If you’re one of those people that looks for stationery or nice pens on the interwebs, then you have probably found it difficult to avoid reading about the Traveler’s Notebook (from The Traveler’s Notebook Company in Japan, formerly Midori). They’re written about on almost every pen and stationery site you may stumble across, and—I should add—for good reason. This is my turn, but with a slight difference, and I should say now, anybody that’s reading this for pictures of leather underwear, the title may have been a little misleading. This is not that sort of blog.
Even though it would probably have more followers if it were.
Provided it wasn’t me in the thong.
No, the thong, or rather the matching suede lace, is my personal addition to the mix, because I find it more durable and useful than the small piece of elastic that comes with the system. But I’m rambling ahead of myself here, I need to start from the beginning.
In the Beginning
The Traveler’s Notebook isn’t really any such thing. It’s actually a system that begins with a (in my opinion) little over-priced piece of leather, a string bookmark, a couple of pieces of elastic, and a blank 64-page notebook of good quality white paper. An elastic strap holds notebook/s, and other accessories inside the leather cover, whilst another knots through a hole in the rear cover, and stretches over the whole thing, keeping it closed.
It’s the notebooks and other accessories that make this a system though, and they’re the things that make the whole package interesting, and something special that stands out from the crowd.
The usual process was gone through when I decided to pick this up… where can I buy one in Canada? Where can I buy one in Ontario? Of these suppliers, do any of them have an online store with quick, reliable deliveries? What are the best prices and stock levels? And once again–and this is getting boring, they pay me nothing for the free advertising—only Wonder Pens in Toronto had the right answers to each of those questions.
I took a long browse through their online Traveler’s range, and put together what I thought was a useful starter pack. The cover is available in black, brown, camel, and the latest limited edition in olive. A Pan-Am sponsored limited edition in blue was available back in 2015, and this seemed to be fairly well-received (to put it mildly) by Ana on The Well-Appointed Desk:
OMG! Have you seen these? This is the new limited edition Midori Traveler’s Notebook Pan Am Edition. Yes, that’s a deep blue, full-sized, leather MTN!
I’m going to pay through the nose to get these but the blue leather cover is gorgeous! Midori makes me sucha completionist. Must. Have. All. The. Things!
I opted for the camel in the regular size, which is about 123mm wide by 220mm tall (4.75in by 8.7in). They’re also available in passport size, which is approximately 125mm by 88mm (4.95in by 3.5in). Given what the cover included (see above), I added two regular-sized, ruled, notebooks (reference number 001)—I only like blank paper for drawing, and I’m lousy at that; a pack of connecting rubber bands for binding more accessories (reference number 021); an insert for storing 12 business card sized cards (reference number 007); and lastly a zippered storage pocket for flat items like tickets, boarding passes, that sort of thing (reference number 008). It was ordered, and true to form, Wonder pens and Canada Post got it to me in 48 hours… in holiday season.
All the information on the enclosed Traveler’s Company paperwork can be found in this PDF file (about 220K in size). And of course, there was a postcard from Liz…
I’m building quite a collection of these on my office wall. Not sure if that is something to be proud of or not really.
I’m sorry, there are no pictures of packaging and delivery and all that… I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and set it all up…
Don’t Turn Your Back On It
And I wasn’t the only one who was keen to get my paws on the new notebook. Leaving my desk unattended for a while to go and pick the littlest kid up from the school bus, gave the littlest cat—Alfie—the opportunity to stake his claim…
It would seem that the newest addition to this seven cat household, has firmly declared himself to be my new desk buddy. You have some big paws to fill my little fuzzy friend, but you’re doing fine so far…
I think the smell of the new leather probably knocked him out. It needs airing if you can’t ignore that sort of thing easily. For me, it’s not a problem.
Anyway, a catnip filled mouse soon enabled me to get on with the review. The first thing that struck me was that nothing is likely to ever lay flat with the Traveler’s Notebook. I’m sure things will get better, or worse, with time and depending on what you have loaded between the covers; but for now, it takes a heavy pen to hold one side down. When you write, you have to be aware of that and deal accordingly. I find this irritating, but not enough to put me off the product.
As you can see, the Edison Collier isn’t heavy enough to hold the cover down. Maybe use will soften the fold. From what I have seen of the Traveler’s Notebooks owned by friends and others, the leather ages well. Scratches and minor blemishes simply add to its good looks over time.
Inside the front cover of my notebook, you can see the left-hand side of the zipped pocket insert, which is a simple, three-sided pocket. On the right, is the front cover of the lined notebook.
All of the notebooks have a front panel, which I haven’t quite made up my mind how I shall use. Maybe I’ll use it for contact details, but that does seem a bit boring.
The paper is good quality, and despite having heard a little about some ink and nib combinations showing ink bleeding through from one side to the next, none of my inks and nibs showed anything substantial.
Pictured on the pages above are writing samples from a Lamy Aion with a medium steel nib, and a TWSBI Diamond 580AL with a 1.1mm stub, both using Sailor Jentle Blue ink. Below, are samples from an Edison Collier, 1.1mm stub, and a TWSBI Eco broad, using Sailor Kiwa-Guro Nano (Ultra) Black, and a TWSBI Eco 1.1mm stub using Noodler’s Golden Brown.
None of the ink/nib combinations used above showed any appreciable feathering or bleedthrough, and drying time was always less than 30 seconds. That having been said, I always carry a sheet of J. Herbin’s blotting paper in any notebook I may be using. I’d always rather blot than smudge.
One minor concern of mine, is the way that notebooks and other accessories (like the tough plastic of the zip pocket for instance), slide through the elastic bands used for binding everything to the cover. I just can’t imagine that elastic suffering too much traffic before it frays and snaps. I’m thinking that the Traveler’s Notebook repair kit (reference number 009), currently on sale at around $14.00 CAD, will be one of my next purchases.
The picture above also shows the thin string of the bookmark, and the small slit in the bottom of the leather spine, to allow the bookmark to be fixed in place. I thought that a was a nice detail.
The second notebook is basically the same as the first, only without lines, hence it being called blank. The next insert is the 12-card plastic folder. I find this useful, not just for business cards that I may collect—I never keep these, I always scan the cards, and OCR the contact details—but for a number of cards that I want to carry, though not necessarily in my wallet. Lastly, there’s the zippered pocket, for lots of small, flat items, that you don’t want to risk losing from an open document pocket.
Leather and the Lace
Then we come to the back cover (below). Even if you use the supplied elastic band, there will be a small knot here, where the band—or in my case, the suede lace—is fastened through the cover.
I’ve compared the two, and althought there’s not much difference, I think the knot on the elastic band is ever so slightly larger than that on the suede lace. The pictures here don’t really show it, but the lace and the cover are actually very closely matched in terms of shading and texture. The differences which look so obvious below, are more due to my poor lighting and worse photography.
Take a look at The Pen Addict’s review of the Traveler’s Notebook (Susan M. Pigott, July 22, 2016), for a few pictures of the covers and the supplied elastic bands.
On the outside of the back cover, is the Traveler’s Company branding, and I have to say, even that looks good to me… subtle, and stylish.
What I prefer about using the suede lace instead of the elastic band, is that I can wrap the suede around the book several times, firmly holding the whole thing together and allowing me to bind a pen in to the outside edge of the notebook/s, a lot more securely than just tucking something into the elastic band. I also don’t have to worry about replacing the elastic band, and I can cut as much or as little of the suede strip as I like.
The suede lace is sold in a variety of colors (including those to match the Traveler’s black and brown covers), and comes in 7m (8yd) lengths for about $10.00 CAD.
I picked mine up from a local Michael’s art materials supply store, but they’re easily obtainable online.
And of course, you can use as much or as little of it as you like. If you’re not buying the straight black, I would also advise taking your notebook into a Michael’s branch to match it up against the suede strips on the shelf. Being the kind of material it is, there is quite a bit of variation in shading between the different packs on the shelf, and it’s nice to find a matching shade that you’ll be happy using.
The last thing I want to look at is the charm. This is the little metal thing that holds the elastic band and the bookmark together at the top of the notebook spine.
This is loved by some and loathed by others. I have spoken to people that think it has a rustic aesthetic appeal, and others that don’t like how it stops the book from ever laying flat, and say that it snags and generally gets in the way… grrr. For me, the jury is still out on that one. I do know that with the repair kit I mentioned above, you can get rid of the charm altogether, but that’s up to you. It stays for the moment.
Unless I catch Alfie nibbling it again, in which case, it is gone.
Sorry Alfie, I didn’t mean you obviously my little fuzzy friend.
Price and Summary
At $64.00 CAD for a leather cover, a blank notebook and a couple of elastic bands, this is not a cheap buy-in to the system. But that’s the thing, it’s a system, not just a notebook. And the system has a large number of accessories and inserts that’ll keep you going back for more. All of them can be arranged in just the order that you like, and configured in an entirely personal manner, to suit your needs and preferences. The fact that it all looks great, and is made very well indeed, makes the whole package very tempting indeed.
Like I said above, I am already looking at picking up a repair kit, maybe an additional pen holder (reference number 016), and probably one of the Kraft paper folders (reference number 020). Then of course, there’s the lightweight Tomoe River paper refills I’ve heard so much about… and so it goes on and on… there are always the gifts for birthdays, or anything else that might spring to mind at this time of year. There will always be the need for more refills, more elastic bands, replacement zipper pockets, or another repair kit. Maybe one day they’ll even do a catnip charm to bind it all together.