If you’re like me, once you started exploring the strange and wondrous world of fine writing instruments, you quickly learned that not just any paper would do. For one thing, fountain pen ink wreaks havoc with standard copy paper and ruled notebooks. Even those swanky designer journals you can find at Barnes & Noble are hit-and-miss, and even the better ones which stand up to drier writers will bleed at the touch of a broader italic stub. Furthermore, as we refine our taste in writing instruments, we begin to want paper worthy of our pens. And Tomoe River paper is that paper.
This is the Seven Seas “Writer” journal, which has replaced the Seven Seas Tomoe River Journal (previously available at NanamiPaper.com). The Writer’s updates affect mostly the appearance of the journal rather than the performance, and overall I think they will be welcomed by Tomoe River paper’s cult following.
When you take it out of the box and protective corrugated wrapping, the first big difference I noticed was that the journal now comes pre-packaged in a protective kraft slipcase which you can use to tote the journal around in or store it once you fill it up (though that won’t be for a good long while, since it contains a whopping 480 pages of A5-size Tomoe River paper). The slipcase is a good snug fit for the journal, open on one end.
The most relevant and obvious change in the journal itself is in the color of the cover. Instead of the country red diamond-patterned soft cover, it’s now made out of a black textile with a silk-grain finish. The result is sleek, low-profile, and grippy enough that it won’t slip out of your hands and risk crumpling up all that beautiful onion-skin-thin paper when it hits the floor.
The cover is very thin, but it’s also slightly stiffer than the old version — added protection, I suppose. I haven’t handled the old version of the journal so I can’t tell you how different it feels in hand, but in any case, the newer, stiffer cover doesn’t prevent it from being a super flexible journal.
In addition to the other feature updates, the lines are 20% lighter than the old ones. As you can see from the following photos, once you put ink to the paper, the lines practically disappear. They are printed in a very faint gray ink that is just dark enough to guide your line. Considering I was kind of bummed out that they didn’t offer this journal with blank pages, this is a feature I’m particularly fond of.
As for the rest of the specs, they’re mostly the same. You can read more about them at NanamiPaper’s website, and since Ed Jelley did such a good review of the original journal I’ll spare you the repeat info. What I will say is that I love this journal. I’ve been using Tomoe River paper almost exclusively for my correspondence lately since it takes fountain pen ink so incredibly well, but the paper’s such a delight to write on that I wanted it in a format that I could use and keep for myself. This of course begs the question that I’ll have something worth writing in this fine book — I already have a decent personal journal and a Rhodia Webbie commonplace book which does double-duty as a pen and ink testing ground.
But one of the perks of this journal is that it can be as casual as you want it to be. The paper takes pencil as well as it does wet fountain pen ink, and while the cover is nice and the spine is extremely flexible, the overall aesthetic is low-key and no-fuss — I would not worry, for example, about scuffing or staining the cover. Additionally, you can dress it up with any A5-size notebook covers, and indeed, Nanami Paper carries a few options in their shop, including a higher-end genuine leather option. (Personally, I’m fantasizing about sticking this in my heretofore-only-dreamt-of Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter.)
But no matter your preference, I suggest you dress your Writer’s journal somehow. I was worried about the durability of a journal made out of such thin, delicate paper, which reminds me of what you’d find in a high-quality leather-bound Bible. All it’s missing is the gilded outer edge. (It even has a couple of ribbon bookmarks — one in brown, the other in navy.) However, I did buy one of the “cheap” plastic book covers from Nanami Paper, just to give this $36 journal an extra layer of protection. Since the journal’s covers are cut flush with the edges of the paper block, it helps to have a little bit of cushion around the journal to keep the paper from getting dinged up.
The book cover comes with a pretty cute newsprint-patterned insert, which you can leave in or take out, like I did. (Note that Nanami Paper also sells cardstock cut to fit the inside of your cheap cover, if you want to snazz it up a bit.) It fits the journal well — not loose, but not so tight that it hinders flexibility. Its seams and edges aren’t sharp, like some cheap plastic book covers I’ve used before, so it doesn’t detract from the great tactile experience of writing in this journal.
It also features these little push-out flaps on the insides of the covers. At first I thought they were meant to hold the pages flat while you write, but they were too weak to do so effectively. I have decided they work better as extra bookmarks.
There’s also room to slide in the blotter sheet that comes with the journal, if you’re inclined to do so.
What do you think of the new and improved Tomoe River journal? Would you pick one up? Let me know in the comments.
This review was written with J. Herbin’s Rouge Hematite and a Noodler’s acrylic Konrad Flex.