Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Monsieur Notebooks Leather Journals


I should probably send a warning out to any Accountants, Auditors or other folks who like things to reconcile neatly. In fact, if you don't like the uncomfortable paradox of an oxymoron, you should probably stop reading now. Obviously the political scientists presently reading will gladly continue, so thanks to them...

I say this because I've realised this past week or so that I'm a romantic pragmatist and to me, that just doesn't sound right! As with most revelations about the self, I came to this one through the use of stationery, in this case a Monsieur Notebook. These are leather journals that arrived in our warehouse about a week or so ago and which have been creating all kinds of existential havoc ever since.

Quickly about Monsieur Notebooks. They are hand made in India under the auspices of UK-based Hide Stationery Company. An interesting venture that is committed to providing fair wages and working conditions for the makers of its notebooks as well as to providing an excellent notebook to you, me and anyone else with enough sense to pick one up.

The romantic in me loves that these are genuine leather, for all kinds of reasons, and the pragmatist loves that these are actually just really, really nice notebooks. In fact, even if the cover was not genuine leather, if it was leatherette, or bonded leather, or linen, cloth, book board or any other material, the paper inside and binding method would still get these over the line as entirely capable notebooks. But it is real leather, and we all know the difference that makes!

Aesthetically, pretty much everyone appreciates how genuine leather wears and improves with time. That feeling...it kind of goes beyond what I'm capable of describing with any concision at all, but I actually don't need to even try. Louis Armstrong put it perfectly in reply to the question 'What is Jazz?' "If you gotta ask, you'll never know"...

Functionally, leather is basically indestructible, certainly in terms of what can reasonably be expected to happen to a notebook in its daily travels. So the pragmatist is happy. Idealistically, leather has this special aura about it, so the romantic is very happy indeed!

Giving the floor to the pragmatist, I can say that Monsieur notebooks have stitched signatures of paper that are then glued onto the leather cover. You can be pretty rough with it and we're all encouraged to bend the notebook around on itself fully the first time it is opened. This means that the next time it is opened it will sit flat. A well trained notebook. The paper in the notebooks is fountain pen friendly for a fine nib but not perfect for a heavy ink or broader nib. The answer is the fountain pen journal, which has extra special paper to deal with pretty much any pen and ink in your armamentarium. I tested a broad nib Kaweco pen on it with blue black ink and report no issues. To be fair, it's no Rhodia Webnotebook in this regard, but what is?

The sketchbooks have 140gsm cartridge paper. Slightly textured, kind of rough, proper art paper. All of the notebooks have a ribbon page marker and elastic closure, a cute title page and a winking monsieur debossed on the back cover.

The romantic likes all of that, sure, but is struggling to see the forest for the leather bound trees. That feeling of real leather - dynamic, close to alive - we almost have a relationship with it. It changes with us, with use, wherever we go. It softens, conforms, yields and is forever giving our hands some sort of tactile interpretation of puppy dog eyes, ever endearing...

Almost to the point of distraction. Every time i've loosened the elastic closure on this thing I can't help but think of Antonia Pigafetta on board L'Armada de Molucca, under the command of Ferdinand Magellan, recording for posterity sights never before seen and sounds never before heard. Sometimes not even by him, as we read of 10ft giants, Cyclopses and all kinds of deep sea dangers... Anyway, what i mean is that there is a connection to an incredibly rich tradition that is only ever made through the medium of real leather. This is the real deal, used since forever for stuff that is important.

And i think this is the big appeal of Monsieur Notebooks. Leather lasts. It lasts a long time. People like thumbing through leather journals, inhaling this sense of majesty and of permanence. Perhaps it is the smell, or the touch, or just the fact that more than one sense is being engaged when going through a leather bound book, but for me, the imagination starts to run, to empathise with the words it is reading.

The idea I like, implicit with an affordable genuine leather notebook that is made for daily use, is that whenever i start to write there is some kind of acknowledgement that I might just turn out a classic. What starts as a glib observation whilst watching my dog chase a bird, or as simply a way to pass the time waiting for a train, can turn into something worthy of posterity. It's in a leather notebook after all, it will make it to Posterity looking and sounding better than ever. Fingers crossed that the lightning strikes, hey...?

So whether pragmatist, romantic or political scientist, you should really have a look at Monsieur Notebooks. Luxury for your daily doodles, they say, but so much more to me.

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