Hahnemühle FineNotes Manuscript notebooks: a Tomoe River contender?

I spent most of my previous Hahnemuhle review talking about how this old brand is very new to making fountain pens. Well, today’s post is a review of a notebook — and that’s firmly within the Hahnemühle wheelhouse. Hahnemühle brings centuries of paper-making experience to the Manuscript notebook, and makes bold claims about its new ‘inkproof’ paper, developed especially for writing with fountain pens. To put it bluntly, I expected great things.

The notebook here in front of me is the Manuscript version, which comes in half a dozen muted colours and retails at £65. This puts it in direct contention with the Montblanc notebook I reviewed recently, but Hahnemühle also offers a notebook called “Iconic”, which retails at about £110, putting it up against luxury brands like Smythson.

Both feature the same basic specs: same watermarked 100g made-in-Germany paper, 192 pages, A5 size, dotted pages, rounded corners, bookmark. But the Manuscript edition I have here has a sustainable, recycled leather cover with Saffiano imprint, while the Iconic uses genuine luxury leather with a natural grain. All the specs are described on a paper belly-band.

So, let’s get down to it.

This is definitely a well-made notebook. The binding is strong, the dot print runs straight, the cover is neatly affixed. The rounded corners of the pages are consistently cut and smooth, but not perfectly centred.

I have handled many A5, softcover 192-page notebooks over the years, and this one feels like it’ll last.

The cover of the notebook I’m reviewing here is in grey, and it’s lighter than the grey Montblanc notebook I reviewed recently, with a shallower print of the Saffiano pattern.

The only external branding is an embossed Hahnemühle wordmark at the bottom of the back cover.

But inside there’s a whole page of Hahnemühle history, if you want something to read.

There are no ‘show-off’ external features like the Montblanc snowcap button or foiled edges to the pages.

This is a notebook light on practical features, too. There are no page numbers, no back pocket, no perforations, no choice of lined, blank or grid prints, no elastic closure, no pen loop, no card slots. There’s a single bookmark and that’s your lot.

I have no problem with this, but YMMV.

In terms of usability, the cover has just a little flex, enough to help it slide into your bag but not enough that the book sags when used in your lap.

The binding is pretty stiff, though.

It opens easily enough that you can use the whole page, but it doesn’t lay totally flat and certainly won’t stay fully open on its own even after heavy persuasion.

And what about that paper?

Well, the claim “ink proof” might be a little too far. I tried some fairly heavy patches of ink with swatch tests, bottle flips and drips, and there was frequent bleedthrough.

Considering this is 100gsm paper, there’s also a surprisingly high level of showthrough on the reverse of pages.

There’s enough texture on the page that the edges of letter forms are a little jagged, but there’s minimal feathering.

Ink shows good shading, some sheen, and good dry times. Shimmer inks performed fine. I found good colour accuracy — Hahnemühle calls this paper ‘creamy off-white’ but to me it’s white, not even going so far as ivory, let alone cream. Obviously lighting plays a big part, and I’ve been reviewing this paper in the winter, mostly by warm-white interior lighting.

The writing experience is pretty good. In macro photos you can see that the paper has a minimal, even texture: not rough enough to snag on needlepoints, not skippy and glossy like Rhodia.

Nibs run true to size and the paper doesn’t introduce any problems such as dragginess or skipping. This is a good thing.

So: forget the ‘ink proof’ claims; even at 100gsm this paper can be overwhelmed just like any paper short of watercolour paper. But it is definitely ‘ink safe’. You can write with any nib, any ink, and it will perform just fine. Don’t expect to avoid showthrough, though.

As a notebook, the Manuscript is well made. Good spec, solid construction. I’ve genuinely enjoyed getting to know it. If you like dot print paper, it’s a good alternative to the Montblanc notebook I reviewed previously — although the Montblanc has the jazzy foiled edges and truly lays flat, and unusually is £10 cheaper than the Hahnemühle. Take your pick.

Hahnemühle provided me with two Manuscript notebooks for review. You can buy yours here.

One thought on “Hahnemühle FineNotes Manuscript notebooks: a Tomoe River contender?

  1. Weight of paper always confused me/ like for this review 100gsm and it IS heavy show through. Feels like it’s not a standardised form of paper weighing? And then of course you have onion skin and tomoe and sketch paper or notebooks from eastern countries that do 120gsm that seem a lot thicker or handles wet inks better…
    Thanks for the review of course! Still looks like a solid choice for a notebook. Smythson disappointingly not so much if comparing the higher priced option – this one seems to come across as better !

    Liked by 1 person

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