I was recently contacted by Central Crafts, a UK-based retailer of notebooks, journals, and photo albums, as well as other quirky handmade goods from around the world (such as these amazing animal-themed ceramic coffee mugs). Central Crafts is a family run business located in Hertfordshire, and "passionate about finding and making handmade, quality, ethically sourced products for our organically grown customers which now reach across the globe."
The company carries a wide range of leather notebooks and journals from Italy, India, and Thailand, and I selected a notebook to review from their Italian Artisan Journals line: the "Cortona" handmade leather bound journal in the "large" (A5-ish) size. The cover is a smooth leather that is very soft to the touch, and feels like the leather on a high-end briefcase or purse. There's a reason for this: the Italian journals sold by Central Crafts are handmade in Florence, Italy under the "Leatherkind" mark by a small family run manufacturer with over 50 years of experience. They apparently use the same "Spazzolato" leather that is usually reserved for high-end designer handbags. More information can be found on the Central Crafts website.
The Cortona contains lined ivory paper, which appears to be the only option available for this particular notebook, but it looks like there may be a blank paper option available in the other sizes. I know, many people would prefer a graph or dot grid option, but for a personal journal or commonplace book - which is what I think I'll use this notebook for - lined pages will work just fine. The paper itself handled most inks very well, including liquid-ink rollerballs and fountain pens.
I had no serious issues with feathering or bleedthrough on the paper. With one of my extremely wet Montblanc medium nibs, I experienced some minor feathering that you would have to stare pretty hard to see, as well as some pinpoint bleedthrough/show-through on the reverse side of the page. Neither rendered the page unusable, and I'd compare the paper to that used in the Leuchtturm 1917 notebook or early versions of the Baron Fig Confidant.
Takeaways/Where to Buy
I've been using my Cortona as a "commonplace book" for reading notes, and I've enjoyed having this item on my desk. The only drawback is that a journal this nice is non-refillable, so once you use it up you have to purchase another one. That said, the price is reasonable (£29) for an item of this quality, and refillable journals are also available if you prefer.
Fans of leather notebooks and journals should definitely check out what Central Crafts has to offer. In addition to the more traditional Italian line, they offer what they refer to as Indian Rustic Journals, as well as a line made in Thailand out of sustainably sourced tree bark. They also carry a range of home goods and other handmade products from around the world.
Many thanks to Alma and the team at Central Crafts for making this review possible!
Disclaimer: The product featured in this review was sent to me free of charge by Central Crafts for review purposes.