A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review (and Giveaway!): Large Quo Vadis Habana Lined Notebook

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook v. 2.0UPDATE: Giveaway Entries are Closed. Winners will be posted and contacted on June 30.

This is "version 2.0" of the Habana that I reviewed here. All the great quality remains, but fans of the old Habana need to be aware of changes in the color, ruling, and weight of the paper.

Instructions for entering the giveaway are at the end of this post, and there's even a consolation prize!

The Review

The old and new versions both have 80 sheets of Clairefontaine's legendary paper. As always, it is silky smooth to the touch and a dream to write on. So smooth, in fact, that I've read complaints from some Fountain Pen Network members that the paper is too smooth and makes them lose control of their pen! I love the smooth writing feel, but there is a price to pay for it: ink drying times tend to be slow. If you write with a fountain pen, you're going to wind up with lots of ink transfer to the opposite page unless you give time for the ink to dry (which could be 30 seconds or more, depending on the ink and nib combination) before closing the notebook or you use a sheet of blotting paper as a bookmark.

But the paper is otherwise quite different from the original version of the Habana:

Original U.S. Version
New Version 
(reviewed in this post)
Paper Weight
90 gsm
85 gsm
Paper Color
bright white
Ruling width
8 mm
5.5 mm
Lines per page
Distance from top of page to first rule
24 mm
9 mm
Distance from bottom of page to last rule
14 mm
9 mm
light gray solid lines
light gray dotted lines

Unfortunately, none of my photos accurately captured the color of the pages. The closest would probably be this one. When you see "ivory," you shouldn't confuse it with "off-white." I've seen this paper described as "off-white," but the paper is far darker than that. From what I can tell, it is about the same color as the paper in my Rhodia webnotebook.

The 5.5 mm ruling is very narrow. People who typically write with finer points and tend to write small anyway will love it. But if you like to write big and bold, this notebook probably only makes sense for you if you're going to write on every other line. Large writing would bunch lines much too closely to read comfortably. Fans of the old ruled Habana are going to have a hard time adjusting to this one.

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook v. 2.0 - ruling comparison
What a difference in ruling! Old version on left, new version on right.
Top-most group of lines on rights is same as number of lines on left.
Provided you use every line, the new ruling is going to save you money over the older version. By narrowing the ruling and leaving less blank space above and below the ruling at the top and bottom of the page, each page now has 40 lines for writing instead of the 26 on the previous version. That's more than 50% more lines on the same size page, or the equivalent of adding 40 sheets to the notebook!

Another nice plus to the changes is that between the color of the paper and the dotted lines, the the light gray dotted rules are virtually unnoticeable on the written page. There's just enough there to guide your writing as you go, and it is almost invisible once you've written on it.

Another change in the ruling is that unlike the older version, the ruling does not extend the entire width of the page from the binding to the edge. Instead, there is a border of "white space" a few mm wide at both the binding and page edge.

The paper in this generation of Habana is a slightly lighter weight than in the first generation U.S. version. This apparently was a compromise between the weight in the U.S. version and non-U.S. version of the first generation Habana so that a single version of the second-generation Habana could ship everywhere.

The lighter weight is not really noticeable to the touch, nor does it result in a noticeably thinner notebook, but the lighter paper did allow some ever-so-slight and occasional bleed-through with two of the fountain pen inks I tried. Show-through actually seemed about the same or slightly better on the lighter ivory paper than on the heavier white paper of the first generation, probably on account of the color. Needle-point pens seemed to leave a significantly deeper impression in the lighter paper (though I can't guarantee I wrote with the same pressure in both versions, so this observation may be a result of writing with different pressure in each notebook). A light touch may be needed with those pens to keep from introducing too much texture to the reverse side of the page. There was no noticeable feathering with any of the fountain pen, gel, or rollerball inks I tried.

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook v. 2.0 - rear pocket
Sturdy, fabric-like gusset on the large
back pocket suggests durability
Other than changes in available colors, everything else about the Habana seems pretty much the same as the original. The cover is still a "hard flexible" cover that's firm enough for writing when away from your desk but has some give that might let you stuff it in a bag that has no room for a stiffer cover. The cloth bookmark is still there, as is the back pocket, complete with the fabric-like gussets that suggest to me that this pocket can put up with heavier use than most.

Which is a good thing, because this pocket will see more use if I use a Habana for work. Because the dimensions of the large Habana (6.25 in x 9.25 in.) are larger than the typical A5-sized notebook, it will accommodate a letter-size sheet folded in half, which the pockets of A5-size notebooks simply can't.

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook v. 2.0 - size comparison - 3 views
Three views comparing the large Habana to a typical "large" notebook. The smaller notebook I used here, however, is about 1/4 inch narrower (when closed) than a large Moleskine.
As usual, you can view more photos at my Flickr photo set for this review.

The Giveaway

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook v. 2.0 - rear pocket
Left: New version large Habana. Right: Old version pocket Habana.
I was tempted to keep this as my work notebook, but seeing as how Karen art Exaclair supplied the Habana gratis, I thought it more appropriate to spread the love and give it away.  And, to the runner-up, I will give a small first-generation black Habana with blank pages. I believe the small Habana has 64gsm paper, but I'm not sure. (I bought it long ago and failed to review it.) Both the large and small Habanas will have a page of my test writing in them, but they are otherwise mint.

To enter, do BOTH of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post, AND;

2. Email me at notebookeresqATgmail.com. Your email must give the name you used for commenting and the subject line must read EXACTLY:


I do it this way to be sure I can contact the winners and so I can set up an email filter to group all entries as they come in. I will keep the giveaway open through at least midnight Pacific time on Tuesday, June 27.

The winner will be selected using the random number generator at random.org.

Good luck!



  1. Nice Review! Looks like a nicely made notebook.

  2. Great review! I love how the new ruling doesn't run all the way to the edge; it looks very clean!

  3. I am not sure if I should be happy or sad that I never got to try the first gen. I prefer white to ivory, given the option. As for the spacing, I opt for unlined when possible, but wide trumps college otherwise. At least I never got really attached to the original. It will be interesting to see how well the new product fares overall.



  4. Nice review seems like a great notebook. Glad to see a post on the site :)

  5. A generous way to pay to forward. It looks like a really nice notebook! I hope I win it! (grin)

  6. Thank you for the give-away. the review was well done as always.

  7. Thanks for doing this and for the review! :D

  8. I would love to give either of these notebooks a try after such a thorough and well written review!

  9. I really appreciate your reviews. Very informative and helpful.

  10. I would actually prefer to be the runner up, but since I haven't yet tried the NEW version, that would be nice too.

  11. Sometimes it seems like Moleskines are the only notebooks around (they're so prominent in every stationery store)! This would work great for my tiny handwriting, and the light grey ruling looks very elegant. Thanks for your generosity!

  12. Thanks for the review! I'm looking for something new for my daily "log book" that I started keeping instead of a planner.

  13. I've heard a lot of good things about Quo Vadis Habana notebooks and would love to try one out. Thanks for the giveaway!

  14. I've only tried Moleskines, Piccadilly notebooks, and Rhodia notepads. These Habanas look great. Thanks for the chance!

  15. well, you managed to get me really interested in the new Habana. i"m always looking for narrow ruling and this seems to fit the bill perfectly!

  16. I haven't tried out a Habana yet, but I'd sure like to get my hands on one of these! Thanks for the comparison/review!

  17. I've never tried a Habana, but I've heard so many good things about them that I'd like to.

  18. Please note that this is my entry.

  19. Looks lovely! Off to email you!

  20. I loved the light gray dotted lines over an ivory background! It's hard to find this specific setup that's both elegant and pleasant to write on. Fingers crossed!

  21. I've never tried one of these, but I would very much like to!

  22. I really appreciate the thoroughness with which you review each and every product! Please keep doing what you love!

  23. This notebook would be great for travel. It looks sturdy!

  24. Those are some nice notebooks. Never tried this brand, but you've given a fair and balanced review that makes me want to take one for a test drive.

  25. Nice looking notebooks

  26. I'd love to try this notebook! I have tiny handwriting so the narrower ruling makes me pretty excited. =)

  27. Nice notebooks and a nice review. Thank you!

  28. Thanks for a well rounded review. I like the change to narrower dotted lines and smaller margins, but was sorry to read that there was some bleed through and potential for smudging due to longer drying times. I would love to give it or the consolation prize a spin to see how it does with my xxf nibs and light hand.

  29. This looks awesome. Sign me up!


  30. Looks like a great notebook!

    Thanks for the chance to win... :)

  31. thank you for the review and the giveaway!