One of the United States’ premiere stationery manufacturers, Crane & Co., has decided to get in on the notebook game, and graciously sent me some samples for review.
As you would expect from Crane, the presentation is outstanding. Crane & Co. makes luxury stationery, and if you decide to pull the trigger and shell out the money, they make every effort to give you what you pay for. I have several sets of engraved Crane correspondence cards that I use on occasion, and it’s excellent stationery that is pleasant to write on, has held up over the years, and will take any fountain pen or ink you can throw at it.
My notebooks arrived in Crane's signature navy blue box, carefully wrapped in tissue paper, just as my correspondence cards did. The notebooks themselves feature several attractive engraved cover designs, and I received one of each of the following: “Engraved Starfish on Beach Glass,” “Engraved Queen Bee on Pink Blush,” “Engraved Vintage Airplane on Espresso,” and standard “Notebooks” in both a medium A5 and smaller pocket. Apart from the engraved covers and the fact that they contain Crane paper, the design of these notebooks should appear familiar: Both the A5-ish version and the pocket-sized notebooks contain 48 pages, feature rounded corners, and are “saddle stitched,” which is just another way of saying that the pages are folded over and stapled through the cover (like Field Notes, Word, etc.). All Crane Stationery is made in the U.S.A.
Let me start by saying that the 24 lb., 100% cotton-rag “Crane’s Crest” paper used in these notebooks is extremely tactile, with a hint of tooth, and offers a very pleasant writing experience. The cotton-rag paper also does a fantastic job of containing feathering, even with the wettest fountain pen nibs. When I first saw the rag paper with all those fibers, I expected fountain pen ink to feather like crazy - I shouldn’t have worried, as the paper performed fantastically in this regard. I was a bit surprised, however, to see pinpoint spots of bleed-through and show-through on the back of the page.
Certain low-maintenance inks, such as Waterman blue in my Edison Glenmont with a gushing broad 14kt nib, had no issues. However, as I tested out different pens, including a Montblanc 146 with a medium stub (Robert Oster Fire & Ice), a Visconti Homo Sapiens with a Masuyama needlepoint (Montblanc Burgundy), a Pelikan M800 with a Masuyama Cursive Italic (Franklin-Christoph Spanish Blue), the same didn’t hold true. I even had a hint of bleed and show through with a rollerball refill, though you have to look pretty hard to see it.
Granted, as you can see in the photos, this is far from terrible bleed-through that certainly wouldn’t prevent me from using both sides of the page, and it doesn’t impact the functionality of the notebook. Some might file this away as a minor annoyance and not care or think twice about such things. But, as I’ll discuss further below, at the price point Crane is asking for these notebooks, I personally don’t believe it’s unreasonable to expect absolute perfection, especially when those of us who don’t mind paying a lot for stationery tend to use fountain pens, and the pens and inks I used to test the paper weren't anything crazy in terms of width or wetness. While the paper performs relatively well for 24 lb. stock, and Crane was probably limited to using 24 lb. paper in order to constrain the thickness of the notebook etc., I can’t help but wonder how Baron Fig has figured out a way to make it work using similarly textured paper in the Vanguard and Confidant, while at the same time keeping to a lower price point. A luxury stationery company like Crane shouldn’t necessarily compete on price, but when you’re pricing the product this high, it raises expectations in terms of versatility and performance.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
As with most Crane products, these notebooks are high-quality and beautiful, but expensive. The “Notebook” engraved 5.5" x 8" (A5-ish) book, which is my favorite of the bunch, costs $12 for a single 48-page book. The smaller, 4” x 6” notebook runs $9 for a single 48-page pocket notebook. That’s steep, and if I’m going to pay this much money for high-end stationery, I personally expect to see no bleeding or even show-through. I’m sure Crane will find a market for these notebooks in Crane enthusiasts and the gift market - probably the intended targets - but the price point likely prevents them from becoming a “daily driver” for most people.
You can purchase these notebooks directly from Crane & Co’s online store. Since I do love the look and feel of Crane’s paper, I’d be interested in seeing whether they release a larger notebook or journal with the 32 lb. stock and more pages. Based on my past experience with Crane stationery, I’d gladly pay a premium for that.
Disclaimer: Crane & Co. sent me these notebooks free of charge for review purposes.