Galen Leather Goods








I‘ve mentioned here before that I’m a big fan of leather. While there’s something to be said for the enjoying the naked beauty of well-designed tools and equipment, I can’t help but love leather phone cases, leather tablet sleeves, leather bags, and leather notebook covers.

Recently, the folks at Galen Leather sent me a few products to check out—specifically, their Hobonichi Techo cover, their five-slot pen case, and their three-slot pen case. I’ve been using the Techo cover and the five-slot pen case ever since, and my wife has been using the three-slot pen case (in stunning navy blue) as a wallet as well as a pen holder.

I must admit that, earlier this year, I stopped using my Techo. Until then, inspired by this site’s founder, Patrick, I’d been using the Hobonichi Techo as daily log, but a while back I put it on the shelf in favor of a return to daily long-form journaling (I just can’t seem maintain both habits at once). But, as tends to happen, the daily journaling eventually became, at worst, weekly journaling, and, at best, every-few-days journaling. The Galen Leather Techo cover, though, is a such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that I’ve returned to using my Techo every day.

I don’t have much to say about the five-slot pen case, except that it, too, is made of quality leather. It does its job, it also conveniently holds a pocket-sized notebook, like Field Notes, and it’s been a staple in my bag ever since I got it.

As for the three-slot pen case, I’ll let my wife tell you what she thinks:

Holding this leather is bliss. The smooth sophistication of the crisp leather and the simplicity of the design makes this pen case a joy to look at, and even better to use.

This case holds three pens inside, which is a lovely balance of functionality and design. Inside also sits a convenient little pocket. The minimal accoutrements of the case, with a zipper that sits flush against the grain, makes it easy to carry, handle, and store.

The design is so sleek and fashionable that the case can double as a wallet. The pocket inside can hold a number of cards, with a plastic sleeve for ID front and center. So far, after a few weeks of use, the leather has held up quite well, with little marring or scratching. I expect this leather to age beautifully.

I think that sums things up. If you like leather, Galen has our recommendation.

In Praise of the Humble Composition Book | Steve Best

In Praise of the Humble Composition Book | Steve Best

So it is that I return to my old friend the composition book. I like the fact that while they are made by a host of different manufacturers, most are essentially the same, and I must reiterate that for me, they really are the perfect size. . . . Since they are so popular, one can find them in just about any drug store, grocery store, or big box store. They are cheap in price, yet they are sturdy and durable. They are also infinitely customizable.

What we believe in.

The 19th Century Moral Panic Over . . . Paper Technology | Slate

The 19th Century Moral Panic Over . . . Paper Technology | Slate

Detractors delighted in linking “the volatile matter” of wood-pulp paper with the “volatile minds” of pulp readers. Londoner W. Coldwell wrote a three-part diatribe, “On Reading,” lamenting that “the noble art of printing” should be “pressed into this ignoble service.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge mourned how books, once revered as “religious oracles … degaded into culprits” as they became more widely available.

By the end of the century there was growing concern—especially among middle class parents—that these cheap, plentiful books were seducing children into a life of crime and violence. The books were even blamed for a handful of murders and suicides committed by young boys. Perpetrators of crimes whose misdoings were linked to their fondness for penny dreadfuls were often referred to in the newspapers as “victims” of the books.

Wild bit of history.

DNA of Long-Dead Cows Read from Pages of Medieval Books| New Scientist

DNA of Long-Dead Cows Read from Pages of Medieval Books| New Scientist

Seven years ago, Matthew Collins at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and his colleagues had the idea of applying state-of-the-art genetic analysis techniques to the animal skin pages of medieval documents.

“We realised all these dead cows have a date written on them,” he says. “We thought, ‘This is crazy, why aren’t we exploiting this’.”


How the creator behind the viral bullet journal turned his own life hack into a full-time business

How the creator behind the viral bullet journal turned his own life hack into a full-time business

Carroll emigrated to the United States from Vienna, Austria in the late 1990s, to attend college. At the time, he was solving a lot of his own organizational problems, including carrying too many notebooks.

“I wanted to figure out a way for me to be able to capture whatever I was thinking, however I was thinking it and still house it in a way that was organized and easily accessible.”

In Praise of Moleskines

By Johnny Gamber

I am writing to praise what’s become — to my mind — the humble Moleskine. The brand seems to be flourishing these days. There are always more licensed editions to buy, more planner options, more colors, more accessories. There is even a Moleskine café, and I will marry whomever whisks me away there. While I feel like Civilians are as into Moleskines as ever, within the fancy stationery community (and especially the stationery blogger community), Moleskine can be a dirty word. I might even be guilty of writing them off, but — for me — it all started with a Moleskine.

Despite being a borderline Moleskine fetishist when I created Pencil Revolution in 2005, my usage really dropped off in 2010 — when Moleskine became a brand of stuff, not a line of notebooks. I was turned off and discovered other brands of notebooks and journals: Field Notes, Paper Blanks, Word., Write Notepads & Co., and Baron Fig. I’ve come back for Moleskine’s planners since 2013 though, and I always travel to New York, Boston, Philly, and Washington DC with the City Notebooks I bought for each metropolis in the late 2000s.

I haven’t put The Big M down entirely.

While on vacation in Boston/Cambridge last month, I had other pocket notebooks in my very large suitcase. But I walked around all day with just my Moleskine Voyageur in my bag (really a diaper bag) and a tiny green Volant in my pocket. It was the best notebook to have handy, walking around and taking the subway with three kids in tow. As an added bonus, it was the perfect size for storing my Charlie card and my hotel keycard.

We recorded an episode of Erasable a while back in which we explored “small m” moleskin style notebooks. I can’t bear to listen to myself ramble and check out that episode, but I don’t remember being particularly kind to the brand. Still, maybe a year before that, I saw the Moleskine Voyageur in a shop somewhere and felt pulled in. It stirred me, since I had a trip or two to take.

About a year and a half ago, Ana from The Well-Appointed Desk wrote a post about Moleskines (which I have re-read a few times) called “Reconsidering Moleskine.” In it, she writes:

“I think whatever notebook makes you want to make marks, write your story, save your memories, doodle, scrawl, or write your grocery list, don’t feel guilty about it. If you love a Moleskine, use it. If you prefer an Italian embossed leather notebook purchased on the Bridge of Sighs, then use that. The best notebook is the one you have with you, no matter which one you choose.”

There’s just something about a Moleskine that seems to capture my imagination, and Moleskines followed Space Pens in being what pushed me into exploring nicer stationery just after my first year of graduate school in 2001-2002. I was accustomed to composition books and either gel pens or Write Bros. pens. They worked for me all through my undergrad years and my first year of graduate school.

The first time I ever saw a Moleskine, I was about to leave on a multi-day Amtrak journey from Boston to Houston (via Chicago and Longview) in the summer of 2002. I wandered into a Rand McNally store near Quincy Market, and I saw a few Moleskines. I read the one in the store that was open, and I thought that the space to fill in one’s address and reward was charming. I had just purchased (and started) a new journal and did not take home a Moleskine that day. Being a graduate student did not permit me to hoard notebooks yet. But that night, I did write my name, address, and a promised reward inside the front cover of my non-M book, with my precious Space Pen.

I bought my first Moleskine in January 2003 at Bob Slate in Cambridge, and it was for someone else, as a birthday gift. I bought two more squared books that month to use in taking notes for my MA comprehensive exam on the history of philosophy. My exams were oral; I’m painfully introverted. So I needed to over-prepare. Filling these books with a large chunk of the history of Western philosophy was great fun, hard work, dream-instilling (I had dreams of Hume and Kant for weeks; I kid you not), and I still have them.* I bought my first personal use Moleskine in February 2003 at Bob Slate’s Porter Square location and dug right in as the responses to my PhD program applications were coming in, and I felt particularly up-rooted.

I kept on using Moleskines, starting my first planner in April 2003, which made me feel like “a sort of organized dandy.” I wrote at the time. We used a “Japanese” notebook as the guestbook at my wedding in October 2003. I used Kraft Cahiers for notes while I wrote my dissertation in 2006-2007. I kept on using them in AmeriCorps and my short time working in higher education before my kids were born.

Pencil Revolution owes its existence, in part, to Moleskines. In early 2004, the fantastic Moleskinerie brought together a lot of like-minded folks. I had toyed with keeping a few blogs, but it was Moleskinerie that really inspired me to keep a personal blog from 2004-2013. And in addition to inspiring me to start Pencil Revolution in July 2005, Moleskinerie’s kind and supportive editor plugged it right away, and there was an overnight audience to spur on the posts.

Back in the days when I worked outside of the home, pulling out a Moleskine at a meeting was something on which to connect. I worked at faculty development and community engagement, out of the Provost’s office of a large, urban, public university. My job was, largely, to connect people. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t contribute to forming collaborations between individuals with whom I’d connected over our well-thumbed Moleskine books. I knew a certain Associate Provost who seemed to have a new soft-cover Moleskine every week, and I wondered what he wrote in them and whether he had his assistant stock them for him.

And yet, even as Moleskine notebooks became so ubiquitous, there were still people who had never seen one. I knew folks who thought that thinking so much about a notebook (or buying it oneself, rather than raiding the department supply cabinet) was the sign of a troubled mind. An AmeriCorps supervisor I knew was surprised that I wrote in mine; she just carried hers in her cavernous bag. Moleskines became a gift to give literary-minded friends, and I was ecstatic each time someone used one that I gave them and enjoyed it.

The issue I mainly find with Moleskines is the required suspended disbelief. They are touted as almost magical. They are just Chinese-made, Italian-designed, French-inspired collections of paper, thread, ribbon, plastic covers, and glue. But the form factor; the ease of carrying them; how they open so nicely on a table but how you can use them standing up; the cream pages and light grey lines; the pocket; the thing which says, “This is a serious utilitarian notebook; fill it up with good stuff!” — these make me want to Write, not just take notes or make lists. The sublimated ambition to try my hand at Writing that led me to study philosophy shows itself when I pick up a Moleskine. I know that the historical claims they used to make were bunk, and I kind of always knew that. But a Moleskine, das Ding an sich, draws me to it. And — in fancy stationery circles, where paper is expected to be fountain pen-friendly or come in a book made in a vintage factory in the Midwest — I sometimes feel the need to justify my affection for Moleskines.

They still fill my home. My daughter was given one with honeycombs on it by a very kind friend of ours, and she filled it up quickly, until it was literally ready to burst with all the ink and graphite and heart she put into it. I totally have both Harry Potter editions. I am using an 18-month planner right now, since I am in the position to need a planner again. I have a pocket black lined book I’ve written a page or two in, so that if I find myself needing or wanting a Moleskine, I’ve got one broken in and ready to go. I doubt I’ll ever let go of this form factor, not as long as these little books still capture my imagination

*Lest someone rag on ballpoint pens, I used a drying-out blue Space Pen refill and then USA-made Write Bros pens to fill these books. The ink and the paper are fine.

Johnny Gamber is a father of three children and one philosophy dissertation who lives and writes in Baltimore. Founder and editor of the web’s first pencil blog, Pencil Revolution, he is also one third of The Erasable Podcast. Johnny can often be found at Baltimore area coffeeshops and bakeries looking at pencils on Instagram.