Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Papio Press A6 notebooks - Review

Tigers by Papio Press
I'm delighted that Pocketnotebooks.co.uk has given me a couple of notebooks by Papio Press to review. These are a new stock for Pocketnotebooks.co.uk and Papio Press are a UK producer.

Small notebooks tend to fall into four main camps, as far as I can tell - functional but not terribly pretty; not all that functional nor all that pretty; pretty but not all that functional; and pretty and functional. Which camp would these A6 notebooks land in?

Well, you can tell from their covers that they have to be in one of the pretty camps! The team behind them - Harry and Zanna Goldhawk - are illustrators and the covers are just delightful. But, would they be functional as well as so easy on the eye?

Stuart, the new owner of Pocketnotebooks.co.uk sent me a couple to try. They arrived in recyclable packaging (tick!), addressed to "The Awesome Dr Amanda Fleet" (extra brownie points for calling me awesome!) and on the back of the package was the company's motto: Forget the App, there's a Pocket Notebook for that. Inside, the notebooks were wrapped in purple tissue paper with a branded label fastening it. This was a lovely touch and always makes any parcel feel special.
[click on any image to enlarge; apologies for the blueish cast to some of the pictures - it's winter in Scotland!]

Motto stamped on the back
Nicely wrapped products

As well as the notebooks, there was a handwritten card from Stuart to me - another lovely touch (though it should be said that Stuart and I are snail-mail correspondents!).

The notebooks come as a pack of two, in a biodegradable cellophane pack. This set is called "Tigers". The label indicated that there would be one plain notebook and one lined, but in my pack, they were both plain. I let Stuart know and he's chasing it up with Papio Press.

Front (still in cellophane)
Back (still in cellophane)
Front (out of the cellophane)
Back (out of the cellophane)

There is one notebook of each design and the covers are mirror images (i.e. the back of the cover is the mirror image of the front of the cover).

The notebooks are almost true A6 i.e. 102mm x 148mm (just 3mm narrower than true A6). This makes them larger than Field Notes (which are 90mm x 110mm) for comparison. There are 24 pages (48 sides) and the notebooks are staple-bound. In the back cover is their logo and website.

Both the card cover and the interior paper is recycled which I approve of, but recycled paper can sometimes be incredibly fountain pen unfriendly. This can be make or break for me with notebooks. If I'm going to buy a notebook again, it has to be fountain pen friendly!

I'm delighted to say that these beautiful little notebooks scored really well in the fountain pen tests! I don't have as many pens inked up as usual, but the three that are inked are the ones that can seriously test even top-performing paper.

General writing feel:
The paper is a bit toothier and rougher than Rhodia or Clairefontaine papers. It was still a nice writing experience and the ink dried pretty quickly - much faster than the same ink/nib combination does on Clairefontaine. If you were left-handed and had a tendency to smudge ink when writing, you'd probably be okay with these. 4*/5

Pen tests
(Eau de nil is actually by Diamine... sorry!)

There was almost no feathering at all. There was a tiny amount with the Conklin Durograph test but unless you looked really closely, it's almost invisible. The Conklin does lay down a lake of ink though! No feathering with any of the other inks/nibs. 4.5*/5

No feathering with the Tombow/J Herbin (Diamine!) combination
Slight feathering with the Conklin Durograph
No feathering with the TWSBI

There was some ghosting through to the reverse side but it was less with the fountain pens than with the other pens I tested. The biro showed 'embossing' on the other side - where the pressure of writing has left the paper distorted, but nothing too major for my pressure of writing.
The worst show-through was with the Pilot V5 Hi-tecpoints which showed through much more significantly than the fountain pen ink, presumably because of increased pressure with the small point forcing ink in more deeply.
For fountain pens (or biro) I would score it between 3.5* and 4*/5 - the reverse is certainly usable. For the Pilot V5 I would score it lower - I would find it too irritating to use the other side, so 2*/5

Reverse of page

There was no bleed-through at all with the fountain pens but there was some bleed-through from the Pilot V5. I would score it 5*/5 for fountain pens and 3*/5 for the Pilot V5.

Because these are fairly slim and staple-bound they don't fall open flat the way a sewn notebook might, but they need very little persuasion to lie flat.

These are cracking little notebooks that are surprisingly fountain-pen friendly. I got these free to review but I'd have no hesitation over buying them. They are £5 for a 2-pack and there are so many fantastic covers to choose from. You can see the full range here: https://www.pocketnotebooks.co.uk/collections/papio-press-notebooks

My thanks to Stuart at Pocketnotebooks for sending them to me to review.

I  was given these notebooks free to review. However, this is an honest review and not influenced by them being a gift. If they had been terrible, I would have said so! (see the posts on the Monologue range if you don't believe me!)


  1. These really are lovely (I ordered three sets and have now ordered more once I could test them out) and I really like the lined and plain combination. The design above was sold out last time I looked but I am very pleased with the others. And how nice to have an A6 not a Field Notes size. Thank you for this review - I would like to say my packaging was equally excellent so this is clearly the standard and not an extra.

    1. Oh I'm really pleased that the packaging was just as splendid and that you like the books too! So many books are the Field Notes size - it's hard to find an A6 version. They really are fantastic little books.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Amanda - you set a very high standard in reviews. Thank you so much. Jan, I'm glad that you are enjoying the books. New stock should arrive tomorrow, or worst case Friday.