I've had a Baron Fig Confidant notebook for a while, ever since backing their Kickstarter campaign, but I only started using the notebook a couple of weeks ago. In December, I bought a second: the limited edition "Three-Legged Juggler" Special Edition, which arrived just before Christmas. And I will buy more. The Baron Fig Confidant is everything I look for in a notebook, and I see this becoming my go-to "larger-size" notebook of choice.
There was something about this project that I liked, from the tastefully designed, understated cloth cover, to the very reasonable price (about $16--take that, Moleskine), to the fact that the notebook opens and lies completely flat. The latter is something you would think stationery companies would have mastered by now, but they haven't. I give up on, or simply don't purchase, many notebooks because you have to hold them open to actually write on the entire page, and when you do this to a cheap or poorly made notebook it breaks the spine and causes the entire thing to fall apart. I've intentionally abused the heck out of the Confidant to see how this thing will hold up, and it's an attractive, well-made notebook.
But what about the paper? It's handled everything that I've thrown at it flawlessly. On the fountain pen side of things, I don't use extremely wide or wet stub or music nibs for daily writing, and I don't use high-maintenance ink, so I've never had a problem with the paper in the Confidant. If you use broad, wet nibs (especially flex nibs), and write with highly saturated ink such as Noodler's or Private Reserve, you will probably seen some bleed-through and feathering on the paper. But as many have realized, this paper truly shines with pencils. The paper is slightly textured, which makes it extremely nice for writing with all types of pencils, especially lighter grades of graphite that don't show up as well on smoother papers. I would go so far as to call it the perfect pencil notebook, of all the books I've used to date.
I'm currently using my Confidant (the standard gray) as my Morning Pages/free writing notebook. (In other words, the stream of consciousness, nonsensical-to-everyone-other-than-me stuff they could use to lock me up if anyone ever found it and read it; sort of like this blog.) I haven't started to use the Three-Legged Juggler book yet, but I like the color and will grab one or two more before they sell out.
Other well-made, bound notebooks that I've found include:
- Papier Plus: These very nice, high-end books are made in a small shop in Paris, which is probably one of the nicest stationery stores I have ever visited. Seriously, I was within 8 oz. or so of having to pay the overweight bag fee coming home. They are filled with blank laid paper that also handles ink and pencil well (though they primarily sell pencils in the shop, so I expect the notebook is designed with graphite in mind). The downside to these notebooks is the price (35 Euros for the size I have, plus shipping), but again, they are a luxury product, and for those of us in the states we have an improving exchange rate and no VAT.
- TWSBI: On the slightly more economical end of the spectrum, if you're looking for a nice soft-cover notebook, check out the TWSBI notebooks. I've been using one of their large notebooks at work notes for the past year or so. The version I have uses a fairly narrow ruling, and there's a good number of pages, so it lasts forever. This notebook also has been subjected to significant abuse (i.e., air travel, coffee spills while working in rental cars, etc.) and it's remarkably still in one piece. It looks....distinguished.
- Emilo Braga: I vaguely remember using one of these years ago when I was living in Europe, and really enjoying it. Emilio Braga is a family owned Portuguese company that makes very nice looking "cloud" patterned notebooks that apparently haven't changed much since 1918. They have that classic "composition book" look. These are next on my list. The large size is available from CW Pencil Enterprise, and there is also a smaller size that comes with an elastic closure.
They say that the last stage is "acceptance". . . . I'm gradually coming around to the fact that I will never burn my way through my notebook backlog. (But that's the point of having a "stash," isn't it?)