Since this website began a year ago, finding black notebooks has become an increasingly difficult task. We’ve covered everything from the common to those of the no-longer-available variety, and very rare is it that someone brings to our attention to one we haven’t heard of. So needless to say, I was thrilled when a package showed up at my door with a fantastic little black notebook made in Italy and sent via a UK’s The Journal Shop.
Before we review the notebook, I’d like to highly recommend The Journal Shop, an amazing notebook retailer based in the UK. They sell everything, from Moleskines to Ciaks, but here’s what makes them extra special: they offer a 3-for-2 deal on all their products. Seriously, you can grab two Ciaks and get one free. Definitely worth a look if you haven’t heard of it before.
OK, now to the product at hand: the Cartesio. Hailing from Florence, Italy and named after the Latinized name of French philosopher Rene Descartes (“I think, so why am I obsessed with black notebooks?”), these leather bound soft cover journals have a very distinct feel from the numerous others we’ve previously reviewed.
The notebook measures in at 9cm x 14cm, or 3.5″x5.5″ – exactly the same as a standard Moleksine.
The notebook is also about as thick, with 96 leaves or 192 pages. The cover is made from recycled leather, and definitely has a far more “wrinkled leather” feel to it than any other journal we’ve reviewed, which is very cool. It also is available in an orange a bit more dull than the standard Rhodia color. You can make out the patterns in this picture:
Yes, embossed on the front is a small, raised “C”, which is disappointing for those of us who would like our notebooks free from product names; but after reviewing notebooks that are far more egregious in their cover choices, I’m just glad it’s subtle. The notebook is a soft cover, but it’s the firmest we’ve reviewed – definitely not as much flexibility as the soft cover Moleskine or the Miqeulrius, but this is a good thing. It’ll fit in a pocket, but it’ll also stand up to frequent bending, and what’s more, feels like it has some weight to it.
The cover is bound by a rounded elastic band, nearly identical to the Ciak’s. I used to be a purist about elastics being of the flat Moleskine variety until I used the Ciak for my vacation journal recently – without question, it does the job just as well and quite possibly better.
The pages are section sewn, but not attached directly to the binding. I really wish more notebook would follow the Alwych with this – it really cuts down on broken spines. However, the pages are very closely attached, and I really like the square spine, as opposed to the rounded one found on most soft cover journals.
Open it up, and you find an inner cover TOTALLY different from every notebook we’ve reviewed. As you can see, it features a great world map, the product name, and three simple lines for your indentifying information (seriously, in this day in age, what else do you need to write other than your email address and “Reward”?). I really don’t think this picture does it justice. The picture really lends itself to the company’s philosophy: “a world of your thoughts in a notebook.”
The pages are a creamy white, slightly brighter than the Moleskine. The lines are also slightly wider apart, but not enough to make much of a difference. They’re also of a thicker paper stock. As you can see, the notebook also comes with a bookmark.
Finally, in the back is a little pocket similar to the Moleskine. This is the only area where the notebook disappoints – I swear this pocket was a last minute addition. Not only does it not feel like the rest of the notebook, it’s attached in what I consider the wrong direction, has no cover flap, and is very poorly attached to the notebook.
Update: Ruth from The Journal Shop has informed me that we may have been accidentally sent a prototype of the final notebook, as the final version does have a cover flap and is much more firmly attached to the notebook.
It’s definitely not a deal breaker – I put a little glue on it, and it’s perfect now. And I continue to maintain that, as cool as a notebook’s back pocket is in philosophy, I’ve never actually used it for holding anything. But I would highly suggest to Cartesio not to skimp on this detail when they’ve clearly worked very, very hard on the design of rest of the notebook.
Overall, the Cartesio is an excellent little black notebook, and one highly worth checking out if you’re looking for a Moleskine replacement. It’s a soft cover, but it feels as sturdy as a hard cover, and the wrinkled leather cover gives it a great air of quality.
Currently, it seems that the Cartesio is only available at The Journal Shop, for the price of £8.50 each plus £3 shipping to the US (cheaper, of course, in the UK) – all totaling about $20. It’s a little pricey, but keep in mind the 3 for 2 deal, which brings down the price significantly.