Black n' Red Notebook Review

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The Black n’ Red notebook line from Hamelin, which is a part of Oxford, is a simple, no-frills book that delivers decent quality at an outstanding price.

I’ve had a Black n’ Red notebook in my possession since 2009. I think I bought the first one at Target. This was a time before I was a Registered Pen Addict (RPA) and didn’t know or care about paper quality. I thought it looked unique, so I bought it. I still think the notebook look unique, and I’m attracted to the simple black and red design. It’s the composition notebook of the Moleskine class, if you will.

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The Black n’ Red notebook I have is pretty average. It’s an A5 sized notebook with 96 pages (192 sheets) of white, lined paper. The lines are gray, which is awesome, and they’re about 7.5mm apart. This is perfect for my handwriting, which is on the medium to large side. In American terms, this spacing size is very similar to college ruled paper.

A nice feature of the paper is the 24 lb weight, which contributes to the nice feel and accommodating behavior toward all sorts of pen inks.

The front cover contains a calendar and dates table, and a table of contents on the first page. The back cover has a US map and a few of the more popular public transit maps. I’ll be honest, I’ve never referred to the maps, but they’re interesting to look at.

According to the Black n’ Red site, the notebook is “casebound.” This is my first time to stumble across this term, and I wasn’t really sure what it meant. A little research led me to this definition: “bound by gluing sewn sheets into a separately made cover.” So, very similar to lots of other hardcover notebooks.

The hard cover is very unique because of the color scheme. The front and back are black with a heavy texture, and the spine is red. There’s also a small red ribbon for holding a place in the notebook, naturally.

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Feel and Performance

The paper is smooth and quiet. Every pen I’ve tried with this notebook glides with ease and hardly makes a noise. It took me a while to notice, but some papers are noisier than others. I like the quiet nature of this paper.

Bleeding and show-through are almost non-existent. Of course, the ink will vary. You can see in my samples that the paper does a great job of preserving the lines.

A major downside for this paper is the dry time. Since the paper is thick and not super absorbant, it takes a while to dry. For me, this means I have to wait a few minutes before closing the book if I want to avoid getting ink spots on the opposite page. For left-handed writers, I’m sure this is a much larger issue. I would expect lots of smearing and smudges.

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Another general comment I have repeatedly had about this notebook is it is very stubborn about laying flat. It requires a heavy hand to keep the pages down and the notebook flat. It won’t entirely close on itself, but it tries. The good news is that even though I have to apply some “tough love” to the binding, it doesn’t really show any signs of wear. It’s resilient, and that’s great.

Overall, this is a great general notebook. It’s not the best out there, and it can hardly shake a stick at a Rhodia book, but I can also buy 3 of these for the same price. They also offer a larger A4 version as well as spiral bound versions.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and

Posted on January 27, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Black n' Red.