Balabanoff Baron Fig Confidant Cover

I, like many users of analog writing tools, am a big fan of leather notebooks. Nothing beats the smell, the heft, the tactile sensation, and the air of importance lent to one’s writing by a good leather notebook. But leather-bound notebooks are, of course, expensive, and purchasing a new one every time I fill the pages is, at best, impractical.

Fortunately, there are many great refillable leather notebook options, like the classic Midori Traveler’s system, and there are also plenty of leather covers one can purchase for Moleskines and other similarly sized notebooks.

My daily driver, however, is the uniquely sized fabric-covered Baron Fig Confidant, and the leather cover options for the Confidant are slim. Baron Fig themselves make one, and although I haven’t used it, I’ve heard great things. It is, however, lacking a pen loop, and I really like having a pen loop.

Enter Balabanoff’s handcrafted Baron Fig cover, which my wife purchased for me a few months ago as an anniversary present. This thing is gorgeous. It’s made from hand-stitched quality leather from the Ukraine’s Horween tannery. I’ve been using it for the last few months, and so far it’s aging beautifully. One of my cats got his paws on the cover the day after I received it, scratching it a little, and the marks have faded and softened in the way that happens only with good leather, actually adding to the cover’s elegance.

This cover, and other hand-made leather goods, like wallets, belts, and covers for several other notebooks, are available in Balabanoff’s Etsy shop. Because I live in the U.S. and Balabanoff is based in the Ukraine, shipping did take several weeks, but it was worth it. Highly recommended.

Gerhard Steidl is Making Books an Art Form — The New Yorker

Gerhard Steidl is Making Books an Art Form — The New Yorker

Fascinating profile in the New Yorker last week. The whole thing is worth a read, but here are a few of my favorite bits.

Steidl was struck by the book’s durability: despite having been made in the fourteen-fifties, it looked almost new.

Dayanita Singh, an artist who lives in New Delhi, has been publishing with Steidl since 2000. She told me, “Everything is done to keep you focussed on whatever you are doing. There is this utter concentration—nothing else that is going on in your life is relevant. It’s like if you went to a Vipassana retreat for ten days.” She added, “He might call you down at five in the morning and you could be stark naked, and he wouldn’t notice.

Steidl is not sentimental about print qua print; he reads the newspaper on an iPad when he is travelling. But there is nonetheless a moral dimension to his bookmaking, a conviction that the book remains an ideal vehicle for culture’s remediating powers.

Steidl’s family was poor, and his parents had received no formal education. There were few books at home, and it was momentous for Steidl when he received one—Hans Christian Andersen’s “Thumbelina”—as a Christmas gift. Steidl begged his sister to read it aloud to him immediately, and afterward he told his father how much he had loved it. Steidl’s father, angered that the children had finished the book so quickly, struck the sister. Years later, Steidl’s father explained that he had believed the book, having been read through, was now useless; before buying the gift, he’d never been in a bookstore.

The Strange and Grotesque Doodles in the Margins of Medieval Books — Atlas Obscura

The Strange and Grotesque Doodles in the Margins of Medieval Books — Atlas Obscura

“Manuscripts can be seen as time capsules,” says Johanna Green, Lecturer in Book History and Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow. “And marginalia provide layers of information as to the various human hands that have shaped their form and content.” From intriguingly detailed illustrations to random doodles, the drawings and other marks made along the edges of pages in medieval manuscripts—called marginalia—are not just peripheral matters. “Both tell us huge amounts about a book’s history and the people who have contributed to it, from creation to the present day.”

Cool stuff.

Day One Now Prints Journals as Bound Books

Day One Now Prints Journals as Bound Books

This is cool news for journalers who like a blend of digital and analog. I don’t use Day One much anymore because I prefer a paper notebook, but if I did use it, I’d take advantage of this new best-of-both-worlds offering on at least an annual basis.

Of particular note is this bit on privacy:

All digital files are securely transferred to our printing facility. Printing is automated without any manual handling of the files. After printing is completed, your book is promptly packed, sealed, and shipped to your home. Any digital files used in the printing of your book are automatically deleted once this process is completed.

The hand-painted background scenes of the original Star Wars trilogy — Jason Kottke

The hand-painted background scenes of the original Star Wars trilogy — Jason Kottke

Back in the 70s and 80s, before photorealistic computer graphics became commonplace, elaborate background sets in movies were hand-painted. Sploid’s Jesus Diaz took at look at the background art featured in the original Star Wars trilogy and the artists who painted them.

These are cool.