Thursday, 17 March 2011

You can (and should) judge a book by its cover…

I’ve blogged earlier about different kinds of notebooks (see here) and about what makes a good notebook. I’m currently hunting for the perfect notebook for jotting down ideas – ideas about blogs, articles, stories, etc. These are not ‘remember to get the dry-cleaning’ kind of jottings, or ‘look for this book’ etc. For those, I use a mini filofax (the purse-o-fax – see earlier blog post here). The notebook is to capture creative ideas while I am out and about.

Why not just use a filofax? Instead of/as well as carrying the mini, carry a bigger one to write in? And I do love a nice filofax! I love a) the flexibility of the system and b) the tactile feel and luxury of them and I already have a good number to my name (some without uses at the moment!). So why don’t I just use a filofax for an ideas notebook?

Hmm… this is where size starts to matter. Whatever I use needs to be light enough for me to want to carry around, even on a small walk (as opposed to a proper walk with a rucksack), but not so small or awkward I won’t enjoy using it. If I carry a personal filofax, the rings annoy me and writing in it is a pain; anything bigger than that starts to be a bit too heavy.

Okay, so what’s wrong with my current notebook de jour – my Cartesio  in sea-green (large - 21cm x 13cm)? This is the perfect size, has a beautiful cover that makes me want to use it, and if needed, it tucks into the vertical pocket of my A5 Finchley filofaxes. Sounds perfect, no?

Well, on Monday I might have a thought about a blog and on Tuesday think of a great plot for a story and Wednesday think of an article… and then all the ideas will become jumbled up. I want to be able to file things and a sewn notebook like the Cartesio doesn’t let me do that.

So, I’m torn between the flexibility of being able to move pages around and the ability to write easily across the whole surface, without having to stop and take pages out (as I would with a filofax). And, whatever I decide on has to feel beautiful to use and be fabulous to look at.

What I really want is a notebook where I can pull the pages out to file them, has paper that is a delight to write on and which has a beautiful cover. (Otherwise I could use any one of a whole host of nasty little notebooks where you can pull the pages out).

Any suggestions??

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Calligraphy is possibly the epitome of ‘paper, pens and ink’. There is something glorious about the shapes, forms and expressions involved. You will have seen the calligraphy animals I have used on some of the divider pages in my filofax. I find these incredibly beautiful – a beauty I imagine is only increased if you also understand the words making the forms. They are created with nothing more complex than a pen and some paper and yet the animals are incredibly detailed, intricate and delicate. Two of my favourites are the elephant and the zebra. There is a good blog about the calligraphy - BibliOdyssey, although it hasn't been updated in a while.

My love of calligraphy goes back to early Christian texts and the fabulous illustrations in so many mediaeval books. Many years ago I bought a facsimile copy of the book of Kells and I can still marvel at both the writing and the illuminated pages. Like the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Book of Kells is a stunning example of Insular art (Wikipedia link). The style of writing used gives its name to the insular script or ‘hand’ in calligraphy and the style of the writing and especially the illustrations, is markedly different to other European manuscripts of the same era.
Dog from the Book of Kells

I have tried my hand at calligraphy, but not to any great success so far. It certainly is a case of practice, practice, practice! The time it must have taken to create the mediaeval books is phenomenal and when you think that the inks, the quills and the vellum all needed to be produced by hand, it is an extraordinary achievement.

My admiration goes out to those who are so much more skilled than I am ever likely to be.