Who would have thought that a few bits of paper sandwiched between a couple of thicker bits of paper could become something of a cult item? Not all of them, obviously: your bargain-bucket reporter-style notebook where the sheets curl up after just a few lines of ballpoint and the wires go wobbly after a bit of page-pulling will probably not go down in the annals of history, but there are plenty more that will - or indeed already have.
Moleskine is one of them. There's a substantial number of people who really like them, and wouldn't use anything else, but why? We sent our fearless reporter (that would be me) on a mission to find out…
Founded in 1997 by Maria Sebregondi the company is based in Milan, Italy, and produces a range of notebooks that are… well… notebooks. They don't have fancy covers or unusual bindings; they're not so cheap that you get suspicious, or so expensive that your eyes water; but they do the job. And that's because the design is based on notebooks handmade by Parisian bookbinders around the turn of the 20th century, the sort of thing (but not actually the thing) used by the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin. The result is pretty much a 'book for every occasion', which is just the ticket when you need a pocket-friendly notebook as well as something more substantial you can take to a meeting, or a trusty journal to accompany you on your travels. Whatever it is that you need, Moleskine have probably got it.
Each notebook - whether it's for sliding into your briefcase, lugging around in your backpack or having handy in your workshop or studio - has an elastic closure to keep everything together, an expandable pocket inside the back cover to contain any loose bits and pieces, and rounded corners that are less likely to get knocked about or accidentally poked into an unsuspecting eye. The range caters for writers, scribblers and list-makers; journalers and journalists; artists, designers and engineers. Pretty much everybody, in other words. These are tough, no-nonsense notebooks with plain covers in a modest range of colours and a useful range of page rulings.
The Classic collection has what you'd hope: plain, lined, squared and the newly-popular dotgrid; while the Two Go range contains a sensible mix of plain and ruled - perfect for an illustrated story or documenting your holiday. If you're a captain of industry you need look no further than the Professional range. Nothing to do with either Bodie or Doyle, but a selection of notebooks designed to get you through the working day: scribble down ideas onto the A4 pad balanced on your knees on the six-fifteen to Paddington and then whip out your extra large notebook in quietly confident Aster Grey for that deal-making business meeting in the city.
Perhaps you're more of a creative type? No problem. The Art Plus range caters for every artistic soul, from watercolourists and illustrators, through to cartoonists, budding film-makers, musicians and song-writers. Different media need different page weights, so while the Sketchbook carries coloured pencil and pastel-friendly 165gsm paper, the Sketch Album contains a lighter 120gsm which makes it a little less hefty to carry around but is still more than up to quick graphite sketches and notes on the go. The Watercolour Album is filled with cotton-blend 200gsm paper, well able for the wetter creations. They've even got a notebook for all you musos out there: the Music Notebook features plain paper on the left and staves on the right.
Cursed (some would say blessed) with itchy feet? Never mind - venture to another corner of the globe equipped with the Traveller's Collection, 'the guidebook you write yourself'. The notebooks provide enough information on cities such as Rome and London for you to decide where you want to go and what you'd like to see, but give you the practical means to record your own experiences, rather than read about other people's.
Hmm… what else? Oh yes - the Cahier collection. Not a French notebook (although its name might reflect Moleskine's Parisian origins) but a set of three Italian ones, so for those of you who like things to be just so you can have all your thoughts and dreams wrapped up in a matching set. The Volant collection is another French-sounding range (I thought this was an Italian company?) and is a bit more adventurous in that the sets of two contain notebooks which are two shades of the same colour. So they should still satisfy those of you who are more, shall we say - exacting - while still encouraging you to step just a little way out of your comfort zone.
Moleskine notebooks won't appeal to everybody - the standard notebook paper isn't designed for fountain pens - but then isn't that the definition of a cult following? If everybody was a Smiths fan they wouldn't have a cult following. If everybody thought the Blues Brothers was the greatest film ever, it wouldn't have a cult following. If everybody liked shopping at Cult Pens they wouldn't have… ah. Actually, I'll just stop there.
30 July 2018