Since I have been using my Start Bay Navigator, I have been using A5 notebooks from Rhodia and Clairefontaine. I opted for these brands as they are renowned for having high quality paper thats suitable for fountain pen use. As I have been using them, usually alongside one another, I have come up with some thoughts on both trying to work out which notebook I prefer.
I have used Rhodia paper before therefore I was familiar with the brand and the paper quality. The A5 Rhodia notebook is a staple bound book with a black or orange coated cover. I have been using the ruled grid as I am doing long form writing in these notebooks.
The Rhodia paper is 80g and takes various different writing tools really well. I have used gel pens, pencils and fountain pens and they all work wonders on this paper. In all you get 96 pages which is pretty good and means you’re not flying through these notebooks too quickly.
A small thing I really like about these notebooks is how they feel and sound once they’re full. The pages get a slight crinkle making that dreamy noise when you flick through the notebook. It’s like the notebook is acknowledging that I have filled it up giving me a pat on the back.
The only downside I can find with the Rhodia A5 notebooks is the prominent blue colour used for the different grids. This isn’t just on these staple bound notebooks, a lot of their lines have this grid colour, but I find it a little too bright and intrusive. I really like the Rhodia ice notebooks which have a cool grey grid line that blends into the background nicely and I wish they had a version of this in these notebooks. But despite this once the words are on the page you really don’t see the ruling at all.
I have used a few Clairefontaine notebooks in a couple of different designs. The easier to come by version has white paper, staple bound notebook with 90gsm paper. This paper stock has a slight sheen to it and giving it a smooth feel. Fountain pens almost glide over the page it’s that smooth. Even though the paper does have a coating of some description dry times with fountain pens has been good.
The second Clairefontaine book I have used has a stitched binding and ivory paper. The ivory paper is softer on the eye which I find really nice to write on. The ruling is grey rather than blue found with the white paper. I haven’t been able to source these notebooks anywhere which is a real shame and I’d love to get my hands on some more of this version of these notebooks.
So which is best?
Both notebooks have a lot of similarities which makes it hard to decide which notebook is better. With the Clairefontaine notebooks you have different cover colour options and the cover is a matte finish with a small box on the front giving you space to write a title on the book. I have really found this small design feature rather helpful. The paper in the Clairefontaine notebooks has a sheen whereas the Rhodia notebooks don’t. Both the notebooks with the white paper has the same bright blue grid lines which is a negative for me. And both notebooks come with a wide ruled grid which I prefer as my handwriting is a little on the large side.
I like both of these notebooks and as you can see the differences are really quite small. I have found myself preferring the Clairefontaine notebooks. If I can source the ivory paper versions then for me there will be no contest. I like the design of the Clairefontaine notebooks, the paper quality is lovely and the helpful additional features make it feel like how this notebook is used has been thought through. However despite all of these bonus features the Rhodia notebooks are lovely and I will happily use these too. So I guess what I am trying to conclude is that both of these notebook brands are really very nice and you shouldn’t be disappointed with either choice!