I used to review a lot of notebooks. Like, a lot. Then gradually I settled on (mostly) Tomoe River paper from a select roster of makers: Pebble, Elia Note, Musubi, Galen, GLP. And now I have a stockpile of more than 25 notebooks, enough to last me years. So you could say I’m not actively on the hunt.
But when an email lands in my inbox like the one I received from Atoms to Astronauts a couple of weeks back, I couldn’t resist. It ticked all the boxes. A plucky young brand. UK-made notebooks, with UK-made paper. Fountain-pen friendly. Colourful STEM-themed covers.
Next thing I know, this arrived.
It’s botany themed, and I love the colour scheme of greens and teals on black. If it doesn’t appeal to you, there are versions for all kinds of scientific and mathematical disciplines, created with obvious care and love.
The specs are solid. The notebook is of my preferred A5 size, and my version is a hardcover — but softcover versions are available.
Mine has 7mm lines, which are grey and just faint enough. Ink tends to roll off the lines, but I don’t find that an issue. There’s a 5mm dot grid option too.
Corners are rounded on both covers and pages, and they’re executed really well. Covers overhang the pages to protect the edges.
There’s a single black ribbon bookmark.
The paper is pretty thick at 100gsm, so the 180 page count is spot on, delivering a package that’s not too thick but with enough pages to be useful.
This is not a design that’s packed with features. There’s no table of contents, no cover page, no page numbers, no back pocket, no perforations. That’s not a problem for me but it may be for you.
This is a proper rigid hardback. The covers have some flex, but only a little.
They have a silk coated finish, of the kind that will quickly show polished scuffs — kind of unavoidable with the printed designs on the covers.
The binding is stiff. The specs claim that the pages lay flat, but they absolutely don’t, even with encouragement. The softback version may be more compliant.
So, what about that paper?
In short, it is definitely fountain-pen friendly. There’s negligible feathering, no bleedthrough, and due to the paper weight, hardly any showthrough.
The stock was unfazed by all but large drops of ink, which caused a little crinkling but again no bleed.
The paper is coloured a light cream, which is noticeable against the grey cover sheets:
And against white Tomoe:
The finish is fairly smooth, just silky under the fingertips. But there’s enough texture to cause some jaggies at the edges of strokes with some nibs. You can see it on the teal Nakaya sample above left, and on the turquoise caps writing below.
Dry times are fast, which is great from a practicality perspective, but after a few days of writing with this book for meeting notes, with a variety of pens from needlepoint to stub… I never felt that joyful sensation that my nibs were skating along on a cushion of ink. The ink gets sucked into the paper and your nib drags just that tiny bit.
As a result too inks show up a little unsaturated compared to Tomoe, and there’s a little less sheen. Nibs even seem a little narrower. Shading is good, though.
52gsm Tomoe sets a very high bar for any paper to beat, and I was pleasantly surprised by the Atoms to Astronauts paper. It’s definitely FP-friendly, and I’d be happy to use this notebook every day (although my daughter has called dibs on it).
At £22, these are not cheap notebooks. You can get an incredibly feature-rich hardback A5 notebook from Dingbats for £16, and even Stamford Notebooks’ beautiful UK-made clothbound notebooks are cheaper at around the £20 mark (although I think that is with a smaller page count). And in the softcover world, GLP’s The Author is £22 with 192 pages of Tomoe, too.
So really it comes down to whether the gorgeous range of covers from Atoms to Astronauts appeals to you — whether you just like the designs, or whether you work in a particular STEM field or have children you’re trying to encourage to take an interest.
As to me, I’m just really happy to have another UK-made notebook option out there.
This notebook was sent to me for free. You can get yours here.