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The Bible of Notebooks: The Allan’s Journal

October 9th, 2008 · 14 Comments · black book


Hello there.

Recently, I’ve seen a number of notebooks on the market whose origins are pretty creative. For example, Book Journals takes old hard cover books from the 1950s and 1960s and converts them into spiral-bound notebooks.

Urban Outfitters has recently started selling notebooks with real old vinyl records sliced up for the covers – very, very cool, though the $28 price tag is steep.

Since 1863, the R. L. Allan company of Glasgow, Scotland, has been making hand-finished leather bibles, which they sell direct to customers. Recently, someone got the bright idea of using their standard bible design for a high quality notebook. Hence, the Allan’s Journal.

The Allan’s Journal, described as a “pocket-sized notebook,” has been making the Internet blog rounds since it was released about a year ago.  Back then, the journal looked a little different: the front cover was embossed with the “Allan’s Journal” logo.  Also, the page edges were a reddish gold instead of solid gold.


(picture courtesy Bible Design)

In June 2008, the company released the newest version of the Allan’s Journal, which we will be looking at here.

The Allan’s Journal is bound in Morocco goatskin leather, and it looks and smells beautiful.  Yes, that’s right – this notebook has a great smell.  If you get close, it has the subtle pleasing aroma of a new leather. This isn’t the imitation leather/oilcloth crap found on nearly all of the journals we’ve reviewed – it’s the real thing, and the quality shows.  It’s beautifully wrinkled and feels exceptionally durable.

Yes, I wish the word “Journal” wasn’t embossed in gold on the front, mainly because I don’t keep a journal, and would inevitably use this for non-journal purposes.  If there has to be anything there, I much prefer the original “Allan’s Journal” logo that used to adorn the cover.  In fact, I sort of liked it, for the same reasons I like the Alwych cover. However, I think that nearly every reader of this blog would agree that having no words or branding on the cover would make this perfect.

Size-wise, the journal measures 4″ x 5 3/4″, or 10.16cm x 14.6cm.  It’s relatively larger than a standard Moleskine, and is about a centimeter or two too large to fit in the back pocket of my jeans, which is too bad.

I don’t hate the size, but would absolutely love to see a genuine pocket version of this meeting the typical Moleskine measurements of about 3.5″ x 5″.

I want to compliment the Allan’s Journal for its width. It’s a bit thinner than a Moleskine, which is more evident when you hold it than in this picture.

I love notebooks that are either on the very thin or extra thick end of the spectrum (i.e. twice or three times as many pages), and this is one of the more compact I’ve seen.

This notebook is extremely flexible. However, it has some weight to back it up, and always returns to its original shape.

Finally, the gold pages edges. One of the things I loved in the original version of this notebook were the “red under gold edges.”

This is an incredibly unique design, and I’m disappointed to see that in the latest version, the edges appear to just be gold.  I like it, but the red really gave the notebook a sense of character. I hope they go back to it in future editions.

When you open the cover, the first thing you see is black.

The leaves holding the actual notebook pages to the cover are made of a soft, smooth, thin leather-like material.  Very attractive and elegant.

The next two pages are blank. Then we come to the first page. According to the website, the pages are Oxford-lined India writing paper.

First, the Allan’s Journal wins the award for the absolutely thinnest lines I’ve seen on a journal yet.  I defy you to write so tiny as to fit perfectly in these lines.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of anything small and conservatively designed.  Most notebooks make the mistake of doing things on the big end, which usually translates into clunky and wasteful.  So while I can’t complain about the line spacing, I do want to warn you that you’ll probably just use them as general guidelines at best.

The paper quality is thin.  On the plus side, you get an extra thin journal overall, which I love.  On the negative, you can see Uni-ball writing pretty clearly through.  I originally wrote that I doubted it would hold up well to fountain pen ink, but commenter Martin says it actually does a great job and since I never conducted a test, I’ll retract my statement.  If you want to get an idea of the thickness, just think of a typical Bible. The pages are usually thin so they can include a LOT of pages. The same goes for this journal, which has 256 pages (Moleskines have 192).

The Allan’s Journal opens very flat on the table.

In fact, it can open beyond flat, and it doesn’t feel like there’s any danger of breaking the spine.

There’s no back cover pocket folder or elastic (both of which would seem incredibly out of place on this journal), but there is a nice black satin bookmark. At some point, this notebook seems to have been offered with some sort of slipcase, but I guess this has been removed, probably because though neat in theory, I suppose it’s pretty much useless in practice.

I love the idea of taking the design of a Bible and turning it into a notebook.  While I’m not religious myself, I think of a Bible as having to be as durable as it is refined.  For hundreds of years, the Bible has been the single literary traveling companion for an inestimable number of travelers, and the idea of having that sort of standard and quality in a notebook is extremely appealing. That the company making it has been producing hand-finished Bibles since the 1860s makes it even more desirable.

I like the Allan’s Journal as it is, but would be extremely interested in seeing further variants – for example, a legitimately pocket-sized version, perhaps with more pages, would probably jump to the top of my favorite journals list. I would also love to see a much larger, thicker version. And a blank cover design would definitely be optimal.

The Allan’s Journal can only be purchased direct from www.bibles-direct.com, the Allan company’s website. It costs £15.00, which is about $26 US Dollars.  Shipping adds a few more bucks on, probably making your final total between $30-$35 stateside.

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