Gallery Leather: a little too much plus a little too little

ImageI was excited to see Gallery Leather's entry into the journal/notebook realm for a couple reasons. First, it's a handsome notebook of a reasonable size for carrying, and second, Gallery Leather does a lot of business creating and customizing handcrafted products directly from Maine. In other words, I was hoping to find some good old fashioned American craftsmanship.

The notebook's cover is indeed well-crafted and the paper is of excellent quality (more on this in a moment) but the inscription Printed in Korea appears in the end papers so there's no way to know how much of the construction is actually domestic. The papers' signatures are sewn in so tightly it appears at first glance to be bound with glue like a cheap paperback rather than sewn, but indeed the whole package save the cover is held together by thread rather than glue, and put together impressively well.

ImageThe cover itself is overkill. It feels wasteful to use leather on a non-reusable notebook cover. I have several notebook covers in leather that take refills, but the nubuck leather cover seems overdone for a knockaround daily journal.

That said, it may be overdone but the cover has held up wonderfully over time. I used this journal over the course of two and a half years and the notebook looks neither worn-out nor showroom-new. It took the beating of daily use and acquired a charming patina, as leather should, even without proper leather care such as polish or oiling. Considering that many of Gallery Leather's paper goods come with gold-edged paper, I suppose I should be glad to have gotten something this pedestrian.

The paper in the Gallery Leather journal is of excellent quality, and once again perhaps of too good quality. The paper is smooth and clean, perhaps a little too white but not harsh to look at. It took all my fountain pens and inks well with the exception of my most expensive pens. With my smoothest writers there was a tendency to skip. Between the pen and the paper, there should be some texture or else the nib may just slide without delivering ink. It's an issue with some other delightfully smooth papers like Rhodia or Clairefontaine paper so Gallery Leather is in good company, but it can be a problem nevertheless.

There's your too much, but what about the too little? As convenience features go, the Gallery Leather notebook is remarkably spartan. There is no pocket, no folder, no elastic enclosure to keep the cover closed, and no tabs. The two conveniences added are a silk bookmark and a personal information page in case the notebook is lost. These are both nice, but it seems like too much has gone into appearance and too little thought put into the mechanics of what makes a notebook useful.

The ruling of the pages here is notable. The spacing of the lines is 6.5mm—not quite as narrowly spaced as a Moleskine, but tight enough to be a saving grace for a smallish notebook. The lines have a modest margin, which gives the writer permission not to cram the writing to the edge of the page. Additionally, the top and bottom margins are each marked with a heavier rule, enclosing the page visually in a pleasant manner. In my own use, I placed the date of a journal entry above the top margin and sometimes signed or initialed the entry in or partially in the bottom margin, leaving the rest of the margins free.

The missing features guaranteed that I would not replace the Gallery Leather journal with another. Frankly, finishing the journal was a bit of a relief that I looked forward to for some time. However, the journal does provide a pleasing writing experience in a durable and handsome package. That can't be wrong. Someone who doesn't expect a way to keep their journal closed or a pocket for miscellany might do well with a journal like this one.

It should be noted that I can not find anything exactly like this model on the Gallery Leather website. The closest model appears to be the Travel Journal, though mine does not have the word «Journal» embossed on the front as the Travel Journal does. Custom embossing is available through Gallery Leather's website, but it's not clear whether the notebook can be obtained without the «Journal» embossed letters at all.