The obvious comparison to make for these notebooks is the Rhodia Webnotebook, so let’s go ahead and get it out of the way. Where the Rhodia Webbie only comes in A5 and A6, the Monologue ruled notebooks come in A5, A6, and the even smaller A7 and A8.
They all have the same basic design: a soft-to-the-touch hardback leatherette/polyurethane cover, with strong elastic bands pressing dents in the top and bottom of the cover; silk ribbon bookmarks and back pockets. And they’re both filled with paper (a quality point of some significant divergence between the two). In terms of the outside, they’re nearly equivalent. It’s almost impossible to tell if the Rhodia or the Monologue has a smoother cover; I’ve sat here for several minutes rubbing notebooks on my face and I still can’t make up my mind.
The color of the four notebooks I received are fantastic for the start of fall—the A5 is a warm brown that falls somewhere between milk chocolate and 70% cacao; the purple is a lovely shade that looks pretty close to such impressive-sounding Wikipedia-defined hues as royal purple or pomp and power, with its elastic band a striking lighter shade (I’d hazard a guess at an actual color name, but I’m getting tired of squinting and holding the notebook up to the screen). The olive green A7 is a good color to hold onto—a last bit of verdancy before the leaves turn warm and start to fall. And the palm-sized goldenrod yellow A8? I can practically smell the bonfires and taste the long-awaited pumpkin spices, this color is so perfectly autumnal.
A funny thing happens with the Monologue notebook series—the bigger the notebook, the better it’s able to handle liquid ink. There’s no immediately obvious reason WHY this is the case; all four notebooks claim to contain 80gsm cream-colored acid-free paper. It’s not how big or small I’m writing; writing large in the little notebooks with a broad-nibbed fountain pen still looks terrible.
I don’t know what to make of it. The wee A8 is hemorrhaging ink through the page so bad I’ve got half a mind to call an ambulance for it, while the larger A5 is letting this broad-nib Vanishing Point lay down crisp lines with only minimal showthrough and only an occasional dot of bleedthrough. It’s negligible enough to comfortably use both sides of the page. Dry time is good—beginning of a line is dry before I get to the end of the line. How is the A5 doing this? Why doesn’t liquid ink do well in any of the others? Is it magic? I am both confused, and impressed.
It’s difficult to review in aggregate a set of notebooks whose paper behaves differently depending on the size of the notebook. I would be interested to know if these differences I’m seeing holds true across multiple other samples and other peoples’ experiences. I’d like to make some recommendations anyway, based on the performance of the notebooks I’ve got.
100% fountain pens. They do so well, why not use them? Unless you don’t like fountain pens, in which case I’m making funny eyes at you. This paper did well with every kind of writing utensil except for the Pilot Petit 1, which I’m starting to realize does uniquely poorly on many kinds of paper. Though you could really use any pen with this notebook, for me it will be exclusively the domain of the fountain pens.
The purple A6 is the limit when it comes to fountain pen use—and even then I would only advise very fine Japanese nibs. And even then, when you look very close you can tell that the lines aren’t perfect. You start to get fuzzing, you see more spots of bleedthrough. So really, I wouldn’t recommend fountain pens at all in this notebook. For this notebook I’m feeling super-smooth ballpoints and brightly-colored broad gel pens. This notebook is a good pocket size that’s still big enough to jot down a short story, and for that, I want a pen that flows.
The A7 is a bit too small to write out big chunks of prose. This size—a size that actually fits easily in a back pocket—is more suited to an everyday all-purposes notebook, or perhaps good for poetry. It’s small enough to blend into an everyday carry, while still having enough space to fit a thought on the page. For this notebook, I’d stick with gel pens and ballpoints 0.5mm or lower. I’m particularly loving the look of my 0.38mm dark red Pilot Juice on this paper—it’s perfect for this notebook.
If ever a notebook was made with micro-tip gel pens in mind, it’s this ridiculously tiny notebook. I love miniatures. You want me to impulse buy something? Put out a tiny version of it. This is undoubtedly, adorably the smallest hardcover notebook I own. Pretty sure it’s small enough to qualify as a choking hazard (if your child has a big mouth or is a hinged-jawed python). This is the only notebook without a back pocket (but what would you put in it, stamps?). If Rhodia and Moleskine had a baby, it would be this little notebook: smooth cover and fountain pen unfriendly paper. Bust out your absolute smallest micro tip gel pens—and ballpoints if you have them—and write the tiniest thoughts you can think. Might even be worth getting your hands on a Uni Signo Bit 0.18mm.
Ultimately, the overall Monologue line of ruled notebooks can’t compare on paper quality to the Rhodia Webnotebook, but then, the Monologue is in a whole different price bracket. And especially if you’re not among the fountain pen obsessed like I am, and regularly do your writing with ballpoints and gel pens, and are looking for that leatherette-feel without paying fountain-pen-paper prices, you might look into the Monologue Ruled Notebook.