First Looks: Clairefontaine Basics & Rhodia Mini Pocket Notebooks

First, I’d like to thank Karen Doherty, VP of Marketing at Exaclair, Inc., for sending these review samples. Exaclair is the exclusive US distributor for Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Quo Vadis and Exacompta products and J. Herbin inks.

Yesterday, I gave away all of my unused, still-shrinkwrapped Moleskine notebooks. I’ve just not been happy with the quality of their current production, and the way their coated paper works with fountain pens (and I’ve tried various pens and different inks).

I contacted Karen a couple of weeks ago when she mentioned having review samples of the Clairefontaine “Basics” notebooks available. I requested one of the clothbound lined 6″x8.75″ models, and she sent a black one along with a squared Rhodia mini pocket notebook, both of which arrived today.

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive review – just a quick first look at both notebooks. I’ll do another review with my thoughts after some long-term usage (at least 2-3 weeks).

First, I want to apologize – my camera stand and clamp lights are packed away in a box right now, so this is all on-camera flash.


The Clairefontaine “Basics” notebook has a black cover, with a glued cloth binding. The Clairefontaine logo is unobtrusively embossed on the front cover, while the back cover is blank. There are 192 pages (96 sheets) of 90gsm (24lb) white paper (environmentally friendly) with violet/light purple lines. The inner cover pages are blank, and are glued to the cardstock cover:

Clairefontaine Inner Cover

This tends to make the first page or two of the notebook unusable for me, but I just view it as somewhere to doodle in boring meetings.

The most important part – the pen and ink test:

Clairefontaine Ink Test

This is pretty much every pen or ink that I have easily available to me without filling any empty pens. This paper is a pleasure to write on – it’s not rough, but it’s got enough texture that a nib isn’t going to skip or slide across the page. Only the Noodler’s Lexington Gray had any really noticeable feathering, and I’ve found it to do that on most any paper I use it with lately. I was particularly surprised by how the Parker Super Quink Blue-Black came out, as that’s an old 1960s bottle (with a price of 39 Cents on the box) that I just received off eBay today.

Clairefontaine Ink Test 2

There was no discernible showthrough or bleeding of any of the inks to the other side of the page; even with the Noodler’s Baystate Blue that will soak through Moleskine paper in a heartbeat.

So far, I’m happy with the Clairefontaine “Basics” notebook; I’ll report back on it in a couple of weeks once it’s been subjected to my office doodling. I tend to draw geometric shapes and then fill them in, which gets interesting with fountain pen ink.

The mini squared Rhodia notebook has slightly lighter paper – 80gsm vs. the 90gsm Clairefontaine. The squares are printed in the same light purple/violet color. The cardstock cover is coated with some sort of waterproofing, and it works! I wrote my name on the inside cover with Noodler’s Aircorp Blue-Black, and put the notebook in the path of my desk fan. Five minutes later, I picked it up and ran my finger across it – I now have a blue right index finger. All of the ink completely wiped off the cover.

I did another basic ink test:

Rhodia Ink Test

Not as many as last time, but I made sure to include the vintage 1960s Super Quink and the Noodler’s Baystate Blue.

Rhodia Ink Test 2

You can see in this picture that the ink shows through the other side of the page more than it does on the heavier Clairefontaine paper. However, it’s not bleeding through or is so bad that you couldn’t use both sides of a page. For a pocket notebook like this, I don’t really think some minor showthrough is going to be a concern.

So far, I’m really liking the Basics notebook, and if things go well I’ll pick up a few more (they’re available with black or tan covers when clothbound) to replace my stack of Moleskines.

Look for a long-term use report in a couple of weeks, and I’d like to again thank Karen at Exaclair for giving me the opportunity to review these two notebooks.

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