I can’t believe it’s been thirteen months since I purchased and started using the Seven Seas Standard! (Not to mention about thirteen months since I last posted…) Thirteen months may not seem like a long time. In my opinion as a stationery lover, however, if you still feel amicable towards a notebook-type product after thirteen months, not a whole lot can rend that relationship apart. Maybe you also know of the despair that comes with your own stubbornness as you gnash your teeth and refuse to leave behind a journal you didn’t really like. You become very familiar with a product’s lovable traits and quirks and detestable flaws.
Luckily, I still feel very positively towards the Standard. It’s hard not to go wrong with a brick of Tomoe River paper, which is essentially what the Seven Seas Standard is. If you have never used Tomoe River before, you absolutely need to try a sample from wherever you purchase your fountain pen goods from. In my opinion, calling Tomoe River “fountain pen-friendly” is an understatement: Tomoe River is more like a fountain pen soulmate. Sheen, shading, and particles are all very, very apparent when on this paper. Yes, you do sacrifice a little with the thinness of the paper and long dry times, but it’s very worth it.
I prefer Tomoe River over Rhodia nowadays, which I’m sure is near-sacrilegious in fountain pen circles! I used to use fine and medium fountain pens, and Rhodia was more than adequate with those pens. Currently, however, my collection leans heavily towards the broad spectrum (I only have two fine nibs and one medium nib in my rotation of 12 pens: the rest are broads or italics), and Rhodia tends to struggle with these wet pens, feathering and bleeding quite readily. I’ve heard that Rhodia can sometimes vary from batch to batch, so it’s possible that I just happened to have a pad that wasn’t quite as fountain pen friendly. I don’t want to splatter negatives all over Rhodia and their products: it’s an excellent fountain pen-friendly paper, but for my personal needs, it doesn’t make the cut all the time. However, I do have to say that Rhodia is the clear winner when you need a luxurious, convenient paper. It’s much thicker than Tomoe River’s 52gsm sheets, so it feels better for more formal correspondence, and is about as ubiquitous as Moleskines in a bookstore. I can find pads of it in my university bookstore, which makes it much more accessible if I need fountain pen-friendly paper quickly and on short notice.
But that’s enough about the paper! Of course, a Tomoe River brick would be no good if the notebook itself was no good, but Nanami Paper’s presentation is not at all lacking. I have had a cover on my Standard since I started using it, but the original buckram cover is quite durable for its thinness. If you choose to go coverless with the Standard, you can certainly expect the pages inside, which are flush with the cover, to get a little banged up. The buckram is water-resistant, but it will have marks from where there was water(/coffee) even if you wipe it off immediately. If you like the weathered/used look, then I think you’ll enjoy using the Standard without a cover—but if you absolutely must have a cover, there are a variety of options that range from $2 to $100, and any of them would be very fitting. The cleanliness of my notebook is probably due to my Belle & Sofa cover, but I do have to say that I’ve shoved this notebook into backpacks and suitcases without much care for the past thirteen months, and it has remained tidy through three countries. No water or coffee spills yet, and I expect my writing to disintegrate before the notebook does!
The binding has held up well, which I am not at all surprised about. This is a notebook you can turn 360 degrees with ease, without ever feeling like something’s going to break. Even with the addition of things I’ve glued in, the binding is more than accepting of the added thickness. I honestly believe the only way you’ll be able to destroy the binding is if you take scissors or a knife to every thread.
I only have two complaints, and they’re quite nitpicky. Each signature is thread-bound, and there are approximately 15 signatures in total. Between the end of one signature and the beginning of another, it seems like the two pages are glued together towards the gutter. I’ve checked other thread-bound books, like my Stilman & Birn sketchbook, for this problem, but as far as I know it’s only present in my Standard. I’m not sure if this is a flaw in only my notebook or a flaw in all notebooks, but it can be a little annoying since it makes the page “bubble” and it’s a little harder to write on. I have to hold the page I’m writing on flat (the pictures show you what I mean!). I mention the number of signatures because I’ve had to face this problem a few times already, and I expect to come across it for all other signatures. It doesn’t turn me off from using the notebook, but I will say that those pages with this problem tend to be used not for writing but for scrapbooking.
My second complaint—which, again, is nitpicky—is that you have to be very careful with the glue you use. This is really a problem with the paper: it’s very thin, so water-based glues will warp pages and possibly even bleed to other pages. If you glue something on with a gluestick, you have to be sure to really, really press out any air bubbles that may occur. Otherwise, you’ll get a bubbly effect on the back of the page that is much, much more noticeable than with other kinds of paper.
This last bit isn’t a complaint at all, and it doesn’t bother me, but it is something I noticed and I do feel like you, if you are interested in investing in one of these notebooks, should know. I paste lots of things into my notebook, and this makes the notebook become much thicker. I’ve noticed that as the notebook becomes thicker than it originally was, the signatures “push out” from the binding. It’s hard to explain, but hopefully the photo I attach will give you a better idea. If you’re at all familiar with systems like the Traveler’s Notebook, you might know that putting in more inserts will make the notebooks stick out beyond the cover. It’s the same idea here. Since the notebook is flush with the buckram, this might make your notebook more receptive to smushed pages, creases, stains, etc. If you plan to paste stuff into your notebook, I highly recommend a cover. The overhang will protect your delicate pages!
You can probably tell by these pretty insubstantial complaints that there really is nothing to dislike about the Seven Seas notebooks. The only thing I can think of is that you don’t like how thin the paper is, but if you have never tried Tomoe River paper—oh man, seriously, please try a sheet. You might really, really love it.
I don’t write every day, and I sometimes skip weeks at a time, but I’m currently about halfway through the Standard, and I expect to use it through 2016, maybe even 2017. I use both sides of a sheet because I like the way it looks when I can see my writing under the page I’m working on, and as such this notebook has lasted me quite a while. When this book gets filled up, I’m definitely going to get another.
For about $30 shipped, this is not a cheap notebook, but in my opinion it is well worth the price. It is an excellent piece of craftsmanship that will stay with me for many, many years. The Seven Seas notebooks are some of the more affordable notebooks you can get, and in my opinion you won’t get a more fountain pen friendly paper nor as many pages per notebook without shelling out a small fortune. With newer editions the notebook becomes a few dollars cheaper, as well: The 4th edition of the Standard and the Writer were $25, and the possibility of the notebooks getting cheaper will probably continue.
So, what do I use my Seven Seas for? It’s a catch-all, really: a scrapbook, a diary, a journal, a commonplace notebook… I use this for pretty much everything. I find a lot of joy in being able to paste in postcards or little pieces of ephemera that my penpals send me.
I am not affiliated with Nanami Paper, the Goulet Pen Company, or JetPens: I’m merely a happy customer of all three! I am not affiliated with Moleskine, nor have I tried their products. I include them simply as a price comparison.
All prices were pulled from their respective sites on 9/3/15. Prices may have changed by the time you read this.