Journals and books are fascinating objects in themselves, with so much history and ingenuity. Here is a quick overview of the paper I use and love, as well as some background on the binding that keeps it all together. But, where is the magic? What do you do with a blank journal? Well, many things really, but here are few thematic types of Journal that might trigger your creativity or make a fabulous gift.
Paper and Binding
Here are my favourite papers: highly tactile, often organic, as mindful as possible of the environment and making community and traditions:
Washi is a traditional handmade type of Japanese paper that uses local fibres. The UNESCO intangible cultural heritage recognises the know-how required to produce paper of superior strength and durability despite an apparent fragility. Labour intensive and still processed manually, icy water is mandatory for its production. Washi CHIYOGAMI uses a method of stenciling or screen-printing traditional Japanese designs also used for Kimono paper. Washi KATAZOME uses a resist paste as a method of dyeing paper or fabrics.
Marbled paper: There are many traditions of marbling from Turkish Ebru, Japanese Suminagashi or again Italian, each with their distinct style. Interestingly, it was a trade secret only available to the initiated. Maybe it was because the decorated edge of a ledger formed a warrant for the integrity of the record. Indeed any page missing would disrupt in the marbling pattern hence highlighting fraud… Only the most skilled and experienced can reproduce two similar form of marbling. So rest assured that your notebook is unique as no two covers will be the same.
Mulberry/Kozo Paper: thick paper hand-made in Thailand using the bark of the Mulberry Tree. It is very soft, I particularly like it with floral inclusions. The mulberry bush, which also host silkworms, is the raw material for kozo paper. Three layers of isolated, cooked and beaten bark make a sheet. Kozo fibres make strong, translucent and absorbent articles. Whilst replete with uses and benefits, the mulberry tree is also extremely invasive and considered a weed. Its pollen is also a health hazard!
Kinwashi: is a Manila hemp-based paper from Japan mixed with hemp fibres. It is one of my favourites and looks stunning combined with sisal. Crisp, yet very strong. Lampshades or shoji screens in the house use Kinwashi.
Keiyoseishi: Is another Japanese paper. Hand-crinkled, it has a uniquely textured surface that has a more cloth-like “drape” than most other papers. The addition of konnyaku starch, Konnyaku translating as “powdered devil’s tongue root,” is for added strength.
Corkskin: is a versatile, handmade ‘paper’ from Portugal where thin laminated layers of organic cork form a naturally water-resistant surface. This paper is environmentally friendly, harvesting only the self-regenerating outer layer of sustainably grown tree bark.
Amate: This traditional bark paper dates back to pre-Columbian and Meso-American times and is still handmade. The Otomi Indian artisans of Mexico, who produce it, are using the same 3000 years old methods as their Meso-american ancestors. Religious and official legal texts relied on the durability of Amate paper. Amate, Nettle, and Mulberry fibers result in a unique yet tough texture.
Papyrus: the pith of the papyrus plant, a wetland plant once abundant but now quite rare, is the source of this paper. As well as writing support, ancient Egyptians employed papyrus to make reed boats, mats, rope, sandals, baskets, and other day-to-day items. The first Christian books used papyrus sheets bound with Coptic stitching for a rapid a wide diffusion.
Natural fibre paper: Here is a large family of paper making use of the local flora in manufacturing communities. Tamarind, banana, mango or whatever bushes growing nearby provide the raw material. You will spot them easily with their floral inclusions, I like combining those papers with leather.
Vegan leather: I only work with reclaimed leather from other manufacturing processes. However, I do have a wide range of vegan leather, or faux leather, inspired by the tremendous diversity found in Nature, from skin ray to pelage to croc and more.
Khadi Paper: Made in Karnataka, South India, from 100% cotton rag, it is an excellent textured paper for photo-albums, I particularly like the deckled edge and its artisan feel. Cotton rags have longer fibres than linters which are the short fluffy fibres of the cotton seed often used in papermaking, making his paper vastly more resistant. Simply love it!
Tomoe River (Tomoegawa) paper can be difficult to source due to is popularity. It is a deceptively fragile, thin and high-quality paper resistant to bleeding and feathering. It is particularly partial to fountain pen writing, leaving immaculate lines.
Lokta: I particularly like its very soft, slightly shiny yet unmistakably artisan qualities. The fibrous inner bark of the Lokta bushes in Nepal, which only grow on the high Himalayan slopes, gives unique qualities to Lokta paper. The production process is completed exclusively in Katmandu. This traditional industry nearly disappeared but the government is now reviving it, supporting women employment as well as attracting tourists. Once made Lokta paper can last thousands of years, due to its resistance to humidity and insect. For this reason, official and religious documents rely on Lokta paper.
Thick Bamboo Multi-media paper with a rewarding tooth for all wet techniques such as watercolour. I also use it as a basis for some photo albums. Good tooth and weight, 265 g/m2, 125 lbs.
Thick, smooth conqueror paper: 80, 100 and 120gsm for predictable, comfortable and enjoyable writing and sketching. A reliable, elegant, versatile paper you can trust.
Elephant, Rhino paper: 120gsm 100% recycled rhino and elephant paper. Confused? Made up of 30% fibre from elephant/rhino dung and 70% recycled paper, the papermaking process uses no trees or toxic chemicals. Instead, it applies only all-natural vegetative binding agents along with water soluble salt dyes for colouring. Handmade, acid-free, and organic, it uses 44% less energy, produces 38% less greenhouse gas emissions, 41% less particulate emissions, 50% less wastewater, 49% less solid waste, and—of course—100% less forest destruction than wood-based paper. Protect those rhino and elies, it is good for you! Finally, it is an excellent writing paper, no feathering, no bleeding – I love it!
Banknote paper – Yes, paper made from recycled banknotes! It will make you feel like a million dollar, and you won’t be able to stop making grand plans on this excellent paper with shredded banknote inclusions!
Grass paper: Another very nice writing, sketching paper with a very natural feel and with discreet grass and petal inclusions.
Straw: A warm honey coloured paper with discreet straw inclusions in it and good tooth. A very special paper!
Coptic Binding is the earliest form of binding for books as we know it today. It succeeded the earlier scroll format with oldest known examples date as far as 200AD. Widely spread by the 11th century, it bound all kind of material (papyrus, parchment, vellum, and paper). Usually, binders would leave the spine exposed, but not always. Its versatility, simplicity, and durability made it the preferred binding for early Christian writings ensuring their rapid reproduction and diffusion. Moreover, it offers excellent creative freedom, it has the benefit of opening completely flat.
Medieval Long-Stitch Binding involves sewing directly through the covering material. It is a centuries-old technique with examples dating from the second century, primarily in Germany. By the 14th century, schools and university books relied on this style for binding limp parchment. Traditionally, strong linen thread or a twisted piece of vellum (tacket) provided stability and strength. Interestingly, Italian printed books also favoured this binding until the 16th century, while early 20th Century almanacs still relied on this technique. Finally, the French developed their own style by passing the thread through the previous signature creating a lacey effect.
Raised Cord Binding: In order to cope with the large volume of book from the newly created printing press, 16th-century printers designed smaller and lighter books with binding ease and speed in mind. Often, a leather spine, decorative endpaper or marbled edges completed the item. The binding involved sewing on two to five cord supports. Before lining the spine with paper or vellum, binders inserted both thongs and cords into the boards. The raised cord under the leather created a decorative texture, later adorned with heavy goldwork. For a flat spine, textblocks are slit to sink the cords.
Japanese Stab Binding: actually originated in China but spread throughout all Asian countries. It is one of many Oriental bookbinding techniques. Very popular between the fourteenth and the nineteenth century, The minimalist four holes binding structure with a thin flexible paper cover is the classic example. It can. however, be much more complex and elaborate. Oriental bindings traditionally open on the left side to reflect Asian writing customs.
Secret Belgian Binding: Sometimes called criss-cross binding, its origins are unclear, but the mid-eighties saw a revival of this style. Apparently, the name comes from a found exemplar hidden in a Belgian Library. The text block and the cover are two separate pieces, which are then joined together. The outside pattern of stitching is typical, and the book opens flat, like the more common Coptic binding. Simple elegance, or elegant simplicity!
Midori: Midori is a trademark, the binding style is ‘fauxdori’. Fauxdori generates a fair amount of fanaticism due to their simplicity and versatility. Traditionally made with thick weathering leather, they actually are covers with an elastic band holding in place a refillable notebook, while another elastic cord fastens the journal. Its small convenient slim size tends to make it a firm favourite as a travel journal or for minimalist taste.
Rounded Spine became popular in the 16th century when large books were bound with relatively light paper sewn into signatures. However, sewing the spine makes it swell, becoming unsightly and weakening the book structure. To maintain the book’s integrity, rounding, backing the spine and the sitting the cover board tightly provided added stability. Embellishment, such as hand sewn head and tail bands, stopped the book from slouching when stored upright.
With the advent of the sewing machine, stick-on head and tail bands, and thinner glueing techniques, the spine swell became less and less allowing for the hard casing (flat spine) seen in all mass-produced hard-back today.
Types of Journal
A journal is essentially what you want it to be. Beyond the physical description Blank/Ruled/Dot grid, etc, any appellation is pretty much arbitrary.
However, sometimes it is nice to have a themed journal…
How do you use your journal?