Moleskine Lord of the Rings Moria Limited Edition Review

A few years ago Moleskine came out with a series of rather plain Lord of the Rings limited edition notebooks. This year they’ve had a redo, and this time they’ve decided to invest a little more in the cover designs. The result is a series of notebooks that really does the LotR justice.

The Moleskine Lord of the Rings Moria limited edition is a proof that even if you choose grey as your colour scheme, you don’t have to create a dull product (I’m looking at you Blackwing volume 10).

Notice how even the font on the paper band has been changed to fit the LotR design sensibility.

Every little detail counts, including the choice of colour for the paper band (it just pops), and the Tolkien symbol on the spine.

I’ve decided to use this notebook as my next journal. You can check out just how many things I pack into my journals by comparing the two notebooks’ thickness. They’ve got the same page count (192).

The front cover features a drawing of the entrance to Moria, in dark grey on a light grey background. The drawing continues on the spine and the back. You can see members of the fellowship (in gold foil) standing in front of Moria’s gates, the monster about to attack from the lake, and the carving of the two trees and the entrance runes. A description of the scene is given in gold foil, also in the LotR font.

The back cover. You can see the gate rune to Moria in detail, and the Moleskine logo hardly at all. It’s just debossed into the cover. The elastic band matches the dark grey of the drawing.

Inside the front and back cover is some of Moleskine’s finest work in terms of endpaper design. The front features a sketch of the Misty Mountains and lands to the south and the east, and also the “In case of loss“. You can see Tolkien debating which name to use for various places.

The back includes a contour map of the Misty Mountains around Mirrormere. Again, the drawing is perfectly aligned with the back pocket (it might not seem so in the photo, but trust me, it is), a small but not trivial design feature.

This is a lined notebook, with a light grey ribbon. The paper works well with pencil, ballpoint, gel ink pen, fineliners and Noodler’s Bulletproof black.

The add on to this edition is also unique: an insert with the Cirth alphabet that Tolkien invented.

Inside the insert:

The B-side of the paper band includes a timeline for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, focusing on Frodo and Sam’s journey.

If you love the Lord of the Rings this edition is a no brainer —  I highly recommend it. Even for non-fans this is a very well designed, grey/red/black and white edition that proves that you can create beautiful things even with a limited palette.

 

 

Advertisements
Moleskine Lord of the Rings Moria Limited Edition Review

Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2019

Went to the Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2019 with the wonderful Tel Aviv Urban Sketchers group. Met a lot of lovely, joyful people in the crowd, and managed to draw two watercolour sketches before the heat and crowds got to me.

People were so kind with their remarks and the vibe and music was just awesome. Tel Aviv Pride is just one more reason to love my city.

Beautiful, happy people:

Happy Pride day!

Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2019

In Case of Loss

One of the most iconic things about Moleskines is the “In case of loss, please return to” on the front endpaper. You are supposed to write your name and address on the supplied four lines, together with an enticing, but not too enticing reward. According to Adrienne Raphael this feature of the Moleskine sees little use. If you’re Casey or Van Neistat you label every notebook cover with Whiteout, offering a cash reward.

img_0125-1.jpg

I just write my name and email, and with “let’s talk” in the reward line. I started filling the “In case of loss” at first because at the time I could barely afford to buy a Moleksine and they were really difficult to obtain, so I wanted a chance to get them back if I ever misplaced them. Over the years filling these lines has become a habit, a ritual that makes the notebook mine instead of just another notebook. I never thought that I would come in use.

Until last year.

I used my Moleskine to journal during a night flight from London to Tel Aviv. In the rush out of the plane I didn’t notice that I forgot my notebook in my seat pocket, together with my beloved Ti Arto. I got home at around 3 AM after a sleepless night, and crashed to sleep. When I woke up a few hours later and realized that I lost my journal you could hear my howl around the block. I beat myself up and then contacted the airline (the brilliant British Airways), as well as the Ben Gurion and Heathrow lost and found, in the faint hope that someone found my notebook and didn’t toss it out with the garbage.

A few hours later, while I was still mourning my loss, I got an email.

The Customer Service Manager on my flight had found my notebook, saw my email address on the “In case of loss” page, and had emailed me. There are good people in the world, and one of them was the manager on my BA flight.

Two weeks later my journal arrived through the mail, and I nearly cried when I saw it.

You see, when I first filled that from page this wasn’t a special notebook. I had bought it on sale, it wasn’t a favourite limited edition of mine, and I had just randomly selected it from the shelf when I filled my previous Moleskine.

But then I wrote in it.

By the time I lost it the notebook contained memories of my dog, which died two months before, notes from my London trip, ideas for a short story, and a lot of snippets of everyday life. It had become meaningful, irreplaceable.

So when you crack open a new notebook, any new notebook, take a moment to jot down your name and email at least. You may plan on only using it for grocery lists right now, but you never know what the future holds.

In Case of Loss

Moleskine Bruce Chatwin Songlines Anniversary Limited Edition

In 1987 Bruce Chatwin published “The Songlines”, his classic travel narrative about Australia. In the book he describes his favourite notebooks, moleskines, which he purchased at various Parisian bookstores:

In France, these notebooks are known as carnets moleskines: ‘moleskine’ in this case, being its black oilcloth binding. Each time I went to Paris, I would buy a fresh supply from a papeterie in the Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie. The pages were squared and the end-papers held in place with an elastic band. I had numbered them in series. I wrote my name and address on the front page, offering a reward to the finder. To lose a passport was the least of one’s worries: to lose a notebook was a catastrophe.

In 1995 Maria Sebregondi read this account and decided to try and revive those moleskine notebooks as a brand. She approached a small Italian design company, Modo & Modo, and in 1997 the Moleskine (capital M) came to life.

In 2017 Moleskine came out with a collaboration with Vintage Books that celebrated the 20th anniversary of Moleskine and the 30th anniversary of “The Songlines”. The result is stunning, and perhaps a bit thought provoking.

Moleskine created a version of “The Songlines” that looks like a hardback Moleskine, including the elastic band and the back pocket, and contains the full text of the book, an excerpt from Chatwin’s biography about his trip to Australia, an explanation of what they owe this text and how they see their future, and several blank pages for notes. To this edition they attached a plain, large softcover Moleksine. Not a limited edition Moleskine, just a regular plain softcover Moleskine. We’ll get to that decision later.

The paper band on this edition is phenomenal. There’s no B-side (this came out before Moleskine started to play with the B-side of their paper bands), but it’s extra wide and extra long and embossed so I kept it in the back pocket, as it’s so pretty.

As you can see, “The Songlines” book is considerably thicker than the softcover Moleskine that it comes with. The text is 293 pages long, and together with the biography excerpt it comes to 320 pages long. Then add the blank notes pages and you get a considerably larger “notebook”. It’s still very well bound, with the pages opening flat and the standard Moleksine paper. I wonder if the size of the book made them realize that they can create a Moleskine Expanded. In any case, it’s a really fun book to hold.

On the back cover the paper band explains the history of Moleskine with “The Songlines” and what this edition celebrates.

When you remove the paper band you get two simple looking Moleskines, one embossed with Chatwin’s name, the title of the book and the publisher’s name. The second is a regular plain softcover Moleskine, and in between the two is a cardboard separator with “Enjoy your travel writing” written on it.

Here are the book and the notebook side by side.

The spine of the book, with the Vintage books and Moleskine logo.

The beautiful, beautiful endpapers of “The Songlines” book.

The title page:

At the end of “The Songlines” there’s an explanation of what Moleskine’s history with this book is.

The excerpt from Nicholas Shakespeare’s “Bruce Chatwin” biography:

The notes pages:

And the back end-papers:

This brings me to the peculiar and somewhat thought provoking move of including a plain large softcover Moleskine with this well designed and produced book. To be honest, I was disappointed at first. Why wasn’t this a limited edition with the same colourful end-papers? Why was it a softcover and not a hardcover Moleskine, like the original 1997 notebook?

After giving it some thought and reading “The Songlines” I think I can guess why. This edition is about the book, not so much about lionizing Moleskine as a brand. It’s a tip of the hat to the man to whom which the company owes so much. The notebooks he describes don’t seem to be half as well designed as Moleskines (no rounded pages, no back pocket, no ribbon marker), and they appear to be softcover plain or ruled notebooks. Moleskine brought out their equivalent, and I kind of like the gesture. There’s another, much less quoted moleskine scene in “The Songlines” that I think that this applies to:

‘Nice notebook,’ he said.

‘I used to get them in Paris,’ I said. ‘But now they don’t make them any more.’

‘Paris? he repeated, raising an eyebrow as if he’d never heard anything so pretentious.

Sometimes keeping it simple and being aware and respectful of your inspiration is all that’s required.

Moleskine Bruce Chatwin Songlines Anniversary Limited Edition

Moleskine Fall 2019 Catalog

Moleskine has issued their Fall 2019 catalogue and it’s even more interesting than their Spring 2019 one. As usual, here are the highlights:

  • Classic Notebook Expanded. Johnny Gamber will be happy to see that these are staying on. 400 pages of goodness, which are for some reason also offered in soft cover. <shrug>
  • Classic Leather Notebooks. These got wider release (not just Barnes and Noble) and get more vibrant options besides Black —  Amber Yellow, Forget Me Not Blue, and Bordeaux Red. They feature thicker, 100gsm paper (as in the Two-Go notebooks), and are fountain pen friendly (as are the excellent Two-Go notebooks), but come with 176 pages instead of the regular 192 (soft cover) or 240 (hard cover).
  • Two-Go. These just got a colour change to one of their ribbons (it’s white now).
  • Blend Collection. Four new fabric designs/colours in the FW2019 Blend collection that are added to the four new fabric designs/colours in the SS2019 Blend collection. The covers on these are phenomenal and Baron Fig has a lot to learn from Moleskine when it comes to using fabric. These are still only offered with ruled paper, which in some ways makes sense (still what Moleskine sells the most) but I wish that they at least offered them in one other kind of ruling (dotted?). These all look smart and professional, and they do have a more “wintery” look to them.
  • Planners/Diaries. Fall is the time of year for these and Moleskine offers a LOT of them, in various colours and designs. This year’s limited editions are Alice in Wonderland, Star Wars (so, so pretty), Le Petit Prince, Dr Seuss, and Doraemon. My guess is that the Alice in Wonderland and Star Wars ones will sell much faster than Le Petit Prince or Dr Seuss, so if you like them, pre-order them.
  •  Limited Edition Notebooks. My favourites! Let’s dig in, shall we?
    • Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived keeps getting new limited editions and that’s not really surprising. What is surprising is that Moleskine is coming out with 7 (!) Harry Potter notebooks, one dedicated to a pivotal moment in each book, with four coming out this year and three more coming out in Spring/Summer 2020. All the notebooks share a design language, and the four that are coming out this year are very good looking. The very popular Marauder’s Map edition is getting a fresh take as part of a limited edition, numbered box with a poster as an insert (something that Moleskine hasn’t done for a few years now).
    • Star Wars. Also not the first limited edition for this franchise, and this one has everything I look for in a Moleskine Limited edition. Somebody really thought about the design, the quotes, the colour scheme, and they’ve managed to create a nostalgic feel for a Sci Fi themed notebook.
    • Dragon Ball. THE FIRST DOT GRID LIMITED EDITION, you guys! Who’s excited? I’m excited! Is there anything else that needs to be said? (OK, quickly then: four notebooks, two ruled, two dot grid, really well designed, and there’s a chance that the covers are cloth covers, which gives the whole edition 10,000 more points in my book).
    • David Bowe. I kind of expected Bowe to get a limited edition before Bob Dylan, but Dylan got his in the spring. I think that these are nicer than the Dylan notebooks, but I really need to see one without the paper band to tell.
    • James Bond/007. Moleskine’s second attempt at making a 007 notebook and overall it looks better. Two notebooks, one blue and one black, with the 007 logo and the iconic swirling gun barrel, a secret code table on the B-side of the paper band and a themed sticker sheet. Simple but effective.
    • Year of the Rat. Chinese New Year! It’s nice to see Moleskine trying some new and interesting things with their limited editions, and these are puh-retty! Two notebooks (one red and one blue) and one boxed notebook (not numbered), each with 2 lucky red envelops, and all of them very well designed. Simple, evocative, beautiful.
  • Watercolour Blocks. These are interesting but a little strange. Moleskine’s appeal has always been that they are one of the few to offer halfway decent hardbound watercolour notebooks that can be used on the go. There’s a lot of fierce competition in the watercolour pad market and I really don’t understand what Moleskine are doing there. Waterford, Canson, Strathmore, Bockingford, Windsor Newton, Daler-Rowney, Fabriano, and even Clairefontaine offer artist grade and student grade watercolour pads. Why buy Moleskine’s, especially when they still offer only 35% cotton paper?
  • Log Book. I assume that this was created with the Bullet Journaling crowd in mind, but the dotted paper, index, numbered pages, thicker paper, pen test section, flap and double ribbons will have a wide appeal.
  • Voyageur. This popular, themed notebook is getting two new colours: Hibiscus Orange and Elm Green.

That’s it for me. I’m not interested in the “Smart” stuff or the accessories, and there’s enough here as there is. It looks like 2019 is going to be an excellent year for Moleskine, and I can’t wait to get my hands on several of these notebooks.

 

Moleskine Fall 2019 Catalog

Tombow Object Rollerball Review

In the early 2000s the Tombow Object fountain pen was one of the recommended beginner fountain pens on the market. That was in the pre-Pilot Metropolitan and pre-TWSBI days, when the beginner fountain pen choices were pretty sparse. I have the Tombow Object fountain pen and I’ll review it at a later time, but a few years ago I saw its rollerball counterpart on clearance sale, and so I risked the purchase.

I’m not a rollerball person, since they tend to behave like the worst of fountain pens (ink spreading, feathering, bleeding through and leaking out of the pen) without the good parts (line variation and versatility in ink colour). But the Tombow Object rollerball intrigued me because it shares the same body as the Tombow Object fountain pen but is significantly cheaper, and so I was hoping that even if it turned out to be an annoying pen to use, I could just use it as a way to get some colour variety with my Object fountain pen.

And why would you want that, you ask? Well, just look at that anodization:

The hairline on the body is just a smudged drop of ink. 

The Tombow Object is a metal bodied pen (brushed aluminum body and cap that gives it a great texture) with a plastic section and a steel clip. That gives it some heft, but still keeps it light enough to be comfortable to use both capped and uncapped. There’s a satisfying snap when you cap the pen, and it stays on very securely. The tip doesn’t rattle or wiggle around, and the clip does an admirable job of being a good pocket clip and preventing the pen from rolling about. The pen has a beautifully designed taper on both ends that gives it a bit of character, and an unobtrusive “Tombow” and “Japan” printed in white on the cap. Although this colour is called gold, it’s a coppery-gold, close to a champaign colour you can sometimes see on cars.

The appeal of the Tombow Object has always been the fantastic anodization colours that were offered, each one really vibrant (except for the silver, which was boring). As you can see from the photo above, like all aluminum pens, it can be dented and nicked. This is probably a pen that you want to keep on your desk and not bashing around in your bag or pocket.

Another reason to keep this pen on your desk is that it tends to leak. There’s a slip mechanism in the cap that both prevents the ink from drying out and from leaking beyond the tip of the pen, but as you can see in the photo below, you need to be careful when you start using the pen where you grip it, or just accept ink stains on your fingers (or keep a paper towel at hand).

The pen uses a proprietary Tombow Object refill, which is always a shame. I wish that I could just pop in any fountain pen ink cartridge in there instead.

The slip cap also allows you to easily post this pen, although I don’t recommend it. For one thing, it isn’t necessary as the pen is long enough as it is, and for another, because the pen leaks into the cap you’ll just spread ink on the pen body.

It’s ink test time! Here’s a sampling of how the Tombow Object rollerball behaves on different kinds of paper:

Clairefontaine Back to Basics A5 notebook (90 gsm, fountain pen friendly paper)
Reverse side of Clairefontaine Back to Basics A4 notebook. 
Leuchtturm 1917 Reporter notebook.
Reverse side Leuchtturm 1917 Reporter notebook.
Baron Fig Confidant notebook
Reverse side Baron Fig Confidant notebook
Field Notes 50#T paper (Firespotter).
Reverse side Field Notes 50#T paper (Firespotter).
Moleskine 70 gsm paper (Antwerp Blue Denim). 
Reverse side Moleskine 70 gsm paper (Antwerp Blue Denim). Note: there was less bleed through the more this pen was used (you can see in the Object and in my review of this notebook) but there was still significant show through. 

None of this is great, but to be frank, this is generally in keeping with rollerball behaviour, and one of the reasons that I really don’t like the Retro51 Schmidt rollerball refills. The Object behaved best on the Clairefontaine paper, and even displayed some fetching line variation. It’s still a “one side of the page only” type of pen though.

As for the cap-and-body switching hack, it only partially works. You can take the body of a Tombow Object rollerball and switch it with one from a Tombow Object fountain pen, but the plastic insert in the cap that prevents the ink from drying up or leaking is incompatible between models. The pen just won’t snap shut with the “wrong” type of cap.  It does still allow for some crazy cap/body combos, but that a whole different ballgame.

So would I recommend this pen? It is beautifully designed, looks great, is comfortable to use and you can find it on the secondary market for the price of a Retro51 or slightly cheaper. The enormous downside to this pen is that it uses a proprietary refill (I have not yet tried to hack it to see if it can accept other refills). So if  you like this pen I would recommend stocking up on those refills, because Tombow might not offer them for sale forever. The Tombow Object and the Tombow Egg which use them have both been discontinued for a few years now, which is a great pity.

Tombow Object Rollerball Review

Moleskine Denim Antwerp Blue Review

Following the success of the excellent Moleskine Denim limited editions, Moleskine has added two Denim notebooks to their regular lineup. Yay! The first of these is the Moleskine Denim Antwerp Blue, which is a sort of classic mid wash, blue jeans coloured cover.

The notebook cover is wrapped in denim, and it looks and feels exactly like a well worn pair of jeans. The band is black, unlike the white in the limited editions, and there’s no white print on the cover. I think that the Denim limited editions are more striking and better looking because of these white highlights, but that Molskine made a deliberate choice here to keep these notebooks more muted and office friendly.

The front endpage, with the “In case of loss” covered up because I’ve been using this notebook and so my details are there.

The back endcover with the famous pocket. 

The back cover is where Molskine allowed itself to have a little fun. Their logo is printed on a grey fabric band that looks and feels like the kind of labels that you have inside jeans (the ones with the washing instructions on them).

The band is orange, and that adds a welcome pop of colour to the notebook. This notebook uses 70 gsm paper like most of Moleskine’s lineup and there is some show through with gel ink pens and ballpoints. If you are a very heavy handed writer, you can really put a dent into this paper, so take that into account.

Moleskine does not claim that this paper is fountain pen friendly, and it clearly aims it for standard pens (gel ink pens and ballpoints) plus pencils, but their recent standard lineup has featured more fountain pen friendly paper. The Moleskine Denim is no different from the new dot-grid notebooks in my experience in that there is no more of the strange spidering or the over absorbency of the paper that left certain inks looking weird, but there is show through and with wetter nibs also bleed through.

Here’s an example of some pens in use in order from top to bottom:

  • Tombow Object rollerball (uses an ink cartridge very similar to a fountain pen).
  • TWSBI ECO 1.1 stub with J Herbin Caroube de Chypre.
  • Lamy Studio Terracotta fine with Diamine Terracotta.
  • Baron Fig Squire rollerball (it uses a Schmidt P8127 rollerball refill that spreads and bleeds on most paper).
  • Uni-ball Signo RT 0.5 gel ink pen.

I didn’t test a ballpoint or a pencil because they all work well, and the gel ink is there as a benchmark.

There’s a B-side to the band that comes with the notebook, and this one is a ruler.

This is one of my absolute favourite notebooks in recent years. The cover texture is fantastic — much softer and thicker than the one that Baron Fig uses, and it gets worn like a pair of jeans the more you use it (i.e. it gets even softer, and the colour fades a bit in the edges). It’s subtle and serious looking enough to fly under the radar in office use, and it is just fun to use. The fact that I can use most of my fountain pens in it is just a little bonus.

Moleskine Denim Antwerp Blue Review