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The Moleskine That Folds In Half: The Guildhall Notebook

October 21st, 2008 · 30 Comments · black book


When we first began this site, one of the biggest problems we had was finding out about new little black notebooks. Luckily, as we’ve grown, you readers have become our prime source for learning of the latest brands on the market, to the point where our biggest problem has become actually obtaining copies for review. Often, this is due to communication problems. Currently, there’s a Japanese notebook I’d kill to review, as well as a very interesting German notebook – but repeated queries to the respective companies have gone unanswered, and finding foreign retailers is often difficult.

Other times, the problem comes from the fact that a little black notebook is just one of MANY products made by a huge manufacturer, and tracking down an individual item becomes a chore. When I reviewed the Colored Edge Notebook, for example, it was pretty clear that the company never dreamed anyone would care enough to review the product, and I had to go store hopping to dig one up.

The Guildhall Pocket Notebook has been a similar situation for me. A number of readers have recommended it over the past few months, but tracking down a copy has been tricky. The company, founded in the late 1800′s, is based in the UK, and I have yet to find an online American vendor. I found mine as per a reader suggestion in a stationery store in New York, but I hate reviewing a notebook that’s difficult for Black Cover readers to purchase. Then again, maybe that’s some of the fun in all this. Anyway, the Guildhall:

The Guildhall Pocket Notebook is a moleskine-style (note lowercase – that’s right, we’re reclaiming the word from its branding!) notebook that is similar to a standard pocket Moleskine, but with a few exceptional key differences that make it stand out.

Size-wise, it measures 90mm x 140mm, or just about 3.5″ x 5.5″ – exactly the same as a Moleskine. There’s a slight cover lip, which always disappoints me, but it’s pretty negligible.

It’s a hard cover, but there’s some give in terms of flexibility.

The more I review hard cover notebooks, the more it amazes me just how annoyingly rigid a Pocket Moleskine is. The thing is basically a rock, which might suit some people, but I find it limiting.

A big difference in the Guildhall comes in the faux-leather cover – it’s softer than a Moleskine’s and has a sewn edge.

I’m not sure what this does in terms of durability, but for the visual aesthetic, it definitely gives this a serious, elegant look.

Now for the biggest feature on this notebook: the binding. You can bend this notebook all the way around with minimal to no resistance:

A number of people reject any type of hard cover moleskine notebook in favor of flip-tops, for the understandable reason that it’s very hard to hold it one hand when writing. For these people, the Guildhall is the notebook you’ve been looking for. It’s can be opened in half at any page, from the first page to the last, and doesn’t seem like there’s ANY danger of ripping. With a Moleskine, on the other hand, this is literally as far as it wants to go before I feel like I’m starting to warp it:

The Guildhall is the first hard cover we’ve reviewed with this level of flexibility.

The first page has three lines for writing your contact info, reward, etc.

Now for the pages.

The pages are a creamy yellowish white. The lines are perfectly spaced – just slightly thinner than the Moleskine. Also, the Guildhall is the first notebook we’ve reviewed that has a header and footer I actually appreciate. If you look, you’ll see that the top and bottom lines are just slightly larger than the rest, which makes writing in those spaces easier (a blessing compared to the Moleskine, where the first line is lopped in half making it totally unusable). Yet they didn’t waste anymore space than was needed. Though the lines don’t completely go all the way across, it won’t stop you making use of the space.

The pages feel thicker than the Moleskine. I don’t think there’s any danger of a fountain pen going through.

As expected, this notebook lies perfectly flat on the table – another function of its excellent binding.

Finally, the notebook comes with the usual: a closure elastic, a black satin bookmark, and a back cover pocket folder.

Again, I reiterate: the perfection I’m looking for is a notebook’s innovative simplicity. When I first saw this notebook in its package, I frankly thought it’d be nothing more than a boring Moleskine knock-off. After actually using it, however, I see the subtle differences that make this far superior. With its excellent flexibility, loose binding, and unique cover design, a Moleskine seems boring and rigid in comparison. I would buy this notebook in a heartbeat over a Moleskine, and hope that we start seeing available from more US retailers.

I purchased the notebook at Paper Access in New York City for the maybe-$2-too-much price of $11.95. You can find them at 23 W 18th Street btw. 5th & 6th, or call them at 212-463-7035. I have a feeling this is the type of thing that you’ll find randomly at stationery shops. Keep me posted if you find any other US retailers, especially online.

For UK readers or those willing to purchase internationally, you can buy them online very cheaply from, oddly enough, The United Kingdom Geologists Equipment Ltd. Weird, right? One notebook will run you  £4.21 / US$7.24 / €5.39, all of which seems extremely reasonable to me.

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30 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Renaud // Oct 21, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    So, is this the perfect little black notebook?

    Is there something you don’t like about it?

  • 2 Speedmaster // Oct 21, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    You keep finding these great notebooks, nice work!!! ;-)

  • 3 Joseph Bayot // Oct 24, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Excellent! I need to check it out, I’ll head into the city sometime.

    The only deal-breaker for me is that I use Moleskine pocket sketchbooks because I love the plain, thick pages for tacticle and aesthetic reasons. Any other options for this notebook?

  • 4 joe // Oct 29, 2008 at 7:35 am

    The Markings by CR Gibson I found at Target have that same sewn cover. I bought it for $9.00/ea. As opposed to a Large Ruled Moleskine for $16.00.

  • 5 The Moleskine Knock-Off: The Markings Notebook // Oct 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    [...] RSS ← The Moleskine That Folds In Half: The Guildhall Notebook [...]

  • 6 Billy // Dec 12, 2008 at 10:47 am

    I’ve checked the website you link to for these and think I’ve found the book amongst all their others, but without a picture how can I be sure it’s the right one?

  • 7 Doug // Dec 23, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Billy: I’m pretty sure it’s the entry:

    [121/1024] – Pocket Notebook 90 x 140mm FD0182

    The product code matches the manufacturer’s code.

    Just ordered one myself at £4.84 with free 2nd class delivery!

  • 8 Kevin // Jan 16, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Just got a few in and I adore them! The cover is just the right amount of flexibility for my tastes. I dig the paper and love almost everything about it. I’m not huge on the lip but I may end up loving it I’ll just have to see. Mine, however, doesn’t seem to be quite as flexible as the one reviewed here. Maybe I’m being too ginger with it or maybe mine’s a dud, not sure. I’m quite thrilled with them though and couldn’t be happier with UKGE.

  • 9 Doug // Jan 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    So I ended up getting the A6 (small, as reviewed) and the A5 (large) versions. The A5 one has much better quality paper: ink on the A6′s paper (e.g. a G2 07) takes ages to dry and now it’s full of smudges! The A5 one doesn’t have this problem though. Quite odd that they would use different paper…

  • 10 Martin Williams // Mar 12, 2009 at 10:34 am

    This is far and away the best Moleskine alternative I’ve found. I think it’s even better than Nick does. The cover’s PVC (I think) but doesn’t feel cheap at all. And that means, along with its curved spine, that the corners just don’t begin to break (in the way that my Moleskines always do to some extent) and you really can bend the whole thing in half at any point when writing on the hoof. Now I really like Moleskines for fountain pens, and I use quite wet Pelikans, but the paper on the Guildhall is slightly better. I may switch to them exclusively. To me, they’re essentially perfect, and I don’t say so lightly. For UK buyers from the link Nick gives (UKGE), second-class postage is free, so the price with VAT is £5.69.

  • 11 Review: The Goldline Journal | Notebook Stories // Aug 11, 2009 at 9:08 am

    [...] here’s another distinguishing element: like the Guildhall tested by Black Cover, the Goldline has an extremely flexible binding. You can fold it back completely without it [...]

  • 12 Claire Burch // Oct 26, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I must say that these molesking journals are very good, but I enjoy to use the Markings journals by C. R. Gibson. They are not quite for the same purpose, seeing as the Markings I have is about 7 in. by 10 in. It is a hardcover spiral-bound journal and is one-sided. I find it is pretty and does not let the pen bleed through, which is something I require. I use it as a journal for myself, but have finished all the ones I own currently and cannot find another no matter where I look. If anyone has more info on the subject I would love for you to e-mail me at xxclarissax3@aim.com. Thank you!

  • 13 Lesley // Dec 24, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    I just had to comment and support all positive reviews of the Guildhall Pocket Notebook.

    I found mine last year, in the beginning of November, in a stationary shop just south of Hoxton Square, Cowling and Wilcox, 12 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JN London UK.

    Since then the two of us have travelled far and wide: London, Madrid, Costa del Sol, Vancouver, Toronto, Jamaica…well, suffice to say an excellent travel companion.

    I use mine every day, more than an ipod touch or a cell phone, for notes and ideas and especially writing down directions when abroad.

    It’s light, perfectly sized to fit in smaller pockets and not a bother to carry 24/7. Tough, bendable. The pages feel delicious! I’ve written in it with all sorts of pens and no troubles.

    I actually like the lip; it’s protected pages from Spanish beer and Jamaican coffee many a time!
    The pocket in the back is great for metro maps. I find the lines dark enough to use and light enough to ignore if need be.

    I considered a “Moleskin” but really found the covers too hard. Plus I hate to submit to such brutish advertising!

    The Guildhall is the quiet, distinguish, high quality, low profile notebook…for those who REALLY have something to write about! ;)

    My only difficulty is FINDING ANOTHER ONE! I’m now in Vancouver, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I’ll try out the place mentioned above.

    Guildhall Forever!

  • 14 Tony // Jan 18, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    I have a larger Guildhall identical to this, and love it…I don’t have a ruler handy at the moment, but it is about 5×7 in size, otherwise, identical.
    I have another journal I cannot find a new one of, but is 10-times better. It was made by, believe it or not, Meade. It is approx 7.5 x 9.5″, with a black, real-padded-leather cover, and raised spine, perfectbinding, about 200-sheets ruled, and quality superior to Guildhall’s. It has a black-satin ribbon, no elastic, no pocket, and is stamped on the inside back cover as “Meade/Vestvaco Corporation 2009″. I have searched all stores, called Meade, and everyone tells me that nothing like was ever made…yet I have one in-hand. Can anyone tell me where you can find a padded leather 7×9″ raised-spine, perfectbound lined journal like this? I bought it in a small store in Boston last year for $17.00 USD. I haven’t seen such quality in $200 italian journals!

  • 15 Ordinal // Jan 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I purchased one of the Guildhalls a few months ago, and have recently moved onto it after finishing the last Moleskine that I had.

    The cover is definitely superior to the usual hardbacked Moleskine – as noted in the piece here, it is relatively flexible, looks rather nice, and also, I appreciate the lip around the page, as I use Post-It flags to mark various pages, which always get crumpled and ripped in a Moleskine and need frequent replacement.

    As for the binding, the thing is definitely more flexible than a Moleskine (I have broken more than one and had to repair them with tape) but it only comfortably folds in half when one is near the middle – in the first few dozen pages from beginning or end, folding it in half bends the inner page far too much to allow comfortable writing.

    I don’t believe that this is avoidable in a notebook with that many pages – one which isn’t ring-bound anyway – but it is something to bear in mind. Similarly, it doesn’t really lie flat as such unless one is writing near the middle.

    The binding is good though, and certainly superior to the Moleskine. What I am not too keen on is the paper. I am not sure whether there are differences between batches, but even using a Space Pen, I have found that I quite often smear writing I have just made, and my fingers are not even particularly sweaty. I have never seen this in other notebooks. It isn’t _that_ bad but it does frequently make me think “bother it I’ve made a smear again”, and given that I can write under a shower with a Space Pen on waterproof paper, I’m not sure what it would be like with other inks.

    In summary, I like the structure very much, but I’m already finding the paper annoying – not to a degree that would make me abandon the notebook, but I’m not sure I’ll buy another one.

  • 16 Danielle // Feb 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    I have a Markings notebook by C.R. Gibson, I already filled one completely. It’s pretty much the best notebook I’ve ever come across, and I’m a writer so I’m very picky with my notebooks. Everything about it is amazing, my favorite part is that it will lie perfectly flat on a table, so you can actually write instead of laboring to scribble a sentence while you pry open the pages of a less worthy notebook. By far, the best place to write anything down.

  • 17 Irv Cantor // Sep 8, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Great reviews! Thanks! One correction, the link under the Markings notebook does not take you to a review of that product.

  • 18 Notebook Stories: A Blog About Notebooks, Journals, Moleskines, Blank Books, Sketchbooks, Diaries and More // Jan 12, 2011 at 8:20 am

    [...] branding, this notebook definitely does not bend all the way back like the Guildhall does (see the review at Black Cover). Hopefully it won’t split from its covers after being used, as my Markings notebook [...]

  • 19 Danielle // Jan 17, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks for the review. I was about to buy a Moleskine but might go for the Guildhall instead!

  • 20 Kali // Mar 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    WANT! I wish they were easier to find. I’m in LA and it shouldn’t be TOO much of a battle, but I don’t think there are any retailers here.

  • 21 Rob // Mar 29, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Many thanks for the excellent review. Ryman’s in the UK also have a selection of excellent notebooks and journals (all sizes) and I believe will ship internationally. I bought one of these journal-sized notebooks today and can confirm the quality if every bit as good (if not better) than Moleskine.

    The notebook I bought has a medium-size soft cover, 192 pages (27 lines per page), acid-free 80gsm cream paper, 210×144, with a back pocket (as Moleskine).

    I used a fine-nib Waterman Phileas and, like your test above, the ink applies well with no feathering or bleed-though to the reverse page.

    Worth taking a look.

    http://www.ryman.co.uk/search-page/?term=0320265001

  • 22 Graham // Jun 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Tony,
    Google suggested http://www.meadwestvaco whilst I thought I’d have a quick search. Does the below link look like what you have? No idea how you would go about buying one.

    My pair of Guildhalls shoult turn up tomorrow. My Lechtturm1917s turned up a couple of days ago. I’m a happy journal collector right now.

    (admin – any way you can forwards this to Tony?)

    http://www.meadwestvaco.com/cop/ppg/buildCatalogSearchItems.do?&searchString=C67422&level3=23&action=detail

  • 23 Julia Jansen // Aug 22, 2011 at 5:12 am

    I bought it in the UKGE store eleven days ago and I’m waiting for the postman to come ’round, I’m so curious!

  • 24 Misutsu // Aug 30, 2011 at 3:30 am

    Very surprising website !
    You did your job well. I don’t want to use a Moleskine, so i ordered a Guildhall Pocket Notebook ;)

  • 25 Fabrizio // Nov 27, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I use it from 2009 and it’s a plasure write on it!
    I hope to find plain and squared in The future and why not the diary.

  • 26 Guildhallfan // Dec 14, 2011 at 10:53 am

    This book has just been discontinued buy the manufacturer.

    Get them while you can, there is no replacement.

  • 27 Sam // Jan 10, 2012 at 8:22 am

    After reading your very helpful review and spending ages trying to find this notebook in the UK I stumbled across this website which sells it for £4.99: http://www.thedyslexiashop.co.uk/guildhall-pocket-notebook-90-x-140mm.html

    Thought the link may come in useful for people in the UK!

  • 28 Are Moleskines pretentious? Yup. Guildhall Notebooks are worse « The Story's Story // Jan 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    [...] apparently discontinued (or so says their distributor, Exaclair). If you’re looking for one, start here. But for me, the real question is how well it’ll hold up after six to nine months of rigorous [...]

  • 29 nw // Apr 26, 2012 at 8:39 am

    If you drop me a mail I may be able to get you the Japanese notebook in a couple of weeks. I’m living in Tokyo, and I’d be really interested in checking it out myself.

  • 30 Eight years of writing and the first busted Moleskine « The Story's Story // May 12, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    [...] for the complaint about Moleskine quality I linked to above, I also found a site that recommends The Guildhall Notebook. I’ve already ordered one, although apparently Guildhall doesn’t have a U.S. [...]

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