I’d wager that most stationery addicts are also rather into books. For me, the joy of travelling to a city and discovering a new pen shop is squarely matched by that of finding a good bookstore.
I used to be a bookseller, back in the day, so I feel somewhat of a connoisseur of good bookshops. I don’t mind a Waterstones (particularly one in a beautiful old building), but where possible I like something with personality (like my nearby Wallingford Bookshop) or history (like the great Foyles).
I’ve spent many an hour wandering around Foyles in London, so I was excited to have the opportunity to try out one of its new collection of branded A5 notebooks. This is more than brand engineering: the notebooks were designed in-house by Foyles’ own head of design, and made right here in the UK.
Of the four designs I opted for one called ‘Terracotta Red’, which in person precisely lives up to its name: a dusty, brick red.
It’s accented with a pink page marker;
‘FOYLES’ is printed in foil on the spine and back cover,
and a pretty concentric-circle design completes the front cover.
Inside, the colour scheme continues on the end papers, which rather remind me of the storms of Jupiter. You’ll see what I mean. I really like it.
Overall this is a gorgeous notebook that is immediately into ‘makes a great gift’ territory.
The covers have a soft-touch finish but are rigid. The covers overhang the pages, so there’s no need for rounded corners. The binding lays flat, too.
While the covers are beautiful, I found the red finish cracked off around where the covers joined the spine — and after only a couple of days, too. It makes me a little concerned for the long-term durability of the notebook.
What about the paper?
224 numbered, ruled pages are inside, in a pale ivory colour that I found rather pleasing. The paper’s an FSC-certified mix, feels wonderful under the fingers, and is uncoated.
Now, here’s where things turn a little pear-shaped, at least as a fountain pen user. The uncoated paper makes for wickedly fast dry times, but it feathers like crazy even with fine nibs.
You might think I’m being picky and that a bit of feathering never hurt anyone. You might be right, and for notetaking I’m happy to accept the compromise for smudge-free dry times.
But. Turn the page and you’ll find noticeable showthrough and bleedthrough, even though the paper is 100gsm. I have a lot harder time justifying this.
In my opinion, writing on both sides is a Bad Idea unless you use an extra-fine nib and dry ink (the only pen I was happy doing this with in this trial was my 3776 with ultra extra fine nib and Sailor Kiwa-Guro — it’s the third pen up in the last photo above).
The other effect of the absorbent paper is that it swallows any sheen and shading. Which is a shame. And I’m left scratching my head about how this happened, because in the press photos (above) the books are shown with a Kaweco Sport and a Lamy LX.
So, beautiful notebook, good value at £12.99, with numbered pages and a bookmark, and made in Britain. But (and it’s a huge but for readers of this blog), the paper is unusable for most fountain pens.
Foyles contacted me and offered this notebook for review free of charge. I hope you’ll see that I wasn’t biased by this in any way, but if you have any doubts, check out my ethics page.