The generous folks at Code & Quill “notebooks for creatives” sent me some of their prototype notebooks to check out. They are already making improvements which shows how fastidious they are about the quality and appearance of these books (see notes at the bottom of this review). The notebooks started out life as a Kickstarter Project which was funded and then some (understatement) so there are definitely folks interested in the concept presented by these notebooks.
The most distinguishing feature of the Code & Quill notebooks is that the pages alternate between dot grid on the left hand pages and indention rule on the right hand pages. Indention rule reminds me of some of the papers form Japan that feature a short tick along the baseline to help with character spacing. For the Code & Quill books, the indentation marks help for writing out programming… the “code” portion of the Code and Quill. The dot grid provides just enough structure for drawing or writing without being distracting.
Both the soft cover and hard cover editions of the books feature 100gsm, acid-free, fine-grain, and ivory paper and both the hard and soft cover books measure 5.5×7.7″.
The Code & Quill hard cover edition, called Origin, is available with a white or grey pebble-textured PU leatherette (this is a leatherette material covered with a layer of polyurethane for added durability). I love the feel of the pebble texture. The grey is a warm grey and dark enough that dirt and smudges will be well-hidden. The logo is stitched on the cover as a red fabric tag. Its subtle and well done. I appreciate little-to-no branding on my notebooks and this is a pretty good compromise.
The book shipped in a matching tomato red rigid slip case (see prototype notes below). My slip case got a little dented in the post but it did its job protecting my book.
Inside the covers of the Origin hard cover are bright tomato red end papers with a space blocked out for content or contact information. Origin has 180 pages and features stitched signatures that lay flat.
The soft cover, called Traveler, is the same overall dimensions as the Origin but with a soft flexible cover. Its also available with a white cover and a grey cover. I was sent the white cover. It even shipped in a slip case, too (again, see prototype notes below). The Traveler is a little slimmer than the Origin with just 100 pages. The pages are stitched in, not glued so they will also lay flat.
Both book feature identical paper — dot grid on the left, indention rule on the right. The dot grid and indentation rule are printed in light gray. I wish the dots were a tiny bit smaller but, after my test writing, I found they weren’t as distracting as I thought they’d be.
As is always the case, we all want to know how does the paper take ink? Its the make-or-break for any notebook. I’m happy to report that the Code & Quill paper performed way above average. With all the standard gel, ballpoint and rollerball pens in my reach, the paper worked well. No feathering or bleeding. There was a little show through with the Morning Glory Mach 3 0.38 in black which seemed very odd. I would have expected the Schmidt refills for the Retro 51 to more likely show through but, nope.
I tested a variety of everyday fountain pens, like the Pilot Varsity, a hand full of Kaweco pocket pens, a couple TWSBIs and even the Super 5 with stub nib and there’s a little showthrough with the Varsity but no true bleeding. The only ink I had issues with was the Sailor Jentle Yama-Dori in my TWSBI Mini. The Yama Dori splined a tiny bit and kind of mooshed. I had some drying issues with the J. Herbin rollerball with Kaweco Red ink and the Super 5 required a bit longer dry time than I allowed, hence the smudge at the bottom of the right hand page.
With retail prices of $15 and $20 (comparable with most A5 notebooks sold),the Code & Quill paper is above average in performance. Its not up there with Rhodia Webbies for fountain pen friendliness but the A5 retail for a Webbie is closer to $30.
Can you see how the dots fall back once there is ink on the page? Even the light Sky Blue of the Pilot Frixion Point 04 is visible. Overall, I’m quite pleased with the dot grid and indention grid. I don’t necessarily need indention grid but the tick marks don’t bother legibility and may be useful for making nested lists since nobody wants me coding anything.
This is the reverse of my sample writing page. There are a few little dots of show through but overall, both sides of the paper could easily be used.
The notebooks were designed in the US, but are manufactured in China. Code & Quill are very transparent about the production. In the notebooks, the country of manufacture is printed the end paper in the back of the book.
Some of the changes, based on the initial prototypes:
- On the hard cover edition, the spine will be more indented and defined.
- Improvements will be made the paper block so that it sits aligned and recessed inside the covers of the hard cover. This will create a more defined ‘lip’ around the pages. In the second picture below, you can see that the review samples are closer to the white notebook, while the production notebooks will have a page block that is like the light gray notebook.
- The softcover notebook will be feature a thicker, leatherette cover that is flexible, for added durability and so allow the cover to actually lay flat when the notebook is set down.
- Finally, the packaging will be changed. Information will be available about these changes when all the details have been finalized.
These books are simple and clean designs overall. There are no closure elastics, ribbon bookmarks or paper pockets in the back cover. If these extras are deal breakers for you, there are ways to make them yourself. I’ve made paper pockets for other notebooks and adding a book strap or bookmark would be easy as well.
Overall, I think these are good quality notebooks and if you’ve been looking for a combination notebook with lines and grid, this is a great option. The grey leatherette cover of the hard cover is worth the $5 upcharge.
If you missed funding the Kickstarter project, you can pre-order either the Origin hard cover ($20) or the Traveler soft cover notebook ($15) from their web site. They are listing shipping to be about 8 weeks out.