In Praise of. . .Clairefontaine Notebooks

by Jeff Abbott on October 23, 2008

I’ve given a number of talks lately, and I’m often asked about what tools I use in writing. One thing I’ve always done is to keep a notebook to capture thoughts during the writing process–perhaps an idea for a scene, or a way to make a character stronger, or a bit of research I need to track down. In my notebooks, I sketch, I outline, I play around with possibilities I don’t want to commit to the manuscript quite yet. (The best ideas from the notebook make it into the more formal outline that I keep in the software program Tinderbox.) Sometimes, if I’m feeling stuck with a scene, or need a change of pace, I like to take my notebook outside or to a coffee shop to write. I’ve used a variety of notebooks over the years, from a super-cheap composition notebook to more expensive varieties, and now I am wedded to Clairefontaine notebooks.
The difference is the paper. If I am spending literally hours with a notebook, I want the paper to be strong and also to hold the ink well, whether I’m using a gel pen or a fountain pen. I want the notebook to be tough and handle weeks of abuse as it gets carted around from my studio to my bedside to my briefcase. Clairefontaine is the only notebook company that makes its own paper. They’re a bit pricey, but not as expensive as some other notebooks and to my mind, worth every penny. I wrote the first draft of TRUST ME, next year’s book, in a stack of Clairefontaines. I don’t normally write first drafts in longhand, but I started in the Clairefontaine and just kept going. I am also not the only fan of Clairefontaines.
I’ve no connection with the company, except as a very satisfied customer. Here’s more information on where you can buy Clairefontaines.

    { 6 comments… read them below or add one }

    JT Ellison October 24, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Not fair. NOT FAIR. I am a hopeless notebook and office product junkie. An afternoon in Staples is akin to a vacation for me.
    I’m ordering mine right now!

    Jeff Abbott October 25, 2008 at 10:02 am

    JT: Clairefontaine makes several good notebooks; I favor the 90 page ones, ruled paper, with spiral-bound, three hole punched. The paper is just perfect for writers, I think–tough, smooth, not shiny, doesn’t smear. It also holds pencil writing well. I only have two of mine left in my stack, I guess it will soon be time to order some more.
    I for one am very glad to see notebooks making a comeback; I am all for technology, but paper simply cannot be improved upon for certain activities.

    W Ma November 1, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    I’ve been using Clairefontaine journals (6×8.25 blank clothbound) for 20 years and nothing has dethroned them as my reference. There are some really high end journals which have nicer paper but at $100+ for a 200 page journal compared to $16-18 for two Clairefontaine journals, no thanks.
    My two complaints:
    1) On occasion I’ll get one where some of the pages are a little too smooth on part of the page (almost always on the binding side) where even an XF nib that could cut through normal paper has problems laying down a good dark line. I’m talking about 1930s vintage Pelikan XF nibs against which modern XF nibs cannot hold a candle in terms of fineness.
    2) Even on pages without the above problem, I notice that really, really smooth nibs have trouble getting hold of the paper and will slip on the page without putting down ink. I use vintage XF nibs so it doesn’t bother me.

    Connie November 4, 2008 at 9:13 am

    I have been a fan of these notebooks for years! I discovered my first one at the U Store at Princeton University back in 1992. I have boxes filled with Wirebound 80 Graph Sheets Pad
    5 3/4″ x 8 1/4″ style #CF 8662 that I’ve filled with notes, phone numbers, musings, poems and journal entries for years.
    The quality of the paper is the finest I’ve ever written on and creates a blissful environment for putting pen to paper.
    My favorite pen by the way, is a Parker Systemmark roller ball which were made back in the 1980′s and sold for less that $5.00. The pen is light weight but elegant and the Parker rollerball is beyond compare in my book.
    Happy writing!
    May you be well and happy today,
    Norfolk VA

    abraham April 9, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    So good to see your blog- and I have shared the praise for Clairefontaine notebooks since my early childhood in Paris. I used these through all my school years- and to the present with journaling.
    The notebooks themselves show up in my blog pictures:
    and here:
    My favorites are the blank 3×4″ hardcovered notebooks, which can be taken everywhere.

    Greg Elenbaas May 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I absolutely love Clairefontaine notebooks. You hit the hammer on the nail, it is the paper that makes all the difference! It takes fountain pen ink incredibly well. No feathering! Also the construction is exquisite, even for the wire bound notebooks. Unlike cheap spiral bound notebooks where the wire bends and you can no longer open it comfortably, Clairefontaine wirebound books are double wired and super strong, and if one does bend out of place, it is incredibly easy to bend it back into place so that opening and closing the notebook is always a breeze!

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