Possibly the biggest disappointment in my review of notebooks over the last couple years has been the Piccadilly Essential Notebook. Piccadilly’s Essential line of notebooks is almost indistinguishable from the Moleskine, but at a third to one-half the price. When I say indistinguishable, I mean in nearly every detail. The oilskin cover looks like the Moleskine, the paper is the same cream color with the same 6mm ruling, there’s an elastic enclosure and a pocket in the back. For just a few bucks, how can you go wrong? Even if the paper were of no more consistent quality than the Moleskine’s, Piccadilly could be the one to knock Moleskine off the throne on price alone.
First the good news: the paper in the samples I tested is consistent and though with some inks and pens shows spreading and feathering, the paper responded more predictablywhat spread or feathered on one page would on other pages as well, and pen and ink combinations that worked well on once page would perform similarly on others.
The paper is not of better quality than the best paper in Moleskines, but it is consistently better than the average, and much more predictable. That should be a qualified win for Piccadilly, though those that have gotten lucky with good batches of Moleskines may disagree.
Where the Piccadilly Essential falls down is durability. After a couple weeks of writing, the elastic enclosure became so stretched out that I had to double it back a few inches and hold the enclosure in place with gorilla tape. Even that fix was temporary; by the time the notebook was filled the elastic was completely stretched outa full seven inches longer than it had started. Even taping down one side no longer fixed the problem, because it no longer had any elasticity so the notebook would not open.
Sadly, this does not appear to be an isolated incident. Of the two Piccadilly samples I purchased, the second one came out of the shrinkwrap already with the elastic fatigued beyond usefulness. I’ll be giving this to someone who doesn’t care about the elastic enclosure.
Nor is this the only quality issue encountered with the Piccadilly notebook. Generally the materials used simply aren’t as durable as I’ve come to expect with other notebooks. The bookmark with my Piccadilly simply fell out after a few months of use. One moment it was attached, the next it was on the floor.
During my months of testing, the material around the binding both inside and outside the spine became torn. This has happened to the covers of Moleskines in my experience but I’ve never seen a notebook subjected only to regular use come apart on the inside this way.
Surprisingly, the folder in the back cover held up over time and use. I use the word «surprisingly» only because the paper bellows feels flimsy compared to the cloth-tape sides found in the back pockets of many notebooks. Clearly what Piccadilly did held up under my abuse so I have no cause to complain or denigrate the product on this point, but I still eye that pocket with a bit of suspicion and count myself as fortunate not to have damaged it.
One could sum this up quite nicely by describing the Piccadilly as a cheap version of a Moleskine. There are nuances to the word «cheap» that one would normally wish to avoid that in the case of the Piccadilly I would embrace. My recommedation: if you don’t treat your notebooks too harshly, you might get away with cutting off the elastic enclosure and pretending it is a notebook that never came with one. And hope that your bookmark doesn’t fall out.