- Words by Mr Daniel Neilson
"All Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil," wrote Mr Ernest Hemingway while sat in the cafés of Paris attempting to write "one true sentence". "The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of café cremes, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, and luck were all you needed."
In Paris, Mr Hemingway was among good company - Messrs Pablo Picasso, James Joyce and Ezra Pound were all enthusiastic notebook scribblers. Even today, for great writers, thinkers, entrepreneurs and artists, the notebook and a writing instrument remain tools of their trade. Mr Bruce Chatwin, in his understated masterpiece The Songlines, wrote: "To lose a passport was the least of one's worries; to lose a notebook was a catastrophe."
Notebooks are timeless. In the little black books of the past, we can see the genesis of Beethoven's symphonies, Picasso's "Guernica" and da Vinci's inventions. Notebooks are where thoughts land; they need to be special. A great notebook is more than just a folio of paper. It is a blend of the practical and the inspirational and can be an object of beauty. Mr Thomas Jefferson, an astonishing data hound, recorded his thoughts on notebooks made from reusable ivory sheets. Mr Mark Twain had his notebooks custom bound in leather. Mr Jack Kerouac, a prolific note taker, liked small notebooks because "In my system, the form of blues choruses is limited by the small page of the breastpocket notebook in which they are written, like the form of a set number of bars in a jazz blues chorus."
Against a digital backdrop, a new generation of notebook makers are still endeavouring to find the perfect combination of size, paper, binding, fold and cover. They are often produced on a small scale, emphasising craftsmanship and design to create beautiful, functional objects. Here are our favourites, above.