I remember when the word ‘crossover’ first became fashionable to describe something or someone who had broken out of one arena of endeavour to make good in another. Previously it had been a term I only used to change my orientation relative to the road I was walking along…. It is in the spirit of this new usage that I undertake this review of this excellent pocket journal from R L Allan Publishers wrapped in brown ‘highland goatskin’ – more of that later…
For me this is a crossover as it deals with another one of my interests. As a church pastor for over twenty years (still look more like a builder than a pastor so I’m told) I obviously use the bible quite a bit, and from that I got into trying to find one that wouldn’t fall apart with much use. Hence my connection with RL Allan, a boutique publisher of bibles and accessories including these beautiful journals.
These journals are lovely because they are excellently made and the paper used in them is great too, thin but great. The attribute of thinness comes from the production of bibles (they need thin paper) that can stand up to being written on (yes, people do write in their bibles, if there’s space). In fact everything that makes a good bible paper usually makes an excellent paper for fountain pens, resistance to ghosting and bleed through (also known as opacity) being key to both. So what does this particular pocket journal offer?
Quality: Frankly I don’t think that there is a better put together journal on the market. These are essentially hand-made with 256 pages of lined writing paper printed on extremely lightweight but opaque paper. They come in two sizes of which my example is the smaller at 6″x4″, the larger journal being over 7 “x 5”. There are a variety of colours including black, tan, chocolate-brown and red.The bindings are excellent and durable. After being thrown into many a briefcases, carried about in a back pocket, and quite deliberately used and abused, my first brown goatskin Allan Journal looks basically as new as when I received it. I’m starting to wonder if it’s actually possible to damage it short of throwing it on the fire. The covering of highland goatskin is lush and tactile, like all leather it warms to the touch and absorbs the oils from you skin to remain supple. The term highland goatskin needs some explanation. there is to my knowledge no breed of ‘Highland goat’ the term comes from Allan’s themselves and refers to the goatskin being a natural unpressed grain; this is important as most leathers are pressed and this process stamps a uniform grain on the leather and stiffens it. Highland goatskin covers are neither uniform or stiff and retain the unique pattern of the original animal skin, imperfections and all.
Looks & Feel: I think the best word to use for the looks and feel of this journal is classic. The chocolate-brown highland goatskin has a natural grain though I think the larger models are different. The covers are structured but not stiff, this is due to the boards under the leather providing support to the leather. The pages are smyth sewn and have an art gilt edge that gives a pleasing two-tone effect that has to be seen. The journals are pliable and come with a single ribbon marker.
Paper: To be honest I don’t know what the exact origin or stats are on this paper so my comments can only refer to how it behaves thus far. I will try to add further information as I get it. For such a thin paper I have to say that I am more than happy with its overall performance. The paper is relatively smooth, a guide would be smoother than a Moleskine but not as smooth as Rhodia paper. It is a bright white with a blue narrow rule. Some may say that the feint is too narrow but it suits me fine. I tend to use and EF nib for my journal entries, though I have used much broader nibs at times with no adverse effect.
VFM: At £25 for the pocket journal and £29 for the larger they are certainly not cheap. To be sure their ingredients, quality and durability make a higher price point unavoidable, but I think this is more than made up for in the end. An argument can be made for cheaper journals but line for line page for page I still think these are a winner.
TWE: (total writing experience) I find these books very good in which to write. The journal has the two main characteristics that a good journal must have, first it must be portable and second is it must have a large writing capacity. It’s no good if your journal is a s big as a house or has only ten pages of the most excellent paper. They need to be small and light and this journal is engineered to be both and yet with its 256 pages it has a huge capacity for recording and developing thought. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no pretensions about my journalling, most of it would be meaningless to anyone else and even the profound comment that may exist within are usually unoriginal. But I am content that these thoughts encased as they are in these beautiful journals will last as least as long as I will without letting me down, who knows they might give my grandchildren a laugh too… What more can you ask for in an analogue companion?