I'd intended to write up a sort of review of my first Leuchtturm1917 notebook, but...well, it didn't happen. At this point, I'm on my second of these notebooks, having finished up the original black blank one I bought at Powell's City of Books. The second, my current journal, is a purple dot grid version. So...due to procrastination, I have experience.
Apologies in advance for my usual crummy, yellowish indoor lighting photos. I do try.
I went through a period a few years back when I used Moleskines quite a bit as journals. This was when they were first gaining popularity. I liked the sleek feel of them, their simple, elegant appearance, the nice little features like the back pocket, bookmark ribbon, and elastic closure. Ultimately, however, I couldn't justify the cost, particularly since I had lots of issues with the paper and fountain pen ink: feathering and bleeding on some pages, beading of ink and smearing on others. Frustrating.
Moleskine feathering--see all the little hairy looking extensions on my letters? Eek! Oh, and the content of this entry may be familiar to some of the typospherians...
Bleed-through on the back of the page. Note that this was not a particularly "bleedy" ink, or a broad nib.
Since those early days, about a zillion Moleskine clones have showed up on the market: compact notebooks with the hard cover, the pocket, the elastic, the bookmark. The Leuchtturm1917 is one that is recently gaining some attention on fountain pen boards and such, and when I saw them at Powell's for a fairly reasonable price, I grabbed one to try.
Page o' samples. I smeared the Black Swan...oops.
What I like:
- I've had almost *no* issues with bleed-through or feathering with fountain pen or dip pen inks. A very, very wet ink could possibly feather or bleed, but even my fairly wet medium fountain pen nibs do pretty well, as did dip pens with sumi ink. Also, the paper has just a hint of texture to it, making it nice for pencil as well.
Back side of the page. There's show-through due to the thin paper, but really only the Sharpie bleeds, and only an eensy bit. Not bad...
And an attempt at a close-up, to show that there really isn't much if any feathering, even with pretty wet inks. Nothing like Moleskines, in any case.
- Although I could buy a dozen Wal-mart composition books for the same price as one of these (and the Norcom comp books are still my choice for scribbling), as premium notebooks go, the Leuchtturm1917s are fairly inexpensive. I purchased this additional notebook from Writer's Bloc for $13 for a large notebook. Compare that with more like $18 for a Moleskine of the same basic size.
- Pretty colors: many of the Leuchtturm1917 sizes and styles are available in a number of colors, for them what likes such things.
- They have page numbers! Major bonus for me. I like to be able to gauge how much of a notebook I've used/how many pages I have left/how many pages I've written in a given day, and typically the first thing I do with a new journal is to sit down and mark page numbers. It's a tedious task, and I am very, very happy to have this done for me. The page numbers are very small and subtle and don't take up oodles of my writing space. Nicely done.
- Dot grid format! I'm a new convert to this style of notebooks. They give you the freedom of a blank page, but with just enough of a visual guide to help you write neat lines. Also, the dots are subdued enough not to get in the way of lighter inks and pencil writing.
- It's a small thing, but a nice detail nonetheless: these notebooks come with a variety of labels for archival purposes. I always date my journals after use, so I appreciate this. Another little detail that's a nice touch: the blank version came with a backing sheet that can be used behind the current page, with grid on one side and lines on the other.
Lots o' Labelage
What I don't like:
- Although the pages lay *mostly* flat, there's definitely more of a "hump" than you get with Moleskine notebooks. It's perhaps my favorite feature of Moleskines, and I'm a little disappointed these are as bumpy as they are.
Even held flat...you still have to write into a bump. Don't mind my inky fingers...
- Although I didn't encounter bleed-through or feathering, the pages are very thin (I kind of think they'd be better off making these with fewer pages and thicker paper) and there is a certain amount of show-through.
- The covers are thinner and less substantial feeling than Moleskine. Overall, it just doesn't feel as sleek and ruggedly made as a Moleskine, though that may just be perception. I carried my first one around in a backpack crammed full of other books and odds and ends for two months with no ill effects whatsoever.
- The elastic isn't as...well, elastic.
- When new and newly unwrapped from their protective wrap, these notebooks smell funny. It's sort of a press-board sort of smell. It quickly wears off, fortunately. It's been awhile since I unwrapped a new Moleskine, and I'm sure they have a "new notebook" smell as well, but I don't remember it being objectionable in any way.
- I've experienced some skipping issues: the paper, while very ink friendly for the most part, is pretty sensitive to skin oils. Fountain pen ink may skip on spots where you rested your hand. I sometimes have similar issues with other quality paper, though (i.e. paper that doesn't absorb ink like crazy). It's a trade-off.
- The last eight pages are perforated and can be easily removed. Personally, it's not a feature I imagine I'll use.
- In addition to the numbered pages, there's a blank table of contents page at the front to assist with organizing. At the moment, I'm not sure how I'd use this in a journal. For significant dates, maybe? Dunno. But it's there for those of you who would use such a thing.
They aren't perfect, and I wouldn't declare them a Moleskine killer. For the zillion and a half people who use gel pens or ballpoints and who don't care about the other little features the Leuchtturm1917 offers, Moleskine may remain the better choice. And Moleskines are everywhere, after all. (Even Target, now!) They're convenient.
I'm sold, nonetheless. The Leuchtturm1917 notebooks have most of the features I like about the Moleskine (hard cover, bookmark, elastic, pocket, at least kinda lays flat) and a few others I really appreciate (page numbers, dot grid format), the paper is way better, and none of the drawbacks are utter deal breakers to me. They're my journal of choice for the time being. I just hope the price remains reasonable-ish!
Vitals as reviewed:
249 slightly off-white dot grid pages
Acid-free 80gsm paper
A5 size (5.75 x 8.25")
Designed in Germany, printed and bound in Taiwan