My first review is a lovely handmade journal from Central Crafts, a UK-based retailer that offers wonderful handmade gifts, including quirky arts and crafts, albums, journals and of course, stationery, sourced ethically from all over the world.
Among their many journals offerings is the Cortona handmade leather-bound one, crafted from fine Italian Spazzolato leather, with exquisite hand-stitched details in contrast piping that goes all the way around the edges. Spazzolato leather is supposed to be the same top grain used in luxury handbags, and these artisan journals are made by a Florentine family business with over half a century’s operation.
The cover feels cool, smooth, and supple to the touch, with the “Leatherkind” brand debossed on the back cover and the front cover carrying the On Fountain Pens (OFP) personalization in silver. I love details like that!
You know how there are journals that are so nice you almost hesitate to write in it? That’s almost the case with this Cortona journal… I did “feel it up” quite a bit, flipping through and stroking the pages, which are luxuriously thick but not too stiff. Bonus points for the subtle leather scent when you hold it up close!
The journal does feel a bit weighty in hand, so it may not make it off my desk as often as I’d like. The page count for this large version (measuring 21cm x 15cm x 2cm), which is about the same size as an A5 notebook, has a generous page count — comprising 128 lined pages (256 sides), with blank endpapers in front of each cover, in a creamy ecru or light ivory.
The extra large version (measuring 30cm x 23cm x 2cm) offers a choice in lined or blank paper, but not paper color. The paper color doesn’t detract from the accuracy of all the fountain pen ink colors I am likely to use, and it’s actually nice not to have blinding white pages staring at you for hours on end.
Fountain Pen-friendly journals are not always easy to find, but this Cortona journal rises easily to the challenge. I brought out the big guns for this review… testing a variety of wet nibs and inks, sheening ones, saturated ones, and so on. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that both ink shading AND sheening properties showed up nicely on this paper. Although a little bit of feathering did occur with one or two inks, it was not terribly noticeable. The lighter-colored inks were also quite legible.
For good measure, I also tried a handful of non-fountain pen writing implements: rollerballs, ballpoints, felt tip/brush pens, highlighters and even a permanent marker! There was very minimal ghosting (even with the broadest nibs and most saturated inks) but absolutely no bleedthrough, except for the permanent marker (which was to be expected).
I enjoyed testing out this journal and will most likely be using half of it to record and compare the various inks I have in my pens — I’m often guilty of inking too many pens at once, many with similar colors, and by the time a few weeks have gone by, I’ve forgotten which ink is in what pen. I’ll probably use the other half to practice my handwriting, especially the (non-calligraphic) “rounded letterforms” style (a la Century Gothic font) I’ve been trying to perfect. The line width is perfect for this exercise.
My one quibble with this journal is that it won’t lay flat, probably due to the heaviness of the leather binding. I am not sure if given time, the binding will soften and its pages weighed down by ink, in order to make the journal stay open and flat without having to hold down a side. This does make hours of text journaling a bit less comfortable.
In the first third of the book at least, it also makes writing on the reverse side, i.e. the side with fewer pages, a bit awkward, as you’ll need something to hold the right side down; it will keep wanting to flap close. Or… if it won’t mess with your ordered mind too much, one unorthodox solution would be to write on only one side, and when you’ve used up all the pages, then flip the book upside down, and start another topic from the back cover (again from left to right) using the blank pages! This is what I’ve resorted to doing – since I am using the Cortona for two distinct topics.
On the other hand, it doesn’t require fussy details like an elastic band or one of those string-ties to make it stay flat when the journal is closed.
My thanks to Central Crafts for providing the journal. It is available in Large and Extra Large, as well as a variety of colors, and can be personalized with your name or initials. Please check out their website for further details and to see all the other treasures they have on offer!
If you’ve tried this or any of their other artisan journals, I’d love to hear what you think!