A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Friday, September 7, 2012

Booker-Palooza 2012 Review and Giveaway #5: Clairefontaine Back to Basics 1951 Vintage Notebook (Enties closed and winners announced)

Welcome to day 5 of Booker-Palooza 2012. This is the fifth — and final — givewaway of the week. And it's another "two-fer" — there will be two winners.

The Review

Retro something or other
 The first problem I had in writing this review was . . . fatigue. I've been working like crazy this week. Wrong week to host Booker-Palooza, I think! It's been fun, though, and I'm glad I did it. But I think my fatigue is going to show in this post. This will be a pretty lazy review.

The second problem I had in writing this review was what the heck to call this product. There are so many different words on the label, I wasn't sure. I'm still not. European Paper Company ("EPC") from which I ordered these notebooks, calls it the "Clairefontaine Vintage Notebook." Interesting, because "vintage" is one word that does not appear on the label. So I looked for this in the Clairefontaine catalog, and couldn't find it. So, we'll go with what I think is the best combination of words from the label: "Clairefontaine Back to Basics 1951 Vintage Notebook."

But it seems pretty clear that Clairefontaine was going for a retro feel. That is suggested by the "1951" and "Back to Basics" on the label, and the look of the cover as well.

Speaking of the cover, it looks in photos almost like it could be cloth, and the product description at EPC calls the cover "textured." All they mean, though, is that the cover has a rough laid finish, unlike the glossy finish you see on most Clairefontaine notebooks.

As you can see, there is a labeling area on the front cover. The back has a Clairefontaine logo, so there's no chance of confusing the orientation of the notebook. There is no pocket in the back, and the cover stock just doesn't feel that sturdy to me

This is a staple-bound notebook. I've never carried one of these around much, so I can't comment on its durability, but I always feel better if the binding is stitched.

The ruling runs to the end of the page and has no margin line, but each page does have some blank top and bottom margins. A lot of people don't like that, but I find the margin habit hard to break. Even when my notebook doesn't have them, I tend to leave some blank space at the top and bottom. At 8mm spacing (my measurement could be a little off), the lines are a little more widely spaced than I prefer.

As for the paper . . . I didn't even test it out. Why bother? Its 90 gsm smooth, bright white Clairefontaine paper, which is consistently awesome for fountain pens: no feathering, no bleeding, easy to write on both sides. The only downside to Clairefontaine's paper is that inks take a long time to dry on it (at least, in my opinion). I'm always amazed when a blogger reviews an ink and says it dries in 10 seconds, because I've had ink smear after 40 or 45 seconds on Clairefontaine paper (but I don;t mind because the writing experience is so great). The fact that I take all these things for granted and didn't test the paper means that these winners won't have to put up with a page of my scribbling, like most of my notebook winners.

I had second thoughts about ordering these at $13 until I realized that is the price for a two-pack. At that price, they are very reasonable. That $13 price is for the large size (5.75 in. x 8.25 in.). It also comes in pocket size (3.5 in. x 5.5 in.) at $9 for a two-pack. In either case, you can choose your colors.

The Giveaway

You can enter by email, by commenting, or by both. It's perfectly OK for you to enter both ways. Not everyone is necessarily going to take the time to do that (very few did on the first giveaway), so entering both ways may increase your chances of winning.

To enter by email, send an email to me at notebookeresqATgmail.com, with the following subject line:


Your email must reach me by 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time, Saturday morning, September 8. You may send only one email per person.

To enter by commenting, click in the comment field, then use one of the login methods displayed or click in the NAME field to comment as a guest. Please note that if you log in using your Twitter or Facebook account, I will not have your email and will not be able to contact you directly if you win. In that case, you'll have to return to this post to see if you are the announced winner and claim your prize. (If you are concerned about privacy, note that your email will not display in the comment.) Your comment must be timestamped no later than 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time, Saturday, September 8.

Per my usual practice, the winners — remember, there are two winners in this giveaway — will be selected by generating a random number at random.org (in this case, two random numbers) and counting down the list of entries. Good luck!

UPDATE — WINNERS ANNOUNCED — Not only do we have two winners of this prize, we have our second double-winner of the week. Our first-time winner is Stan and our second-time winner is Kyle Curia. Congrats!



  1. Is it just me, or do these beg to be used with Retro 51 pens? Seems like a great pairing :)

  2. I've been trying to get theses from JetPens, but they're out of stock

  3. 1951 was a good year - I guess:) A little before my time, but I love Clairfontaine paper and would be able to give these a happy home.

  4. Never been to 1951 but I would *love* some of its paper...Clairefontaine woo!

  5. I just started using a Rhodia Webbie and I love it! I can't pass up the chance to have some more Clairefontaine paper!

  6. Count me in...Thanks.

  7. Seem like great notebooks

  8. I love Clairefontaine paper, and I haven't been lucky in these giveaways yet... maybe this is finally my chance!

  9. I would love to try this! I'll be in a classroom soon so this would be great for notes.

  10. Absolutely adore Clairefontaine paper. Love the retro look!

  11. One of these would brighten my week, hope I'm randomly luckier tonight.