Karen Doherty, the VP of Marketing at Exaclair (the US distributor of Clairefontaine, Exacompta, Rhodia, Quo Vadis, J. Herbin, and more) generously provided this blank journal for review purposes. Thanks, Karen! :-)
Here's the link to their website, where you can find the latest catalog (Karen informed me that the new catalog will be coming relatively soon!).
The Exacompta "Basics" Tan lined journal is the subject of this review (E993/, page 22 of the 2008 catalog). It's a little bit confusing, since they have basically the same name, but this is NOT the same thing as the Clairefontaine "Basics" journals (p. 13 of the catalog, C79546).
Note: You can enlarge any of the pics in this review by clicking on the picture!
According to their website:
• Tan with brown cloth binding and gold edge /1 (lined only)
• 25% cotton, pH neutral, 100 g off white paper
The paper appears to be 80gsm.
This journal also comes with a black cover and silver gilding. There are 100 lined sheets in the journal, and it measures 5 1/2" x 8".
Here's a pic of the journal, still in its protective plastic:
And a pic of the back cover in plastic:
The front cover, with the journal standing up. Love the picture of the inkwell and quill dip pen on the cover! The cover is a textured cardboard cover, clothbound. According to their catalog, there is a leather cover available (M9934/), but I haven't seen this at the "usual suspects" websites.
A bright, multicolored ribbon marker (orange, red & green) is bound to the spine. It has an unfinished edge, cut at a diagonal. As you can see, the ribbon doesn't extend that far past the bottom of the journal. It's not too short, but if it was any shorter, it might be hard to grab.
Love the gold gilt edges! Unlike some gilding, this didn't come off on my fingers when I rubbed the edge of the journal. What a relief! I didn't want to look like an 8-year-old who had played with glitter glue after handling the journal. (Not that there's anything wrong with that! ;-)
Inside the front cover and 1st endpaper (there are 2 in the front and 2 in the back). The first endpaper doesn't open fully (it's attached to the front cover), but the second endpaper opens completely.
The first "real" page. This journal opens pretty flat (almost all of the pics in this review were taken without any assistance in holding it open). However, there is a bit of a hump in the middle, especially at the beginning of a signature. I'm not very picky about this, but some of you out there might care!
Here's the inside of the journal, showing a stitched signature. There are 4 stitches, approximately 1" each in length. There's about 1 1/8" margin between the top of the top stitch and the top of the journal (and the same margin on the bottom of the page). I didn't find this to be a problem in turning the pages--the signatures did not lift up while I did so--but again, some people are concerned about this.
Here's the ribbon bookmarker.
Closeup of signature stitching.
The paper is a laid finish, but not as obvious as some G. Lalo cards I have. It's pretty subtle, but definitely present. The paper is an off-white/cream color, easy on the eyes, but not buttery yellow.
I wrote with several different colors of fountain pen ink, with nibs ranging from 0.3mm to XXXXF super-needlepoint. Normally, since I write with such finely-nibbed pens, I prefer glassy smooth paper--I don't like a lot of feedback while writing. I expected to really dislike the texture, but I was surprised that I actually found it pretty interesting with my 0.3mm nibs. It was a little distracting with my super-needlepoint pens, however.
I normally prefer bright white Clairefontaine paper, because I use lots of brightly colored inks, and the white paper shows off the ink color better. However, the color wasn't too yellow for me, and made some of my ink colors seem warmer. I still prefer the bright white, however, given the choice, though many people like off-white paper for ease of reading.
Most of the inks I tried fared pretty well on this paper. There was some feathering with Noodler's Spirit of Bamboo, Britannia's Blue Waves, La Reine Mauve, and Prime of the Commons Blue-Black, but those tend to feather on many papers. The feathering wasn't bad enough to be really distracting, but this did feather more than the standard bright white Clairefontaine paper. It didn't widen the line as far as I can tell.
Here's the reverse side of the page. As expected, the lines written with my finest-nibbed pens didn't show through much at all. There is a little bit of showthrough with the darker inks and the wider nibs, but not much. And absolutely NO bleedthrough whatsoever (YMMV). Britannia's Blue Waves tends to bleed through many different papers, but not this one!
Here's a comparison with a small Clairefontaine notebook:
The line spacing in this journal was a bit wide for me (10mm between lines). I find Clairefontaine line spacing a bit wide, and this was even wider that that! But some of you may actually prefer this, especially if you write with juicy broad nibs, or have large handwriting and feel cramped by the line spacing of other journals.
Here's a comparison with a Markings by C.R. Gibson small pocket journal. I like the line spacing in the Markings journal better, but that's a personal preference. This journal is almost 2 Markings lines per 1 Basics line.
Here's a comparison with the small US Quo Vadis Habana. The line spacing is similar to the Markings journal, almost 2 lines to 1 Basics line. Note the difference in paper color, too.
The back cover.
Overall, this is a nice journal, and would be even nicer as a refill with a cover--I found the cardboard cover more durable than I expected, but I'd prefer to use it with a refillable cover. The line spacing is good for people with large handwriting, and the laid paper gave a little feedback, but not too much. The paper performed better than some journals with my FP inks (mostly Noodler's), as it didn't widen the lines of my nibs, but not as well as the regular bright white Clairefontaine paper--there was a bit of feathering with this paper. There was very little showthrough, and absolutely NO bleedthrough with my ink/nib combos, so those of you who write on both sides of the page might accept a little bit of feathering for this quality! The paper is very easy on the eyes without being too yellow, and the size is nice for those of you who don't need a pocket-sized journal--it's still small enough to put in a bag or large purse easily.
Update: For those of you interested in a cover for this journal, there are a couple of different covers available for this journal--a beautiful, upscale Mignon leather version (M9934 or M9924) and a pebble-grained Prestige Leather version.
Update #2: This also comes in a leather Saint Germain cover and a leather-like Madeira cover. Both on sale now at Writers Bloc (as of 2/18/09)--$20.00 and $14.50, respectively!
Update #3 (4/13/09): Here's the same notebook after it's been "toddler tested!" :-D