Montblanc notebooks: a real luxury experience

I’m a fan of Montblanc’s pens and inks, but I’ve never before tried its paper products. Why? Partly it’s because I’m a Tomoe River addict. But it’s also because I had bad experiences with awful demo paper used in the boutiques. I assumed the notebooks would be the same.

I wish I hadn’t made that assumption. The notebook I have in front of me here today (kindly provided by Cult Pens) is a lovely thing, and it’s great to write on.

So let’s get down to business.

First, the basics. Montblanc makes a ton of different paper products. The one I have here is called the #146, identified by the bellyband:

It’s standard A5 size, a softcover notebook in handsome grey saffiano-finish leather (lots of other colours are available), with a raised Montblanc snowcap attached to the front cover and silver wordmark on the rear.

The cover is very flexible and the whole notebook slips easily into a bag. The heavy cover keeps the notebook tightly closed without an elastic closure.

Inside are 192 sides of 85gsm Italian paper in ivory colour. In fact, the notebook seems to be made in Italy:

Each page features a Montblanc watermark and wordmark. You might find this just a bit too much unnecessary branding…

Ruling is taken care of with wide 10mm lines and a big header and footer space. Montblanc also offers squared layouts in some of its notebooks.

There are no page numbers or other extras such as a rear pocket or elastic loop, but there’s a page of Montblanc history, a calligraphy overview and at the back there’s a world map. I’m not sure of the logic of including any of these elements… the world map in particular gave me flashbacks to getting freebie diaries in the 90s.

The binding is strong and flexible, and the notebook really does lay flat. There’s a single broad cloth bookmark in dark grey. The pages edges are silver gilded and the corners are square cut, except on the covers. The gilding is really nice, a touch of class, and it goes very well with the grey cover.

Incidentally, the glueing of the cover to the pages leaves a little to be desired.

Overall the Montblanc 146 notebook is a VERY handsome thing to have on the desk. The gilt edges, textured leather and cover button really do elevate it above the run-of-the-mill notebook. I could see myself taking this to work and feeling quite flash.

The internals are a little unusual, but not in a bad way. The line spacing is broad, for those used to a more conventional 7mm line, but this does allow calligraphy or broader nibs to shine, which is clearly Montblanc’s intention here. The paper is definitely not cool white: I found it easy on the eye but ivory papers do impart a tone to your inks.

The paper itself has good weight, so it doesn’t buckle under heavy ink load. It has just a little more texture than Tomoe. There’s no feathering or bleedthrough in any of the inks or nibs I tried, only a little crinkling of the edges of lines as the nib followed the paper texture.

The sheets are thin enough for quite a bit of showthrough, though.

Inks show some sheen and some shading, although not as much as on Tomoe. Dry times are better, though.

Overall, take a look at the word ‘Cuspide’ in the samples below to see what I mean about the texture, edges, and shading. Montblanc on left, Tomoe 52gsm on right. Taken moments apart.

At £55, this is up there with the most expensive notebooks I’ve ever used, alongside Musubi and the Liberty notebooks from Pebble. It’s more than twice the price of an equivalent page count from say Leuchtturm. The extra price is paying for the saffiano leather cover, the gilt edges, the quality construction, but… also the Montblanc brand.

That may be an instant turnoff for some of you, and I’m not going to try to change your mind. For me, I like the Montblanc brand, I like its products, too, and there is value to me in having a matching notebook. If you’re happy to spend £30 on a bottle of ink, and £600 on a pen, is £55 for a notebook too much to ask? That’s up to you to decide.

Brand wars aside, I’ve learned a couple of things.

First and most important: Montblanc notebooks have good paper. It’s not quite up there with Tomoe, but it handles fountain pen ink with aplomb. This is a massive tick in the box.

Second: Montblanc notebooks are usable every day. The binding is solid, it really lays flat, and overall the 146 is a good size, easy to carry and robust enough for work duties. The saffiano leather as well as looking very refined is also known for being pretty tough. This won’t look distressed after a couple of weeks knocking around in your bag like a Moleskine will.

So if like me you’ve seen Montblanc notebooks in cellophane in the boutique and wondered whether they actually perform, or whether they’re just status symbols for rollerball users, now you know: they’re the real deal.

Cult Pens donated this notebook to me for review purposes. You can check out the full range of colours and options here.

8 thoughts on “Montblanc notebooks: a real luxury experience

    • When I bought a Smythson pen they sent the invoice on their blue paper — I remember having a quick scribble on it but no more. I should invest in a notebook !


  1. Pingback: Hahnemühle FineNotes Manuscript notebooks: a Tomoe River contender? | UK fountain pens

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