A Tale of Two Notebooks

By Jessica Coles

You may or may not have heard about the changes coming to Tomoe River Paper (I won’t go into depth on it here). The change is, in my world, like saying goodbye to an era where good fountain pen paper was easy(ish) to find and the choice of paper was clear.

Now that the era is closing, it is time to go back to earlier days in fountain pens when the hunt for great paper is on again. Back to debates about what “Good for Fountain Pens” means when shopping for that next notebook and the excitement of finding a new type that makes your fountain pen feel great on the page and your ink look amazing.

I’ve started on such a hunt and today have two notebooks to present. The smaller of the two is the Tsubame Note University Notebook H60S – A5 7mm Lined ($4.50 for 60 sheets) and the larger is the MDS University Notebook, B5 ($7.50 for 40 sheets). Both notebooks were sent to me by Alex of ShigureInks.com. Alex carries several amazing varieties of paper in his store (not to mention a plethora of ink) and at amazing prices. Thank you, Alex, for sending these for review.

Both the Tsubame and the MDS notebooks use Fools Paper, each at 80 – 85 gsm for the paper weight. The Tsubame paper feels slightly thicker than the MDS and is a bit brighter white as well. Both have the same binding type – a thick card stock cover, stitched signatures, and black binding tape stamped with a gold identifier.

First, the MDS University Notebook, B5. The cover has very little printed on it with plenty of room for labeling or ornamentation. Personally, I recommend stickers from Well-Appointed Desk, but I may be biased there.

The binding is stitched and allows the notebook to lay nearly flat (with a bit of pressure required when first used). This notebook is blank and has no markings at all.

I started out with Sailor Manyo Yamabuki in a Pilot VP with a medium nib. The paper feels luxurious, not super smooth but not much feedback either.

The MDS notebook has 40 sheets which translates into 80 pages (when numbered front and back).

I tried to show inks with various properties – Sailor Ha Ha and 143 for shading and mulit-color, Montblanc Psychedelic Purple, Pent Ebizome, and Sailor Irori for sheen, Taccia Sabimidori for color, and three different non-fountain pens to see if they bled.

Sailor Ha Ha had a slight bit of feathering which can be expected with so much ink coming from the Fude nib. Sailor Irori had quite a bit of feathering at first (I had also just filled the pen) which calmed down by the end of the line. Ebizome and Irori each showed sheen on the edges of the letters and Psychedelic Purple showed no sheen. The metallic gel pen looks amazing!

Below is the back side of the same page – no ink bled to the following page. I realized after I uploaded these photos that the watermark is very visible here.

Each ink spotted on the back side of the page except for fine and extra fine nibs. I was pleasantly shocked that the gel pen and the brush pen didn’t go through at all.

The second notebook up today is the Tsubame Note University Notebook H60S – A5 7mm Lined. The cover has more ornamentation than the MDS.

An index page is included in the front of the notebook for quick reference.

Below I used Tono & Lims “A Smile is a Sword” ink with a medium Franklin-Christoph SIG nib. Writing on the paper felt like writing on Rhodia. A very pleasant experience.

Folding the unused pages back was a bit tougher with the Tsubame than with the MDS, most likely due to the increase in pages.

I tried MANY inks.


I did see some feathering occasionally, especially with wetter inks and most inks ghosted through the page. However, I did not see any spotting or bleed through on the opposite side.

I enjoyed this foray into paper hunting once again. If I had to choose one of the above notebooks, I would pick the Tsubame notebook – I like the A5 size better, the paper seems to take a wide variety of inks without a problem and the paper feels slightly nicer. It pains me to say that I even enjoyed the ruled lines. But blank is still best. Always. Except this once.

DISCLAIMER:  The items in this review were provided free for the purpose of reviewing. Otherwise I am one of the unpaid monkeys that Ana talks about occasionally except for Col-o-rings which she provides to me because she knows that I can’t resist. Please see the About page for more details.

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4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. No, I have not heard about “changes coming to Tomoe River paper.” Where can I get more information, since your article did not provide a link?

  2. I think the author is getting ahead of herself. There have been some reviews about the new paper and it is virtually identical. Unless you pulled out a microscope you would never be able to tell the difference, even then I doubt you would. It never amazes me how anal the stationery community smh

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