Clairefontaine Age-Bag Tan Journal

The Clairefontaine Age-Bag Tan journal… has about the worst name for a notebook/journal I’ve come across to date. I’m sure their marketing department has a great reason, something to do with retro aesthetics and so on… blah, blah, blah. What would have been wrong with calling it a tan notebook? This is obviously why I have never been employed in marketing.

But beyond a pretty disappointing name, we have a really cool journal.

I have two versions of the A5 Age-Bag, both lined, one with 96 sheets (192 pages) of Clairefontaines beautifully smooth, crisp white, 90gsm paper, and the other with 144 sheets (288 pages), of the same supremely fountain-pen friendly paper.

There isn’t much difference in the depth of the notebook, and both fit comfortably into the Minimalist Leather Notebook Cover, from DMLeatherStudios I recently purchased from China.

The journal is fabric-bound, and glued into place. This allows the pages to lie nicely flat when the book is open (a big deal for me), but has prompted some criticism from other reviewers, Ian Hedley of Pens! Paper! Pencils! reviewed an A5 notebook with 96 sheets:

The pages are glued to a fabric spine. It’s very strong. The notebook opens fairly but not perfectly flat. The covers are stuck too much onto the inside pages making it difficult to use them without them unsticking…
The paper is excellent. It’s very smooth and there’s no feathering, bleeding or ghosting. It shows off ink colours nicely. I did find though that some fountain pens don’t get on with the coating… I found it more of a problem with broader nibs, for some reason.
Ian Hedley, June 8 2016
Pens! Paper! Pencils!
Clairefontaine Age Bag Notebook Review

Whilst Amanda Fleet, of Paper Pens Ink, reviewed an A4 version of the Age-Bag:

The only problem with it being cloth-bound is that the first lined page is starting to detach but as that first page is also stuck to the first page in the book – a white page – it’s not a problem for me. I will be using the first page as an index page.
Amanda Fleet, November 14 2012
Paper Pens Ink
Review of the Clairefontaine Age Bag notebook

I hadn’t noticed anything wrong with the first page of either of my notebooks, so when I read these, I had a closer look. I still don’t think it’s much of a concern. I took the following pictures for others to judge for themselves…

What you can see is a thin strip of the paper, which is obviously rougher than that surrounding it, and may therefore have come un-glued from its opposing sheet when the notebook was stretched open to write on the first page. The next picture shows a similar view. I think this may well have happened as the other reviewers have noted, but the damage to the paper in the case of my journals is negligible. The second picture however, does a good job of showing the level of bleedthrough you can expect with this paper; which is also pretty negligible. The pen I used to write on these pages was a fairly wet 1.1mm stub nib on my Edison Collier, with J. Herbin Perle Noire black ink.

The pads come in a range of sizes (A4, A5, and A6), and five aged color options (black, blue, red, green or the brown/tan reviewed here). Each have an attractive embossed front and rear cover, with the Clairefontaine logo on the bottom, right-hand corner, of the front cover…

And you can choose from ruled (my personal favorite), grid, or plain white pages. On the ruled versions I am using, the line spacing is 8mm—ample for even my sloppy handwriting.

The writing samples featured above show how well this paper handles a variety of inks and nibs. My clear favorite is still my Edison… but that TWSBI stub appeals more every time I use it.

Feathering is almost non-existent, and the next picture shows the reverse of the page above, giving another good illustration of bleedthrough in regular use…

So both sides of the paper are eminently usable for anything from inky, broad, fountain pens, to ballpoints, and pencil sketches.

Summary

Clairefontaine 90gsm paper is well-known as a beautiful, fountain pen-friendly, writing surface, and is the paper of choice for a large number of premium products—even if its smooth, shiny surface can be a bit too much for some pen nibs, and the occasional hard start is experienced. On the whole, it’s an excellent paper, and these journals have a generous helping at more than reasonable prices. There are no premium extras, like expanding storage pockets, ribbon markers, or elastic bands for binding the covers together. What you get is basic, but high quality, for not a great deal of money (about $11.00 Canadian for the A5, 96 sheets; $15.00 Canadian for the 144 sheets, from Wonder Pens, and Take Note, Toronto; July, 2017). Sounds very good to me.

 

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