I finally have the great triumvirate of dot grid notebooks at hand to do a side-by-side comparison: the much-loved Leuchtturm 1917 A5, the Rhodia and the Baron Fig. While the editions aren’t entirely identical, they are awfully close and the paper is all dot grid and each brand’s “flagship” size. The Rhodia is in the Rhodiarama softcover version with a metallic silver cover ($18.95). The Leuchtturm 1917 is in the 100th Anniversary metallic silver edition ($25.50) and the Baron Fig is in the standard light grey book cloth in their new Plus size ($22). Color-wise, the light grey book cloth on the Baron Fig is almost the same color as the silver of the Rhodia and the Leuchtturm. Freaky!
I also included the standard Flagship-sized “Metamorphosis” edition ($20) for size comparison. The Baron Fig Flagship is ever-so-slightly shorter than A5 giving it slightly squarer proportions.
All the books open flat, lay flat and have good stitched signatures that seem to hold up pretty well to daily use. They are well-built and look good. I always feel like I get my money’s worth when I buy from any one of these companies. The materials all look and feel high-quality.
Both Rhodia and Leuchtturm include gusset pocket in the back and elastics to keep the books closed. Over the years, I tend to loop the elastic over the inside back cover most of the time unless I’m trying to keep stuff from falling out. Baron Fig is the least “adorned” in its simplicity.
All the notebooks include ribbon bookmarks. The Leuchtturm 1917 is the only notebook that has two ribbon bookmarks and they are the longest and easiest to use to open the notebook. This is a big thing with me. The short ribbon bookmarks I find kind of pointless. They look nice in a photo but they don’t do anything. (For an example of what I mean by ribbon bookmarks being too short, check out Boho Berry’s video from the 23:30 marker. I’ve kindly marked it for you so you can just watch the minute or so I am talking about.) I have the same pet peeve.
Both the Rhodia and the Baron Fig notebooks have short ribbon markers. The Baron Fig ribbons are thick cotton ribbons that have finished ends so they don’t fray and colors that pop and coordinate with their design themes but they are stingy short. Rhodia uses their signature orange in satin with finished edges as well but the ribbons are still a bit too short to be really usable.
Now for the true heart of the matter. The paper and the dots. I’ve talked independently about the paper for all these notebooks before. Rhodia paper is epically fountain pen friendly. Leuchtturm paper is decently fountain pen friendly and Baron Fig and upped its game for fountain pens to be on-par with Leuchtturm, maybe a tiny bit ahead. So, if I was grading on paper quality alone, Rhodia would be a gold medal winner. But there are the other factors to consider…
Looking at the dots, they are all spaced at 5mm. The Leuchtturm 1917 has the smallest dots. The Baron Fig dots might be a bit lighter but they are larger. And Rhodia’s dots are the darkest and most obtrusive. When you see them side-by-side, its really noticeable.
If you write with a wide pen and very dark ink, the dots on the Rhodia may not be an issue for you but if you write with light ink or have tiny penmanship like I do, it might be disruptive. I find the Leuchtturm the easiest to use, followed by the Baron Fig. I prefer using Rhodia blank paper best as I find their ruling lines, graph and dots to be too dark for me.
Very light show through occurs with the Leuchtturm 19171 and of course there is no show through with the Rhodia.
For the most fountain pen friendly notebook, Rhodia is still where its at but the dots will get ya. However, the more fountain pen friendly your paper is, the longer your dry time will be which is not always optimal for those on-the-go notes and lists.
For simplicity, Baron Fig has the dot grid notebook locked down. With three sizes in simple light grey or dark grey book cloth, Baron Fig has gelled down the formula for the notebook into its perfect essence. The paper is good and the dots are not distracting. I have a love/hate relationship with the book cloth. It looks great but if I so much as think about my cats, the covers collect cat hair. If you want any “extras” like pockets or elastic closures though, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
But for all-around perfection and usability, Leuchtturm 1917 reigns supreme. Available in a multitude of colors, hardcover or softcover with elastic, pocket and TWO FULLY-FUNCTIONAL ribbon bookmarks, acceptable paper for most writing tools, numbered pages and an index, the Leuchtturm 1917 is the Swiss Army Knife of notebooks.
17 comments / Add your comment below
Great review Ana. Turns out I am in Little Rock AR for biz and took a field trip to Vanness earlier today. Ended up w a clairfontaine 1951 and the Leuchtturm 1917 dotted. Sounds like I made a good decision!
Thank you for a thorough review of these notebooks.
I prefer lined paper, but appreciate seeing dot grid in your review.
Agree with your final ratings, Ana. I’m sticking with Leuchtturm for its more sensible features, its slightly more absorbent paper for quick drying (ghosting does not bother me), and I need those two more generously cut ribbons. Thank you for the side by side comparison–so helpful!
This review is super helpful for me. My first “nice” notebook is my 1917, and I love it. But as I figure out what works for me for various notebook functions, I find that I want to split the one notebook for everything into a smaller size for notes and tasks (turns out that’ll be Nock Co. Pocket Notebooks thanks to a free pack from Jeff @ ATL), and another one for more general lists (“what pens do I want next?” etc.) plus journaling. I thought about switching to a Rhodia or something else for the big notebook, but this comparison tells me that I’m probably better off just sticking to a 1917. The numbered pages are a really nice feature as well. I’m not really doing a Bullet Journal anymore, but it’s still nice to be able to refer to “List X” on Page 24.
Thanks for the review!
Great showdown of three of my favorite notebooks brands! Interestingly, I use the blank-page versions of all three, so I’ve never noticed the differences in the dot grids. I tend to use Leuchtturm and Rhodia as my writing journals and BF for sketching. The short ribbons annoy me, too.
Now that my eyes are aging, I struggle w staying on line w the dot grids of Rhodia notebooks/pads.
I’m getting new glasses, Monday, & I’ve been warned they’ll kick my tush until I adjust, so I might do better, but I really prefer a dark lined guide under blank paper.
Additionally, for an early Mother’s Day, I picked up a TWSBI Diamond 580 w a med. nib & it’s a gusher! So… Rhodia is a good bet.
I’d like some guidance on a planner, though.
I’m Catholic & have a religious calendar, but there’s not enough room for true planning.
If I could have a planner set up w constants (like feasts & fast days), I’d gladly add the daily, weekly, monthly stuff.
However, Ana, I have NO CLUE how to go about it.
I’m pretty sure that Quo Vadis has you covered in regards to planners that specifically start on Sunday. Look for the Minister line specifically. And Quo Vadis is part of the Clairefontaine/Rhodia family, paper-wise.
Agendio.com might be the best option for you as you can customize a planner to meet your specific needs. The paper quality may not be be quite as fountain pen friendly but the customization is amazing. Hope that helps!
But where are the Japanese notebooks?
These are the most commonly available dot grid notebooks that I know about. Most of the Japanese notebooks are still grid paper or graph paper, not dot grid. At least not that I’m aware of. If I’m misinformed, please let me know!
Muji makes dot grid notebooks that are an amazing value at roughly $6. Fountain pen safe paper.
Nanami Seven seas A5 is crossfield so while technically not a dot, it’s basically the same thing. Tomoe river paper. $25 for 240 sheets.
The Crossfield is now a grid notebook – V2 has removed the reticle grid in favor of traditional grid.
Hmm. Almost tempted to switch from Rhodia to Leuchtturm but I’m worried I would be bothered by the show through.
I loved the ribbon length and color options for the Leuchtturm, but the ghosting annoyed me. Especially because I use stamps in my journal, and those were nearly as dark on the back of the page as the front! They don’t show on my Rhodia, but then you have the ribbon length and squishy cover to deal with… I guess it’s all trade-offs. Thanks for the review!
You might like the soft cover Rhodia note books since they don’t have squishy covers.
I love my Leuchtturm, but you are so right about using stamps. I hadn’t even considered that. I may have to try a blank Rhodia. I love the sapphire color.