My top notebooks or the best notebooks in the world – my quest to find the perfect notebook

In my quest to find the perfect notebook, I have decided the ones below are the world’s best notebooks. It’s down to personal choice of course and your particular requirements at the time. I’ve tried to think about cost, quality (and in particular paper quality), looks, size (whether you need something lightweight and fairly small and slim or something larger with more space) and what I want from a notebook at the moment. Although was meant to be a kind of ‘top 10’ notebooks, there are more than 10 and the order does not really matter as these are all great British made notebooks.

1. Silvine Memo Book – With the words “British Made” proudly emblazoned on the front and its low cost, this is a great little notebook. Size 10 x 16 x 0.5cm. Centrally stapled. The paper quality is good and weighs 75gsm according to an eBay seller. The distinctive red colour makes it hard to misplace. It lies flat. There is no feathering when using a fountain pen. I got the same results with a Muji gel pen, a Berol Fine Line, a pencil and a Bic biro. Only the Berol fine liner has smudged just a little. There is very slight ghosting with some pens, but you can easily use both sides of the page with no problems. The line spacing is fairly generous which is good as it gives you room to write. It’s lightweight (about 50g) and thin. It will fit easily in most pockets. The softcover means it weighs very little and it still wears reasonably well, however it gives you little to lean against when you are not at a desk and does get a bit dog-eared and faded with constant use. The red comes off a bit too if kept against something but the resulting red marks are easily removed using a rubber. The rear cover is red and has a bar code and reference number (Ref 042F) at the bottom. The Silvine Memo Book has 72 pages (36 sheets). Feint ruled. The classic memo book keeps the older style Silvine logo, which I prefer over the new one. They also do a cash book in the same size and style and a similar striped version notebook. There’s a review of a Silvine memo book here and as they say “This is a cheap, handy-sized little memo book wih no frills at all. With a bit of care, it could be a constant companion…”

Silvine make wide range of British made stationery – notebooks, pocket notebooks, exercise books, sketch pads, jotters, shorthand notebooks (reporter’s notebooks), scrap books, refill pads, record cards, postcards, raffle tickets, writing paper, envelopes, exercise books, memo books, cash books, duplicate books, triplicate books, receipt books, educational planners, petty cash vouchers, water resistant outdoor notebooks, etc. You can view their full range in their catalogue on their website. Nice quality stationery.  British made. Good prices. Silvine paper products are made by Sinclairs in Yorkshire, who were established 1837, and can also make bespoke own-branded stationery for companies. All but a few of their products are made in the UK. For example Silvine don’t manufacture their Executive soft touch notebooks in the UK, but almost everything else is made here. In January 2017 their sales team said “Our soft feel executive notebooks are one of the very few lines in our range that are not produced at our manufacturing site here in the UK, these are currently sourced from the Far East.” However, nearly all their products are made in the UK. They say on their website “Silvine stationery is a proper British institution, made by Sinclairs Stationers in Yorkshire. The Silvine brand has undergone many changes through the years, but some things will always stay the same. Like the ethical way we do business. And our insistence on manufacturing all our stationery right here in the UK.” Available in locals shops, good stationers, and online (for example on eBay, Amazon, and the Post Office).

http://www.silvine.com

Here are some images of the Silvine Memo Book from the review I mention above.

Silvine_memo_book3 Silvine_memo_book4 Silvine_memo_book2

Silvine Classic Memo Book. British made. Quality lined paper. Quality red jacket. Pocket sized. Lightweight. Ref 042F. 10 x 16 x 0.5cm.

Silvine Classic Memo Book. British made. Quality lined paper (feint ruled). Quality red jacket. Pocket sized. Lightweight. Ref 042F. 10 x 16 x 0.5cm. Suitable for use with a fountain pen, gel pen, biro, or pencil. 72 pages (36 sheets).

Peter Cook in the 1950s, with John Cleese, using a Silvine Notebook. Still made in Britain today.

Peter Cook in the 1950s, with John Cleese, using a Silvine Notebook. Still made in Britain today.

Silvine striped fashion notebook. British Made.

Silvine striped fashion notebook. British Made.

Silvine Cash Book. Made in England.

Silvine Cash Book. Made in England. Track your daily spending to stick to your budget in order to not over-spend and to help save up for whatever it is you’re saving for.

Silvine Union Jack Scrap Book. Made in the UK.

Silvine Union Jack Scrap Book. Made in the UK.

Silvine A4 refill pad. Made with care in the UK.

Silvine A4 refill pad. Made with care in the UK. Students I would encourage you to buy A4 pads that are made in the UK.

2. The Stamford Notebook – There’s more information about the company who make this notebook here.  The Stamford Notebook is made by Spiegl Press, a printing business based in Stamford, South Lincolnshire. The company was started in the late 1950s by Peter Spiegl and is now run by his son, Hugo. The company custom makes: high-end occasion and personal stationery, commercial print, such as brochures and leaflets, short run book production, specialist services such as thread sewing and case binding, and since 2013, the Stamford Notebook. There are reviews of the Stamford Notebook here and here. These reviews try out various fountain pens and found no feathering in most instances and little bleed-through. Despite being quite expensive this is a very good notebook I think. The notebooks come in a variety of colours and cover materials (cloth or leather) and they give free shipping if you live in the U.K. The Octavo size for example measures 9.2cm wide x 14.4cm high with 160 pages and probably qualifies as pocket sized for most people. The paper is a 100 gsm off-white wove and manufactured in Scotland. I imagine the hard covers would be hard wearing. The notebooks have an elastic closure and a bookmarking ribbon, and are embossed with ‘Stamford’ on the back. Plain, ruled or grid squares paper. They will personalise notebooks with an individual’s initials using letterpress type for an extra fee and bind many different special editions for retailers and visitor attractions. These notebooks are made in Stamford, in the UK.

http://www.stamfordnotebooks.co.uk

The Recycled Leather Stamford Notebook in black. Made in Great Britain. Available in 4 sizes and a variety of colours.

The Recycled Leather Stamford Notebook in black. Made in Great Britain. Available in 4 sizes and a variety of colours, using British milled paper.

Here are some images of the Buckram Octavo Stamford Note Book from the second review I mention above.

stamnote7 stamnote9

3. Silvine Reporters Notebook (shorthand notebook) – This is great reporter’s notebook. Wire bound, feint ruled, hard back cover, soft front cover. There is no feathering when using a fountain pen. There is very slight ghosting with some pens, but you can easily use both sides of the page with no problems. These notebooks cost very little and have the words “made with care in the UK” bottom right on the front cover. 160 pages, feint ruled. The space between lines is sufficiently big.

Silvine Value Spiral Bound approx 227 x 125 x 70mm including spine (approx. 8" x 5") lined Shorthand Notebook 160 pages (80 leaves). Made in the UK. Suitable for use with a fountain pen, gel pen, biro, or pencil.

Silvine Value Spiral Bound approx 227 x 125 x 70mm including spine (approx. 8″ x 5″) lined Shorthand Notebook (Reporters Note Pad) 160 pages (80 leaves). Made in the UK. Suitable for use with a fountain pen, gel pen, biro, or pencil.

Silvine Shorthand Lined Notebook, inside view. Made in the UK.

Silvine Shorthand Lined Notebook, inside view. Made in the UK.

Silvine make a wide range of notebooks and the like in the UK – see number 1 above – http://www.silvine.com

There’s great article here about the correct way to use a reporter’s notebook properly, with tips such as –

  • Getting the right size of notebook for your purpose.
  • Write-up notes as soon as possible, if applicable.
  • The usefulness of a hard back, spiral-binding and feint ruled pages on both sides of the page.
  • Writing your name and contact details on the cover in case it gets lost.
  • Dating the front cover with when you start using the notebook (and when you finish using it).
  • Having a spare pen or pencil (and using a sharp pencil).
  • Using a fresh page for new notes.
  • Writing a title, name and place and date at the foot of the page (easier to see if using a shorthand notebook).
  • Leave a blank line between topics.
  • Starting at the front and using only one side of the paper (this makes it much easier to go back through your notes when you need to recap; when you come to the end of the book, turn the whole notebook over and start again, using the reverse side of each page).
  • When you have used the notes, strike them out with a single diagonal line across each page (this makes the task of finding “active” notes a lot simpler).
  • Do not obliterate the pages and never tear them out. You may need to refer back to them at some time in the future.
  • Keeping notebooks for at least one year once finished (in case you need to refer back to them), and so on.

You may find these tips useful for any notebook, whether you report news or not.

A page from a reporter’s notebook, with notes in Teeline Shorthand.

A page from a reporter’s notebook, with notes in Teeline Shorthand.

HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) used to do what was perhaps the perfect shorthand notebook for the Civil Service. It was UK made, standard sized, wire-bound and feint ruled and had card covers front and back with small holes punched in them through which could be placed an India Tag and by which means the notebook could be stood up and enable to typist to read what they had written whilst typing. HMSO’s private sector successor, Banner, continued to make these for a while but I don’t think they do now and even if they did they would probably be made abroad. There’s an article here about this shorthand notebook here,  repeated here. Here’s a picture of the aforementioned HMSO shorthand notebook.

HMSO Shorthand Notebook HMSO Code 28-605. By inserting an India Tag in the holes, the notebook can easily be stood upright.

HMSO Shorthand Notebook HMSO Code 28-605. By inserting an India Tag in the holes, the notebook can easily be stood upright. Photograph by author. Was this made by Steel Bros. (Carlisle) Ltd I wonder?

4. Esmie seemingly stands for ‘Elegant Stationery Made in England, according to their Twitter tagline and what I have seen on their website all seems to be made in England. Notebooks, address books, photo albums, guest books, greetings cards, etc. Their website gives very little information about their products. Their products look very nice on the web, although I have not tried them yet – http://www.esmie.co.uk

5. Silvine Pocket Notebook (Ref. 190), sometimes referred to a the Silvine police memo, is a great small notebook for when out and about.  It has 80 leaves (160 sides), hard covers back and front in a rather nice slightly texted black cover, an elastic closure, and will easily fit in a pocket. It fits easily into the hand too, making this notebook perfect for notes on the go. It’s a bit small for copious notes (5″ x 3″; 126 x 76 x 10 mm) but a very handy size nonetheless. It weighs about 80g. The paper quality is 75 gsm and is lined on both sides. It does not feel that smooth to the touch, but I can happy use a fountain pen with no feathering at all and an acceptable amount of bleed through to the other side. The ink dried quickly and somehow I felt there was little absorption into the paper. You’ll be able to use both sides of the page if you wish. I got the same results with a Muji gel pen, a Berol Fine Line, a pencil and a Bic biro. Only the Berol fine liner has smudged just a little, but the Muji gel pen smudges too if you don’t give it sufficient time to dry and if anything my old made in England Parker 25 performs best on the paper in this notebook. Top bound with sewn paper sections for extra strength. The line spacing is fairly generous which is good as it gives you room to write, although realistically in a notebook this size you will never have that much room to write, but that’s the point – it’s small and lightweight, so handy to carry around. I have seen this described as “the original pocket notebook“. Silvine say they manufacture all their stationery in the UK, but I was a bit disappointed the notebook does not say made in England or similar on the back cover. In their online catalogue for this product it says “Made with care in the UK”. I think this is a great little notebook. Reviews on Amazon describe this notebook as robust and practically waterproof.

Silvine make a wide range of notebooks and the like in the UK – see number 1 above – http://www.silvine.com

Silvine Pocket Notebook. Elasticated. Stiff Cover. 160pp 75gsm. 126 x 76 x 10 mm. Made with care in the UK.

Silvine Pocket Notebook. Elasticated. Stiff Cover. 160pp 75gsm. Feint ruled. 126 x 76 x 10 mm. Made with care in the UK.

Cover view. Silvine Pocket Notebook. Elasticated. Stiff Cover. 160pp 75gsm. 126 x 76 x 10 mm. Made with care in the UK.

Cover view. Silvine Pocket Notebook. Elasticated. Stiff Cover. 160pp 75gsm. 126 x 76 x 10 mm. Feint ruled. Made with care in the UK.

Silvine Pocket Notebook. Rear cover view.

Silvine Pocket Notebook. Rear cover view. Photograph by author.

6. Go Stationery – Go Stationery, together with their other brands, make diaries, notebooks, ring binders, address books, note cards, writing sets, postcards, gift wrap, placemats, coasters, calendars, products for museums, greetings cards, etc. and do printing generally on paper and plastics. Retail and trade. On their website front page they say “GO Stationery is the home of design led, high quality stationery, all designed and made in our London design studio and factory” and on their Bespoke page they say “Everything is designed and made by us in London, nothing is sub-contracted and nothing is on the slow boat from China!”. I’ve chosen their British made Woodland Trust A6 Stag chunky notebook for the picture below, but there is a wide choice available on their website of top quality notebooks. Available via their website, on Amazon and in shops such as John Lewis – http://www.gostationery.net

Go Stationery Woodland Trust A6 Stag chunky notebook. British made.

Go Stationery Woodland Trust A6 Stag chunky notebook. British made.

7. Post-it notes (or sticky notes or repositionable notes) can be very practical and a useful supplement to a notebook or diary giving extra temporary space for a memo. I like the original yellow pads – in the rectangular shape, the square shape and the mini rectangular shape. However, Post-Its seem to be made abroad, for example in the USA. 3M give no country of origin information for Post-Its on their Post-It website. Post-it notes offer a degree of deniability that notebooks do not as they can easily be removed and destroyed.

3m-post-it-notes---neon-yellow

3M Post-it Notes.

Art-Fry-autographed-post-it-note-940x705

Post-it notes are a lot like ice cream… I’ve never met anyone who does not like them”.

I found some fancy “made in the UK” sticky notes (and some UK made notebooks) with the words ‘note to self’ printed on them on a site called Dizen Clothing.

Padblocks say on their website that they will “continue to manufacture as much as we can in the UK as we feel this is important.” However, they do not give country of origin against individual products on their website so you can’t tell what is made in the UK without asking. Padblocks, and Booth Design which they bought in 2012 moving production from Devon to Wokingham, Berkshire, now make decorative chalkboards, clocks, pinboards, hooks and other items as well as their stationery and china mugs. It is not clear which of these items are UK made. Their pad blocks, such as their Notes & Notes note block, and their sticky note blocks say “manufactured in England” on them, and some of their magnetic notespads say “made in the UK” on them, but generally country of origin is not given. Trade and retail. They carry their own range and produce for museums and the like. I have not tried these Padblocks sticky notepads. They say “Almost all of our products are made in England with paper and wood from sustainable forest sources” but check country of origin before buying  – http://www.padblocks.com

Padblocks British Birds Sticky Notepad (ST30W). Manufactured in England.

Padblocks British Birds Sticky Notepad (ST30W). Manufactured in England.

Courage and Progress are (were) a company hoping to make their notebooks in England. I was really hoping this company would make a go of it but their Facebook has not been updated since July 2015, their twitter has not been updated since October 2015 and their website no longer works (as of March 2016), so unfortunately it seems they have failed – http://www.couragexprogress.com

Courage and Progress notebooks - named after legends in specific fields; Captain Oates, Barnes Wallis, and T. S Eliot. Made in England.

Courage and Progress notebooks – named after legends in specific fields; Captain Oates, Barnes Wallis, and T. S Eliot. Made in England. Plain, lined and squared paper.

8. Under Cover make leather goods in the UK. Purses, notebooks, travel goods (travel organisers, luggage tags, passport holders, travel card holders, travel games, make-up bags, sketchbooks, notebooks, pouches, bookmarks, leather envelopes, document holders, tidy trays, messenger bags, tote bags, i-phone covers, keyring, earphone cases, etc.), photo albums, address books, leather envelopes, guest books, portfolios, pencil cases, diaries, bags, tote bags, clutch bags, coin purses, etc. Most items are made in the UK. I have yet to try one of their notebooks, but they look great – http://www.undercoveruk.com

Under Cover Leather 'Bee' Notebook (A6). Made in England.

Under Cover Leather ‘Bee’ Notebook (A6). Made in England.

9. Chroma Stationery “provides high quality, simple, personalised notebooks in 20 colours.” According to their website “Chroma Stationery products are lovingly made in the UK.” There’s a review of their notebooks here. A5 or A4 sizes, spiral bound or bound depending on size, plain lined or squared paper depending on the range chosen, embossing included in the price. I have not tried these notebooks as they are too large for what I want at the moment and so I can’t comment on paper quality, but they look good. The company was founded in around 2014 – http://www.chromastationery.co.uk

Chroma Stationery Annie notebook / Gold embossing / Georgia font. Made in the UK.

Chroma Stationery Annie notebook / Gold embossing / Georgia font.

10. Leathersmith of London exclusive leather note books, diaries, journals, guest books, address books, and accessories are all made in England. It says on their website “Our books are crafted and bound at our own bindery in Essex, just outside London, using high quality soft leather, our trademark light weight Azure paper, gold stamping and edging” and on twitter they describe themselves as producing the “finest quality leather bound books, diaries, leather gifts & accessories, manufactured in England, since 1839″. Leathersmith of London belongs to Neale Dataday Limited who have their own bindery in Essex where they make the Leathersmith range, but most Neale Dateday products are now foreign made – http://www.leathersmith.co.uk

Leathersmith of London Savoy Notes NBB42R-R 106 x 67 mm.

Leathersmith of London Savoy Notes NBB42R-R 106 x 67 mm.

11Ink and Thread are a shop in Derby and online and they state that all their products are made in Britain. They sell things like notebooks, mugs, city guides, wash bags, compact mirrors, greetings cards, notelets, tote bags, tea towels, and costume jewellery. On their website they say “British made design: we are very proud to say that everything we sell at our Derby shop & online has been made in Britain by small creative companies and individual designer makers.” I have not tried any of their notebooks, but they look nice – http://shop.inkandthread.co.uk

Ink and Thread A6 Notepad - Blue & Navy Grafika. Printed in England.

Ink and Thread A6 Notepad – Blue & Navy Grafika. Printed in England.

12. During my search for the perfect notebook, I came across these innovative ‘Three Good Things’ notebooks by Lollipop Designs, which are printed in England and are designed to use as a happiness log. I haven’t tried it, but the idea is to get in the habit of thinking back over your day and jotting down three good things that happened – to establish general all-round feel-good positivity. Lollipop Designs seem to produce quite a few of their stationery products in the UK. British made products include their mini ‘keyboard’ weekly planner, yearly wall planner posters, weekly desk planner pads, magnetic to do lists and notepads, origami note sets, rubber stamps, mailing labels to re-seal envelopes, and parcel tape. You can buy directly from their website – http://www.lollipopdesigns.co.uk/

Lollipop Designs Three Good Things Notebook. Printed in England

Lollipop Designs Three Good Things Notebook. Printed in England.

13The Green Gables sell UK made greetings cards, gift wrap, writing sets, notecards, notebooks, postcards, wedding stationery, Christmas stationery, and suchlike. They say on their website that “All the green gables recycled stationery is designed and printed in the UK.” I have not tried their notebooks but they look nice – https://thegreengables.co.uk

The Green Gables A6 Simple Things Coloured Pocket Notebook. Made in England.

The Green Gables A6 Simple Things Coloured Pocket Notebook. Made in England.

14Emma Burningham are a textile and paper design company producing fabrics which are suitable for upholstery, soft furnishings, and dressmaking, and greeting cards and wrapping paper, as well as wash bags, cushions and other accessories. Their notecards, notebooks, and so on are made in the UK. On their website they say “…all of our manufacturing takes place in the UK”. I have not tried their notebooks but they look nice – http://www.emilyburningham.com

Emma Burningham A6 Primulas Notebook. Printed in the UK.

Emma Burningham A6 Primulas Notebook. Printed in the UK.

15Bound by Hand – “Fine leather Journals, Sketchbooks, Wedding Guest Books & Memory Books individually handmade in Britain by artisan bookbinder Susan Green.” Not seen these but they look nice – http://boundbyhand.co.uk

Bound by Hand Miniature Journal, Grey. Made in Britain.

Bound by Hand Miniature Journal, Grey. Made in Britain.

16Seawhite of Brighton have a “philosophy of “made in Britain” where possible” and some of their stationery is made in Britain. They have a factory in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. UK made products are labelled as such on their website. Where products do not say made in Britain, I assume they are foreign made, as country of origin is not generally given. Their UK made products include casebound sketchbooks, some sketchbooks, most of their A2, A3 and A4 pads, their Polyholdalls, and drawing nibs (by D. Leonardt & Co I think). They say on their front page “Made in the UK, your guarantee of quality and durability. The vast majority of our paper products are made in the UK with British materials”. Somewhat disappointingly though, in fact many of their products are foreign made. Primarily a wholesaler for the educational industry, you can also buy their products at good stationers and online. Stockists are listed on their website. They also have factory shop near Brighton. I’ve not tried their products but they look good – http://www.seawhite.co.uk

Seawhite A6 Portrait Black Cloth Sketchbook. Made in the UK with British paper.

Seawhite A6 Portrait Black Cloth Sketchbook. Made in the UK with British paper.

17. John Lewis and Waitrose sometimes stock British made notebooks, like that below, which a great little pocket notebook. Let’s encourage John Lewis / Waitrose to stock more UK made stationery and to list country of origin on their website (sadly most John Lewis notebooks are foreign made, whether own brand or other brands, and often JLP and Waitrose no longer give country of origin on their own brand products) – http://www.johnlewis.com

John Lewis FSC Recycled Notebook, A7. Made in the UK.

John Lewis FSC Recycled Notebook, A7. Made in the UK.

18Paul Smith. From an article in the Australian – “When I first started out, nearly the whole collection was made here because my quantities were so tiny, so I was making with little workrooms rather than factories,” says British designer Paul Smith. Since launching his namesake label in 1970, Paul Smith has evolved into a radically larger business, today operating about 2000 points of sale around the world and thus the need for larger manufacturing operations became apparent. “Over time, so many of those bigger factories closed down or moved away and everyone was looking to the Far East. But luckily in the past two or three years we’ve started to be able to make (our products) here again.” On the Paul Smith website it says “the Paul Smith collections are primarily produced in England and Italy while the fabrics used are mainly of Italian, French and British origin”. “Each and every Paul Smith shop is totally different, from a shocking pink building with movie set styling on Melrose Avenue, LA, to a Japanese garden at the heart of the Jingumae store in Tokyo”. They have many shops and concessions throughout the world. All this sounds great and I have seen some lovely Paul Smith made in the UK items in the shops, but it is not all good. Only sometimes is country of origin is given against individual products on their website, under “info and care” or “info”. On their website on 10/4/15 I found UK made Paul Smith some men’s socks, a cricket ball ornament, some ties, and some notebooks. That was it! The vast majority of products I found though were made in Italy and occasionally Spain and France. One could be forgiven for assuming that Paul Smith is an Italian brand. I have not used their notebooks but they have nice covers – http://www.paulsmith.co.uk

Paul Smith Signature Stripe Hardback Linen Pocket Notebook. Made in England.

Paul Smith Signature Stripe Hardback Linen Pocket Notebook. Made in England.

19House of Hackney are a luxury lifestyle brand founded in London in 2010. Despite the words “made in England” emblazoned across the top of their front website webpage, please note that not everything they sell is made in England! However, a lot of it is and this site is well worth a look around and they have some nice looking notebooks which are made in England. Their notebooks come in A4 or A5 sizes. I have not tried these notebooks – http://www.houseofhackney.com

House of Hackney HACKNEY EMPIRE A5 HARDBACK NOTEBOOK - MIDNIGHT STRIPE. Made in England.

House of Hackney HACKNEY EMPIRE A5 HARDBACK NOTEBOOK – MIDNIGHT STRIPE. Made in England.

20. The City Works produce notebooks, wrapping paper, greetings cards, postcards and suchlike. On the provenance of their products they say “All of our products are designed in-house, with some hand-made by us. We hand-emboss our range of greetings cards, and print & singer-sew our notebooks together too. All of our other manufacturers are based here in the UK. We only use UK-based paper suppliers and printers, and our Kraft packaging is handmade by us too.” This seems to suggest at least mostly UK manufacture, but country of origin is not given against individual products on their website and the ‘based in the UK’ could mean foreign manufacture, so please ask before buying. Only their wrapping paper seems to actually carry the words “Made in England”. Founded in 2015, the company, from their Facebook page, appear to be based in London. On their Facebook they also say “Our merchandise is designed in-house and manufactured in the UK.” City Works have told me (16/11/15) “Every single one of our products are made in the UK. We hand print our greetings cards in house, we deboss our own minibook covers and we hand-sewn and trim all of our notebooks ourselves. Our wrapping paper, posters, post-cards and art prints are printed using printers all in the United Kingdom.” I have not seen any of their products yet, but they look great. They are available from their website and a few stores in London – http://the-city-works.com

City Works Debossed Minibook, hand-pressed and hand-sewn in London I think.

City Works Debossed Minibook, hand-pressed and hand-sewn in London I think.

21Paperchase diaries and notebooks are mostly made in China, but the odd one is “printed in the UK”. It’s worth checking out the diaries and notebooks in their shops and looking for UK made Paperchase dairies and notebooks as they are nice quality. For example I found a 2016 A6 page-per-day diary in Paperchase in Dubai in August 2015 and some of the notebooks in the picture below from Paperchase in Reading on 27th October 2015 are made in the UK. Sadly country of origin is not generally given on their website. Most products in Paperchase are foreign made – http://www.paperchase.co.uk

Some of the notebooks in this display in Paperchase in Reading are made in the UK.

Some of the notebooks in this display in Paperchase in Reading are made in the UK. Photograph by author.

Paperchase A6+ Flexi Teal Notebook. Made in UK.

Paperchase A6+ Flexi Teal Notebook. Made in UK. Photograph by author. This is a top quality notebook at a reasonable price.

Paperchase A6+ Flexi Teal Notebook. Made in UK. Label detail.

Paperchase A6+ Flexi Teal Notebook. Made in UK. Label detail. 160 leaves (240 pages). Photograph by author.

22. Shackleton now sell a very nice looking notebook / journal that is made in England, in octavo (9.2cm wide x 14.4cm) with 160 pages or quarto (13.7cm wide x 21.5cm high) sizes with 112 pages, with plain or lined paper. Blind-embossed with the Shackleton logo in gold foil, with branded belly-band. Available in 4 colours. Casebound. Leather or cloth bound. These notebooks look great. The clothbound notebook weighs about 150g. There is very slight ghosting with some pens, but you can easily use both sides of the page with no problems. It will fit easily in most pockets, but is much heavier than say the Silvine Memo Book which has a soft cover and of course it is much more expensive than a Silvine Memo Book. The hardback cover gives you something to lean on. With a little persuasion it sort of sits flat. The paper quality feels okay. They will happily take a fountain pen, although be careful not to smudge what you write. There is no feathering when using a fountain pen. I got the same results with a Muji gel pen, a Berol Fine Line, a pencil and a Bic biro. The cover should wear reasonable well and I will update after I have used the notebook I have for a while. Shackleton also sell lots of other nice clothing, accessories and banjos, the majority of which are UK made. I am guessing their notebooks are made for them by Stamford – http://shackletoncompany.com

Shackleton Handmade Cloth-Bound Journals. Made in England.

Shackleton Handmade Cloth-Bound Journals. Made in England.

Shackleton Cloth-Bound Notebooks arrive beautifully presented and are made in Britain

Shackleton Cloth-Bound Notebooks arrive beautifully presented and are made in Britain. Photograph by author.

Shackleton woven cloth black octavo pocket sized notebook. Flyleaf saying "Shackleton Made in Britain". Photograph by author.

Shackleton woven cloth black octavo pocket sized notebook. Flyleaf saying “Shackleton Made in Britain”. Photograph by author.

Shackleton woven cloth black octavo pocket sized notebook. Innner pages and page marker ribbon. Photograph by author.

Shackleton woven cloth black octavo made in Britain pocket sized notebook. Inner pages and page marker ribbon. Photograph by author.

Shackleton woven cloth black octavo pocket sized notebook. Made in Britain. Photograph by author.

Shackleton woven cloth black octavo pocket sized notebook ready to be used. Made in Britain. Photograph by author.

23. London Transport Museum Shop has some notebooks that are made in the UK (whilst other are made in China, so select carefully). I have not tried their notebooks, but they look nice. The one in the picture below is made for them by King & McGaw who have been making art prints & frames in England since 1982. King & McGaw prints are available from their website and in some museums, art galleries and retailers. They make some of the prints on sale at London Transport Museum, the National Railway Museum, the National Gallery, etc – http://www.ltmuseumshop.co.uk – https://www.kingandmcgaw.com

London Transport Museum A5 notebook H/B line Central. Handmade in the UK. Printed in the UK.

London Transport Museum A5 notebook H/B line Central. Handmade in the UK. Printed in the UK. Photograph by author.

24.  ola sell British made greetings cards, notebooks and a diary. Their twitter tagline is “Traditionally crafted stationery collections featuring original prints. Made in the UK.” It should be pointed out though that disappointingly their page-a-day diary, unlike their other products whilst it is bound and cased in London uses book blocks (pages) that are manufactured in Italy and not in the UK (but at least they bother to tell us that so credit where it is due). Their notebooks come in A5 and A6 sizes. I haven’t tried these notebooks, but they look nice on the net – http://www.olastudio.co.uk

25.  Aspinal of London – Despite the name, Aspinal of London products are nearly all foreign made. On their Facebook page they say “Aspinal of London’s covetable contemporary classics are all handcrafted in the finest factories in Europe. Some families of bags and all of the brands stationery and notebooks are made entirely in England, some with English hardware, leather and fabric linings.” Their diaries for example are made in England – https://www.aspinaloflondon.com

26.  Toad Diaries and notebooks are “made in Britain” according to the first page of their website. Toad bespoke allows you to personalise the cover, format and date ranges of their diaries, planners, organisers, and notebooks. For individual consumers or branded for businesses and organisations. “Any start day, any start month, any duration”. Toad (which stands for ‘today or any day’) belong to TG Media Visions Ltd. Sizes available are A5 (148 x 210mm), Quarto (237 x 177mm) and A4 (210 x 297mm); no A6 (105 x 148mm) or pocket size. Toad told me, in August 2015, that they hope to be able to offer a pocket size option in the future, but at present the only sizes available for one-off online purchases are A5, Quarto and A4. Wiro bound. They also sell off-the-shelf diaries and some foreign made items such as Swedish made pens and Collins organisers. There’s a review of Toad custom made diaries herehttp://www.toaddiaries.co.uk

27.  Organise-Us make diaries, address books, notebooks, visitors books and so on. It states on their facebook page “A range of beautiful products to organise busy lifestyles. All of our stationery is proudly Made in England and is complemented by lovely leather goods” and on their website it says “All of our diaries are made in England”. They told me in August 2015 that “everything is printed, bound and finished in England”. All their diaries are made in England then, but perhaps not their leather goods and other products, as no country of origin is given for many of these. They say on their twitter “Our stationery is made in England” implying everything else is foreign made. Their Botany House Candles are made in England – http://www.organise-us.com

28.  Hope House Press make personalised leather bound diaries, journals and notebooks. Bound in Italian leather in the UK. No information is given about the country of origin or content of the pages. A5, A6 and odd sizes – http://www.hopehousepress.co.uk

29.  Clare Loves has British made notebooks, a British made weekly planner pad (Monday through Sunday; made by Lollipop Designs; see above), and lots of other nice British made things for the home and garden, things for children, and greetings cards, gift wrap and stationery – http://clareloves.co.uk

Life by the Sea Notebook by Jessica Hogarth Designs. Designed and Printed (and bound?) in the UK. Rear cover view. On sale at Clare Loves.

Life by the Sea Notebook by Jessica Hogarth Designs. Designed and Printed (and bound?) in the UK. Rear cover view. On sale at Clare Loves.

Life by the Sea Notebook by Jessica Hogarth Designs. Designed and Printed (and bound?) in the UK. Front view. On sale at Clare Loves.

Life by the Sea Notebook by Jessica Hogarth Designs. Designed and Printed (and bound?) in the UK. Front view. On sale at Clare Loves.

30.  Jessica Hogarth Designs prints, greetings cards, notebooks, textiles, wallpaper and suchlike are printed and in some cases made in the UK. On their website it says “Jessica supports British manufacturing. All of the products for sale on Jessica’s shop have been proudly designed and manufactured in the UK.” I suspect items like tote bags and tea towels are printed in the UK but foreign made, because the labelling says “designed and printed in the UK” and not designed, made and printed in the UK – http://jessicahogarth.com

31.  J. Salmon Limited is the oldest established post card and calendar publisher in Britain, founded in 1880. On their website it says “Salmon is proud to say that its product range is still entirely printed in Britain at its site in Sevenoaks.” Post cards and calendars remain at the core of the company’s publishing but other product ranges include guide books, gift books, recipe books, greeting cards, notecards, prints, placemats, diaries and other associated items. Their publications feature colourful photography, nostalgic transport and countryside images, retro and vintage posters and contemporary artwork. Salmon products are available in many retail outlets including stationers, card shops, bookshops, garden centres and giftshops. You can also buy their calendars, diaries, recipe books, placemats, prints, greetings cards, notecards, picture guidebooks and gift books directly from their website – http://www.jsalmon.co.uk

J.Salmon Seaside Notecards (8 pack, 4 1/4ʺ x 5 7/8ʺ, includes envelopes). Designed and printed in the UK.

J.Salmon Seaside Notecards (8 pack, 4 1/4ʺ x 5 7/8ʺ, includes envelopes). Designed and printed in the UK.

32.  Handmade Wales bookbinding and gifts with “Everything handmade in Wales” according their twitter tagline. Photo albums, card boxes, coasters, notebooks, address books, notelets, greetings cards, wrapping paper, visitors books, cushions. I’ve not tried their notebooks or other products but they look good. No information is given on where the paper used is made – http://www.handmadewales.uk

Handmade Wales Beside the Sea Notebooks. Made in Wales.

Handmade Wales Beside the Sea Notebooks. Made in Wales.

33.  Using a personal organiser can alleviate the need for a separate diary and notebook and allow you to keep your life organised in one place (although Filofaxes are heavy and bulky to carry). All Filofax inserts and covers used to be made in the UK. Sadly this is no longer the case and many of their products are now foreign made. However Filofax have told me that most of their diaries and papers are still printed here in the UK (but, annoying, they no longer put country of origin on their paper insert products) and that their Original range of organisers are also produced in the UK, so it is not all bad news. A few of their notebooks are made in the UK. With careful shopping you can still get a UK made filofax – look for the words “made in England” before buying. There’s a filofax size guide here. Filofax belong to Letts, the diary makers (who continue to make some Letts products in Scotland as well as some Filofax products) – http://www.filofax.co.uk

Old Filofax inserts and accessories were clearly labelled made in UK or made in England, like those for the Personal organiser in this photograph. Unfortunately modern inserts and accessiries from Filofax no longer have country of origin labelling.

Old Filofax inserts and accessories were clearly labelled made in UK or made in England, like those for the Personal organiser in this photograph. Unfortunately modern inserts and accessiries from Filofax no longer have country of origin labelling. Photograph by author.

34.  The Book Hut (aka maudie.made, aka thebookhutter) make colourful and white inserts that fit a filofax. Plain, lined, and squared paper, address inserts, birthday/anniversary inserts, telephone number inserts, and some other stationery items which all appear to be handmade in Worthing, England. A5, Personal, Pocket, and Mini sized. No diary inserts – http://www.thebookhut.co.uk – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/thebookhutter?ref=condensed_trust_header_title_items

35.  CuteOrganizing (Filofax Love) sell handmade paper and PDF Pocket, Personal and A5 sized page dividers and a few refills such as addresses, notepaper and Monday to Sunday undated week refills, with a colourful, cute theme. They are made by a Japanese lady living in the UK and I assume they are made in the UK, although I do not know where the paper and ink used and so on are sourced from – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CuteOrganizing

36.  Organiser Papers (by Office Insource Limited) make functional paper inserts. All their products are produced in the UK. On their website (as of 5th April 2015) is says “All our products are created and produced by ourselves here in the UK…” The Marvellous Miss Jones range is their retail range of filofax compatible personal or A5 sized inserts and products include weekly planners (Monday-Sunday), to do lists, budget planners, milage record sheets, exercise planners, diet planners, expenses forms, appointment logs, weekly timetables, etc – http://organiserpapers.com

Philofaxy have a guest article on their site about Filofax dust bags; protective bags for use when storing or transporting your Filofax. Thanks to this article I found a very nice drawstring bag on eBay, by Bags-n-Aprons, to protect my leather Filofax when on the move, which is pictured below. The bag measures 20 by 24cm as they recommended and fits my Personal sized Filofax perfectly. Bags-n-Aprons of Grimsby sell large drawstring type bags specifically for storage of Duvets/Quilts/Blankets/Bedding which are made in the UK, made in the UK ladies knickers and briefs, made in the UK ladies overalls, a made in the UK novelty beer apron, drawstring bags in a variety of sizes and plain colours most of which are made in the UK (they appear to make these bags themselves), and made in the uK Highcross men’s underwear. Their other items all appear to be imported. They have an eBay shop called apronman2011 – http://bags-n-aprons.co.uk

Bags-n-Aprons Cotton/Poplin Drawstring Bag 20 by 24cm in black. Made in United Kingdom. Photograph by author. View with a Personal Filofax inside.

Bags-n-Aprons Cotton/Poplin Drawstring Bag 20 by 24cm in black. Made in United Kingdom. Photograph by author. View with a Personal Filofax inside.

Bags-n-Aprons Cotton/Poplin Drawstring Bag 20 by 24cm in black. Made in United Kingdom. Photograph by author. Label view.

Bags-n-Aprons Cotton/Poplin Drawstring Bag 20 by 24cm in black. Made in United Kingdom. Photograph by author. Label view.

Bags-n-Aprons Cotton/Poplin Drawstring Bag 20 by 24cm in black. Made in United Kingdom. Photograph by author. Empty view.

Bags-n-Aprons Cotton/Poplin Drawstring Bag 20 by 24cm in black. Made in United Kingdom. Photograph by author. Empty view.

37.  Artbox Design of Sussex make gift stationery in recycled leather together with recycled paper and board which they have made British mills. Their range includes notebooks, photograph albums, flexiframe photo frames, diaries, address books, document wallets, portfolios, mats and coasters. I found their products for sale on notonthehighstreet. I have not tried these notebooks but they look nice – http://www.artboxdesign.co.uk

38.  Wrap Magazine Shop has some nice looking made in the UK notebooks and city guides. Their other items all appear to be foreign made – http://www.wrapmagazineshop.com

39.  Scout Editions postcards, greetings cards, notebooks, and tea towels are mostly made in the UK. UK made items are labelled as such on their website. Their other products appear to be all foreign made – http://scouteditions.co.uk

Foreign made notebooks of note

Currently almost ubiquitous Italian notebook brand Moleskine does not make my ‘top 10’ because they are not made in the UK or even in Italy for that matter, but in China, Vietnam or Turkey. Moleskine notebooks are well designed and good quality and offer a wide range of products at a good price.

A Moleskine notebook.

A Moleskine notebook. Rear cover view. Photograph by author. Made in Vietnam, China or Turkey – it does not say which.

Moleskine large 13 x 21cm (5 x 8.25in) squared paper hard cover classic notebook in black. Photograph by author. 19 September 2016.

Moleskine large 13 x 21cm (5 x 8.25in) squared paper hard cover classic notebook in black. Photograph by author. 19 September 2016.

Moleskine large 13 x 21cm (5 x 8.25in) squared paper hard cover classic notebook in black. Photograph by author. Open view. 19 September 2016.

Moleskine large 13 x 21cm (5 x 8.25in) squared paper hard cover classic notebook in black. Photograph by author. Open view. 19 September 2016.

Moleskine large 13 x 21cm (5 x 8.25in) squared paper hard cover classic notebook in black. Photograph by author. “In case of loss” printed flyleaf view. 19 September 2016.

Moleskine large 13 x 21cm (5 x 8.25in) squared paper hard cover classic notebook in black. Photograph by author. “In case of loss” printed flyleaf view. 19 September 2016.

Lost and Found. Moleskine weekly diary planner lost or found. “In case of loss, please return to:…” and “As a reward:$…” 2011. Shame it’s not a £ sign. Close up view.

Field Notes notebooks are highly thought of on the net but are made in the USA and again do not feature in my ‘top 10’ because of that. I have never seen one of these notebooks, but Field Notes have a great tagline – “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

Likewise with Muji’s notebooks (such as their little blue plain paper passport notebook pictured below) are very nice, good quality, and mostly made in Japan but do not make my ‘top 10’ because they are not made in the UK.

Muji Passport Notebook. Made in Japan.

Muji Passport Notebook, navy. Made in Japan. Photograph by author.

Tollit & Harvey Ltd of King’s Lynn – their website seems not to have been updated since 2002 and they are now French owned and part of ExaClair Limited (part of the French Exacompta-Clairefontaine group). Tollit & Harvey, established in 1897, were manufacturers and distributers of stationery products for trade. ExaClair Limited continue to sell the Tollit & Harvey Europa range of folders and notebooks, but no country of origin information is given for these products on their website. The Tollit & Harvey Europa notebooks were British made. ExaClair also own some other well know brands such as Chartwell pads and Guildhall folders and the group own other brands such as Quo Vadis diaries. No manufacturing information is given on the ExaClair website. They used to have a factory in King’s Lynn but whether they do now I don’t know and, given it is not mentioned, my guess is the production has been moved to France and / or China and the UK factory closed down.

A vintage Tollit & Harvey Europa small notebook. British made.

A vintage Tollit & Harvey Europa small notebook. British made.. Photograph by author.

A vintage Tollit & Harvey Europa small notebook. British made. Rear cover view.

A vintage Tollit & Harvey Europa small notebook. British made. Rear cover view. Photograph by author.

French company Hamelin Brands (formerly John Dickinson Stationery; formerly Dickinson Robinson Group Ltd or DRG) heritage includes well known originally British made brands such as Lion Brand, Basildon Bond, John Dickinson, J Arthur Dixon, Royal Sovereign , Black n’ Red, Cambridge brand, Oxford brand, and Summit, but there is no mention of any UK production still happening on their website and sadly all these brands are now foreign made with production in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Poland. No Hamelin Brands notebooks make my top 10, because they are foreign made and again because there are better British made notebooks.

Basildon Bond stresses its British heritage but is no longer made in the UK!

Basildon Bond stresses its British heritage but is no longer made in the UK!

Pukka Pads do not state country of origin on their products or on their website. Pukka Pads have a production plant in Shanghai. They also have three UK based production plants – Inspired Forms / Rediset and Cardinal Brands acquired in 2011 and involved in the manufacture of a variety of business forms such as duplicate / triplicate pads in carbon and NCR formats, Sage compatible forms, and continuous forms  – and more recently the Concord production facilities (filing products). Concord ranges of archive filing products are produced at their Liverpool site, and their paper portfolio is manufactured at their London factory in Thamesmead. Pukka Pads have said “…both companies complement each other and that it is just another example of how Pukka are committed to manufacturing in the UK.” Concord make business card books, visitors books, address books, box files, dividers, expanding files, guide and record cards, indexes, lever arch files, ring binders, wallets, files, folders and so on and were acquired by Pukka Pads in 2013 – Also announced on the Pukka Pads website was their purchase of Yorkshire Envelopes in October 2013. Pukka Pads also use other manufacturers to make their products. They are quoted above as saying they are committed to manufacturing in the UK. However, most production is currently done abroad and the lack of country of origin labelling makes consumer choice limited and I assume Pukka Pads themselves are foreign manufactured.

Alwych waterproof notebooks are made by or for J. R. Reid, a company based in Scotland. They’ve been around for the better part of a century and it has been suggested to me that they are still made in Scotland. However, there is no information about country of origin on their website for the Alwych notebooks, Alwych index books or other products from J. R. Reid. No country of origin is given on the notebooks themselves either. This suggests, going on the form of many other companies with British heritage but now manufacturing abroad, that these notebooks are foreign made, but I would be pleased if I were wrong in this case.

As far as I am aware places like WH Smith and Tesco no longer sell British made A4 pads and notebooks, so I would encourage you to look elsewhere.

For UK made diaries, please click the hyperlink. More stationery generally here and here. I discuss office and home stationery supplies here.

I wasn’t really sure why I need a notebook at all, after all I have a diary (not enough space; I have considered a day-per-page diary but again there may not be enough space and they are too bulky for my liking). I tend to use a new page for every day / new topic and it is helpful to date each page and line through non-active notes. I still use scraps of paper and post-it notes (some of which I stick in later), but I think you might use a notebook and a diary (or use a Filofax) for the following reasons:

  • As an aide-memoire or memo
  • it helps you remember things because you have actually written them down
  • for lists, including to do lists (bullets or some variation thereof may be useful)
  • for sketches and maps
  • to jot down and organise thoughts and ideas  (on plain, square, dotted or lined paper?)
  • to note down ideas. Inspiration can strike at any time and ideas are fleeting
  • as a stimulus for ideas that you can refer to or add to later. Ideas develop fully on paper
  • to reflect on ideas. Writing things down may assist with reflection and processing thoughts
  • to help you solve problems
  • to help you be more organised
  • for doodles
  • for mind maps.
  • to test theories
  • to write down people’s names and perhaps a snippet of information about them
  • to record data and information
  • to note down personal achievements and record progress
  • to write down inspiring quotes, poems, short stories, funny stories, etc.
  • as a journal or micro-journal
  • to write travel plans and packing lists
  • to prioritise
  • to set realistic and specific goals
  • to make plans.
  • Use a notebook (and diary) at home and at work.
  • Even in the digital era, some things just need to be written down on paper.
  • A proper paper diary and / or notebook is silent and unobtrusive in its use; it has no batteries to go flat; it doesn’t break if you drop it or tread on it; it helps you remember things because you have actually written them down; and you can write in it during meetings and so on (when your smart phone will be outside or turned off!).

This is an interesting article on why you should carry a pocket notebook and this article suggests that the surprisingly simple act of carrying a notebook can change your life and allow you to become the author of your narrative. Lists of Note is an interesting site too.

field-notes-slogan

A to-do list. Consider putting an “X” through the bullet once a task is completed and perhaps make a little note (in parenthesis) to remind yourself when you accomplished it or where the results can be found. Signify a task by a “*”; used to give a task priority. Placed to the left of a bullet you can quickly scan your pages to find most important entries.

A to-do list. Consider putting an “X” through the bullet once a task is completed and perhaps make a little note (in parenthesis) to remind yourself when you accomplished it or where the results can be found. Signify a task by a “*”; used to give a task priority. Placed to the left of a bullet you can quickly scan your pages to find most important entries.

Silvine memo book. British made.

Silvine memo book. British made. Photograph by author.

 

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8 thoughts on “My top notebooks or the best notebooks in the world – my quest to find the perfect notebook

  1. Parke

    Alwych waterproof notebooks from Scotland? Been around for the better part of a century and still made in Scotland.

    Reply
    1. ukmade Post author

      Hi. Thank you for your suggestion. I have considered adding Alwych waterproof notebooks before, but there is no information about country of origin on their website for the Alwych notebooks, Alwych index books or other products from J. R. Reid. No country of origin is given on the notebooks themselves either. This suggests, going on the form of many other companies with British heritage but now manufacturing abroad, that these notebooks are foreign made, but I would be pleased if I were wrong in this case.

      Reply
      1. yalleriron

        I’ve got an Alwych book which dates from the early 1990s, and that has no indication of where it was made.

    1. ukmade Post author

      Hi. I was aware that in archery there is still some British made equipment and the like being made and used. KG Archery being a good example as they appear to make their bows in England. It must be said though that I don’t really know enough about archery to write anything about archery gear. As someone who enjoys archery themselves I would be very happy if you would consider writing a guest article all about British made archery stuff if you would want to?

      Reply
  2. William

    Silvine don’t manufacture their Executive soft touch notebooks in the UK, but almost everything else is made here. Email from their sales team:

    Thank you for your enquiry.
    Our soft feel executive notebooks are one of the very few lines in our range that are not produced at our manufacturing site here in the UK, these are currently sourced from the Far East.

    Reply
    1. ukmade Post author

      Hi. Thank you for your comment. I had a feeling that their Executive soft touch notebooks were foreign made. Thanks to your input I have been able to clarify my write ups on Silvine.

      Reply

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