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.