Friday, 20 September 2013

Reviews of Grandluxe products (2): Monologue Jotter

[warning: long post with quite a few pictures. Click on any picture to enlarge]

This post in my series of reviews of Grandluxe notebooks will look at the Monologue Jotter notebooks. I was sent two to review: an orange-covered A6 sized one (14.5 cm x 9.5 cm; page size 13.7 cm x 7.3 cm) and a dark grey A5 version (21.2 cm x 14.3 cm; page size 20.6 cm x 13.7 cm, not including the cutaway).

The notebooks have a synthetic suede cover which feels lovely to the touch, though I wonder how well it would wear if the notebook was knocking around in a bag alongside keys and other things. Anyway, it feels nice to the touch at the moment! Inside, there is a propelling pencil in a pen holder attached to the book. The paper is described as 80 gsm acid free cream woodfree paper. The notebooks have 48 leaves of ruled notepaper and 48 leaves of framed blank paper. The recommended retail price for them is £17.99 for the A5 size and £12.99 for the A6.

First impressions:
Like the contents of the Platinum notebooks that I reviewed earlier (see here), I find the combination of contents - this time lined and blank pages - a little strange. I do have some notebooks which have alternate plain and lined pages, but none where there is plain in one section and lined in another. Maybe this isn’t odd to other people, of course!
In the A5 size, the pencil lies in a cutaway, so the pages of the book ‘wrap around’ the pencil. In the A6 size book, the pages are not cut and the pencil lies to the side of them.
There is a matching marker ribbon which does actually match the colour of the cover quite well, as does the strong elastic closure. They are very smart looking books.

However, there are a couple of design flaws to my eyes at least. When I opened the A6 book to take pictures of the interior, the pencil fell out because the card pen holder is too big for the pencil. The opposite problem was to be had with the A5 – because of the page cutaway, the pencil is really difficult to get out. You have to flip all the pages over to the front and then get the pencil out. It won’t slide up/down out of the holder, because it jams into the cut pages. I can see why they made the design the way they did, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.

A6 in detail
The cover, as said, is soft and very tactile and I like it very much. The orange elastic closure is strong and the colour is very zingy.

Front (with label)
Back cover (with label)
Inside, the cover is lined with thick cream paper, which also forms a flyleaf (to which, inevitably, the first page of notepaper is glued). The pages are sewn not glued, but the book will not lie flat, even with persuasion. As in the Platinum notebooks, the lined pages have a heavier line top and bottom and the lines do not go edge to edge, but rather have a blank margin around them of 7 mm (inner margin) and 3 mm (outer margin). Line spacing is 6 mm and there are 20 lines per page. The orange ribbon marker is a good colour match to both the cover and to the elastic.

The ‘plain’ pages have a rectangular frame: 12 cm x 6.2 cm, lying offset with the same margins as the lined pages (7 mm inner; 3 mm outer).
In the back cover there is a pocket, made of the same thick cream paper that lines the cover, with a gusset made of what looks like material, but I think is actually paper (it reminds me a bit of the wide ribbon that you get on bunches of flowers, and it has proved impossible to photograph!).
The pen loop is a strip of the cover material fastened to the back cover with a stud/bolt thing. The pencil does not fit well, the holder having a diameter of about 12mm and the pencil’s being 10mm. The only thing stopping it from falling out more is the fact that the top part of the pencil sticks out more than the barrel.

Pencil in holder
On the front cover, there is no branding or marks of any kind; on the back cover, the name “monologue” is incised into the cover.

The propelling pencil is quite heavy and solid-feeling. It has a glossy black plastic case with silver-coloured trims. The lead is advanced by twisting the barrel (it then springs back once the lead has advanced). Twisting it the other way allows it to be unscrewed. There doesn’t appear to be an eraser. I think (though haven’t checked) that the pencil can be refilled with 0.5mm leads.

I didn’t do a fountain pen test on the A6 paper as I assumed it was the same as in the A5 version. Keep reading for the results on the A5.

A5 in detail
Like the A6, the A5 has a very tactile cover. The grey is very dark – charcoal grey really. The elastic closure is black and the ribbon is a grey which is a good match to the cover. Like its baby brother, inside, there is thick cream paper lining the cover and making a fly leaf, to which the first page is stuck. Also like its baby brother, there is a pocket in the back cover, with the same cream paper and gusset.

Front cover (with label)
Back cover (with label)

The paper is the same as in the A6 – cream, 80 gsm, woodfree and acid free. The paper has a cutaway for where the pencil lies. You can see this more clearly in the pictures of the fountain pen tests, below. As in the A6, the top and bottom lines of the page are darker and the lines do not reach edge to edge. The inner margin is 12 mm; the outer is 6 mm, except at the cutaway, where the line reaches the edge of the page. Line-spacing is 7 mm and there are 25 lines per page. 

Showing cutaway for the pencil
Lined pages
The ‘plain’ pages have a rectangle 18.8 cm x 11.9 cm. And yes, that does mean that the cutaway has cut away some of the rectangle in a rather less than aesthetically pleasing way.

'Plain' pages
The pages are sewn in rather than glued, but the book will not lie completely flat without being held down, though it is a lot better than the A6 in this regard.
The pencil is the same as in the A6 and the pencil holder is the same, though in this notebook, the holder is a snug fit. As already mentioned though, the cutaway design makes getting the pencil out, really difficult!

The Fountain Pen Test
I realise this is harsh and possibly cruel as the books came with pencils, but nonetheless, I test all my notebooks with pens. I wasn’t holding out a great deal of hope after the disaster of the fountain pen test with the Platinum notebooks, but as this was different paper I was hoping to be surprised.

Here are the results:

Front. Some feathering
Reverse: significant bleed-through
The paper was smoother to the touch than the paper in the Platinum notebooks, but fountain pens still feathered and bled-through quite badly. At least this time, the OHTO Tasche didn’t bleed right through to the next page as well though. The bleed-through is bad enough to make the reverse side unusable with anything except biro or pencil

Despite the slightly better results in the fountain pen tests, I am less impressed with these notebooks. I think they are a quirky design and I can see what they are trying to do, but the end result is not quite there. I do like the feel of the cover. The colour coordination between the cover, elastic closure and ribbon is good. The line spacing is a nice spacing for my writing. However, I don’t like the cutaway pages in the A5 and I’m not sure about the half lined, half plain aspect to the notebook. I would prefer all lined.
Stars: 2/5

Details of how to find Grandluxe products:
Monologue on Facebook:

Disclaimer: although I was given these books to review, this has been my honest opinion of the book reviewed. I have not been paid to review the books, nor am I in the employ of Grandluxe.

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