At the DC Pen Show last year, I picked up a gorgeous notebook at the Vanness Pens table. It was stitch bound with a bright red thread, and it was a different size than all of the other notebooks at the table. I was immediately struck, but alas, I had already spent more than my budget, so I sadly set the notebook back down and went about my day.
So imagine my delight when I stumbled across the Red Stitch Nanuk Notebook again while I was browsing through the Kinokuniya in Carrollton, Texas. I wasn’t about to pass this notebook up twice, and quickly added it to my basket. I’ve been using it as my work notebook for a few weeks now, and I think I can finally put my thoughts about this notebook into words.
The first thing you notice on the Nanuk notebook are the bright red lines used for the ruling. The card stock cover is printed with the same lines as the paper inside, which helps carry the minimalistic theme throughout the notebook. The only catch is that there’s not any marking for the top of the page, so I do often find myself opening the notebook upside down if I’m not paying attention.
You can also see the matching red thread used to stitch the binding of the notebook from the outside. The Nanuk notebook is a single, 48 sheet signature, stitched down the middle for 96 total pages. Like many other stitch bound signatures, you do have to do a little breaking in when you get the notebook, but I haven’t experienced any problems keeping the notebook open while I’m writing. I think that’s partly due to the size.
And let me be clear: the size of this notebook is very weird. That could be what they put on the specifications, if Nanuk wanted. “Height: weird. Width: weird.” The actual specifications are 6.25” wide by 10” tall, which is a format I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else. It’s a little shorter than A4, and also a little skinnier. I thought it might have been a B size that I hadn’t run into, but I wasn’t able to find anything that matched its size. It’s truly bizarre. The proportions throw me off every single time I open the notebook. For whatever reason, it feels like you’re constantly stretching just a little too far to reach the top of the page, and I had to get a piece of scratch paper to keep under my arm, since you end up resting your arm on most of the page to reach up to the top.
Comparison with an A5 Midori notebook
The proportions of the notebook aren’t the only weird thing about this notebook. The paper is a bit odd as well. The packaging of the notebook says that the paper is “83.1 gsm”, which is a pretty interesting weight. In the fountain pen community, people are always chasing “fountain pen friendly” paper. I’d classify this paper as “fountain pen cordial.” Not friendly, but not unfriendly, but that might differ from page to page. Most of my fine nibs did great on the paper, as well as my less wet broad nibs, but sometimes the paper just decided to bleed through ferociously. I found that my Pilot Custom 74 and the Faber-Castell Loom were particularly bad offenders for whatever reason. But there was never any feathering, so you just have to be ok with using only one side of the page most of the time.
There’s also the matter of price. In the US, you can expect to pay about $12-$14 for this notebook, if you can find it. Other than Kinokuniya, Vanness Pens is the only other place that I’ve seen this notebook, and it’s a pretty limited stock. That’s a pretty steep price for a hard to find notebook.
And yet, even with all the things stacked against it, I keep coming back because it’s just so good looking. If you’re ok with the ok fountain pen performance, weird proportions, and high price, this notebook is absolutely worth a look. The way that the lines and the pop of red from the thread stitching stand out against the cream paper is so visually appealing that I’m willing to put all the other stuff aside and just enjoy this notebook.