cover displays a discreet Clairefontaine logo and the notebook contains 96 sheets/192 pages. It is a simple, attractive, and seemingly sturdy notebook. I will followup on its sturdiness once the notebook has lugged around in my bag for a month.
On the back of the notebook I was struck by the PEFC emblem on the bar code label. The PEFC is a global certification “promoting the sustainable management of forests.” After reading up a bit on the PEFC, I read through information about Clairefontaine on their website.
While I have heard of Clairefontaine paper for a long time, I have been completely unaware of the French company’s commitment to the environment, from sustainable forestry to the natural ink it uses for the lines on the paper. Happy news!
Starting a new writing project, I decided to devote this new notebook to the first draft of it. I’ve used three pens thus far to write with: a Bexley Sheherazade with a wet fine point inked with J. Herbin Poussiere du Lune, a vintage Sheaffer Balance with a fine nib inked with Waterman Havana Brown, and a Visconti Ragtime I with a medium point inked with J. Herbin Perle Noire. All the pens loved the paper. The paper is smooth and, as expected, no ink bleeds through on the pages. The ink, however, takes several seconds (more than 10) to dry. I write quickly and I had to resort to blotter paper to prevent smearing when I turned the pages. A real plus of the Basic is that the pages lay flat when it is open. While not a big deal to me, the notebook no longer closes flat now that I’ve been writing in it.
The pages in the notebook are lined. I don’t know why but first and last pages are blank with no lines. I’d prefer these pages to be lined to get the same consistent usage out of them. The first two pages and the last two pages are glued funny and do not lie flat. The notebook uses a cloth binding and the pages are bound in sections with thread.
I rather like the footprint of the Basic yet 6″ x 8 1/4″ is a bit smaller than what I would normally use for writing drafts. The next size up (8 1/4″ x 11 3/4″) feels too big for dragging around from coffee shop to coffee shop. (Side note: I wish they made a size small enough to fit in my jeans back pocket, uh, like 2 3/4″ x 4 1/2″ to be exact. That size is for notes only. Paper covers disintegrate in the pocket.)
The color of the covers are dignified. Mine is a nice, muted green. Other colors are black, tan and red. The paper is bright white and is thick at 90 grams. The brightness of the paper made my horrible handwriting readable. (I have sacrificed this brightness on the paper used in my printer in order to use a recycled product.)
First drafts normally consume more than one notebook and I will fill the Basic up in the next few days. The 6″ version may be more suitable to plain note-taking rather than for script or novel writing purposes. I may even try the bigger size. Although the price on the smaller Basic, which averages $8, is more tolerable to my writer’s pocket book. The larger Basic averages $13 and I have a hard time wrapping my brain around spending that on a notebook.
Having important features like coming from a company with a conscience for the environment, portable (‘tho almost too portable), fountain pen friendly, comfortable to write in, I like the Basic well enough to consider it as my new standard notebook. Now that I’m aware of Clairefontaine’s environmental commitments a closer look at their other offerings is clearly necessary.