Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Notebook Review: Clairefontaine Basics Clothbound Notebook

When I received the package that Karen Doherty of Exaclair sent me in September, I liked everything in it except a black, plain notebook. :) It's a medium Clairefontaine Basics Clothbound notebook with black cloth binding and black cover, but had the purest whitest paper I've ever seen. Back then, I was craving orange Rhodia pads, orange Webbies and other colorful notebooks, so I kept the Clairefontaine Basics notebook for future use. While looking for a notebook from my stash sometime last week, I saw the Clairefontaine Basics once again, and though it may not have been love at first sight for me, the notebook held my attention the next time we met. 

First of all, I searched for the notebook's name, and I'm happy to learn that it is called the Clairefontaine Basics Clothbound Notebook. I didn't know it then. Hm. Aptly named, huh? It measures 5.75 x 8 inches, is made in France, and the solid cardboard cover has texture like grainy leather. The purest whitest paper in the Basics notebook is pH-neutral and acid-free 90g Clairefontaine paper. Whoa.

This time around, I fell in love with the simplicity of this French-made notebook. There is nothing fancy, or elaborate on its cover except for the modestly placed Clairefontaine logo embossed on the lower right corner of the front cover.

The cloth binding in this black Basics notebook blends well with the color of the cardboard cover. Simple, neat, modest.

The Clairefontaine Basics notebook is clothbound and sewn using linen thread. Its pages open flat and that makes the Basics notebook easy to write on. There are just so many features to make one fall in love with this notebook: rounded corners, ruled, unmargined pages, and it doesn't have a dangling ribbon pagemarker. (I don't have anything against pagemarkers, they are just annoying at times.) The Clairefontaine paper used is chlorine-free and made only with pulp from trees harvested from certified sustainable forests. (Clairefontaine is the only European manufacturer that makes its own paper for its own products.)

The purest, whitest paper of this notebook is touted to be the best paper for fountain pen use. I know this is true, but I want to do a more demanding test on this notebook, so I used most of my wide nibbed pens. First, my calligraphy pens: Manuscript, Lamy, Osmiroid. The mediums followed: Haoililai, Wality, Lamy, Schneider. Then, I used most of my wet inks: J. Herbin, Camel, Waterman, De Atramentis. The results? See the photos below. :)

I did not see any feathering on the Clairefontaine paper...

... nor any bleed at all. What is seen here is the ink showing through the other side of the page.

Clairefontaine Basics Notebook is a neat notebook. Simple and elegant, yet, sturdy and durable. I like its simplicity, but mostly, I love it because it makes fountain pen writing possible, and a wonderful experience, too.

The Clairefontaine Basics Clothbound Notebooks are available in a variety of sizes and covers. See the selection at Exaclair's website, the 2010 catalog is presented as an interactive online publication, very much like browsing a printed catalog, which is another cool thing from Exaclair.

The Clairefontaine Basics Clothbound Notebook and other Clairefontaine notebooks are available online at the Goulet Pen Company, and from other stationery stores.


  1. Anonymous1:39 AM

    These are such great notebooks especially since they are priced less than fancier ones. Nice review and I agree with it all. :)

  2. Anonymous1:52 AM

    Great comparison! Your handwriting is awesome. Lovely selection of inks - I'd love to try the Camel Scarlet red, Opera Rouge and de Atramentis Fuschia!

  3. I agree. At first I passed this notebook by because of its bland look, but then I realized it's a cheap notebook with clairefontaine paper; how could I go wrong? I'm so glad I bought a few of these (I got the large size). I'm a writer and I need lots of notebooks. Now that I've discovered this gem, I'm going to buy 20 of them for myself for Xmas (I bought six to hold me till then).

    As for the bland cover, when I was looking for reviews of the basics notebook, before buying them, I ran across some people who said they got a custom leather cover for it, made at Renaissance Art. I just ordered one, and I think I'm going to be in notebook heaven when it arrives.

    This is the Holy Grail of notebooks. So says I.

  4. Wonderful review. It amazing what we aren't enthralled by at first glance can so surprise us when we just give it a chance.

  5. Thanks for the shoutout! One more thing to add about these notebooks, as soon as the 'old stock' clears out, Clairefontaine will be adding elastic bands to these notebooks (same price). That'll make it better for traveling and all around throwing them around. Your handwriting is awesome (I LOVE calligraphy pens!!), and I really like the style and flow of your review. Good job on the pics as well! These are very popular notebooks. I didn't offer them at first, only the classic clothbounds. Since I started offering the Basics a few months ago, they've far outsold the classics for good reason. The covers are more durable, and people like the simple design and rugged covers. They also blend in a little better in a business situation than a brightly colored Classic. After a looooong debate about which type of paper/book to use to hand write the Bible (yup....it's a life long goal), I've decided to use the A4 Basic Clothbounds because of their size, ease of writing, durability, archival quality, and cost. They're a whole lot of notebook for the money.

  6. Catherine7:23 PM

    OH GOD, that notebook is so beautiful. An all-encompassing comment: seeing your blog makes me love the world more. HAHA that sounds a bit dramatic, but it's true. i like the whole concept of your blog (a blog about notebooks and pens). Every writer will enjoy reading it.