It’s remarkable that it has taken so long for a hardbound notebook with Tomoe River paper to become widely available. I have passed on all other notebooks with Tomoe River paper because they had soft covers and/or were super thick. Finally, the Endless Recorder takes a different approach. The question is, was it worth the wait?
The Endless Recorder is an A5, hardbound notebook containing 192 pages of 68 gsm Tomoe River paper. The design follows the popular Moleskine (aka the paper that shall not be mentioned to fountain pen users), with rounded corners, an elastic enclosure band, a ribbon bookmark, and an expandable pocket for ephemera in the back. The notebook is designed and manufactured in India by Endless Works.
Given the use of Tomoe River paper, the notebook is clearly intended for use with fountain pens. It’s of particular interest to people who enjoy sheening and shading inks. The paper is also good with rollerball pens because they use liquid ink.
Many art journalers like this paper. Although the relatively thin paper will go wavy with any wet medium, it’s a joy to use with most pens and even light watercolours. There is no need to gesso the pages because the paper does not bleed through or pill when drawing or writing on already wet areas. There may be exceptions, but I haven’t encountered any yet. The paper was discovered by art journalers first inside the Hobonichi Journals. Search the web and Instagram. I found a few thousand Instagram posts of art journals created on this paper.
What about pencils? This smooth paper likes a soft pencil. Japanese pencils with their softer cores and darker graphite work very well. I would recommend a 2B. Pebble Stationery’s pencil was designed to work on Tomoe River paper for their own notebooks. A Blackwing 602, or a Tombow Mono 100 2B-4B feel nice to write with on Tomoe River paper. Art journalers also use coloured pencils on this paper.
It is only since 2016-2018 that notebooks with Tomoe River paper have become widely available. When demand for these notebooks began, most were single signature pocket notebooks made by small binderies. They were often sold on Etsy or made in small batches for individual retailers. Nanami in the US began producing very thick multi-signature notebooks with Tomoe River paper, and Hippo Noto in Hawaii made a thick A5. Taroko Design was one of the first, but they were softcovers and too thick for my liking. GLP Creations in the UK then produced a slimmer, 192 page, A5, Tomoe River notebook with a soft leatherette cover. At last, a slim Tomoe River notebook. I was really tempted. A slim, softcover A5 notebook, would bend too much since I often don’t write at a desk, or with any firm surface under the notebook. I need to quickly grab a notebook, away from a desk, and start writing before the thoughts have gone.
So far, softcovers have been used for Tomoe River paper notebooks. I guess it was to take advantage of the thin paper and get a greater number of pages in the notebook, without adding much to the weight. It also reduced the cost of the price per page which some manufacturers emphasised.
The thick notebooks just didn’t appeal to me. I don’tlike notebooks that can function as doorstoppers. It’s very uncomfortable and awkward to write when your hand is hovering above, or resting on, the sharp edge of a thick notebook.
I believe it was worth the wait for a slim, hardback notebook with Tomoe River paper. The Endless Recorder notebook delivers in quality of materials, binding, and finish. In my opinion, the overall build quality and finish exceed Leuchtturm 1917. The cover and binding feel as one. Unlike most other hardcover notebooks which although sturdy, feel like the cover is a casing, an armour, around the binding. Those have more “wiggle”. The endless recorder does not feel like the cover is separate. It’s difficult to explain and something you can only tell holding it in hand. The notebook opens flat and doesn’t require more than smoothing down the centre with one hand. The elastic enclosure and inside pocket are well finished. Some notebooks have bookmark ribbons that fray where it was cut because they were not singed (treated very briefly with a flame). The ribbon has been singed, but it is a thin, silky fabric. It’s not robust enough to withstand everyday use. Mine already has creases, which could lead to fraying. The bookmark ribbon has picked up ink marks because it is flimsy and easily curls across pages instead of dropping into the centre seam of the notebook as ribbons with heavier fabric do. This has not happened with a Leuchtturm notebook I have been using for several years. The ribbon should be improved. It is the only flaw I have found in the Endless Recorder.
The Endless Recorder is available in four colours, with contrasting with enclosure band and bookmark ribbon in a contrasting lighter shade of the same colour. There are three page layouts. The lined and dotted versions have an index and page numbers, in later editions. The plain is completely blank, without index or page numbers. A guide sheet is included with the plain version and the lines are spaced 7 mm apart, while the graph is an uncommon 7mm square. The guide sheet works well because of the thin Tomoe River paper.
Endless Works’ branding is very subtle. There is a logo embossed into the leatherette on the front, at the bottom, and the Endless wordmark embossed on the reverse, at the bottom. They are hardly noticeable. The inside has the logo printed once, but no further branding. Unless you want to count the patterns of grey circles, covering both end sheets, as branding. This kind of subtle approach is definitely something I have heard commended by most notebook users who do not want branding flashed at them every time they pick up their notebook. They know who makes it and will buy it again if they like it.
There is also a bonus accessory. A cotton drawstring bag which has enough room for the notebook and a few other utensils. This is probably quite useful if you are carrying your notebook around in a bag or backpack and want to prevent scratches or dents.
Tomoe River paper can take longer to dry than other papers, depending on the individual ink. This is due to its amazing abilities to show off sheen and shading better than any other paper. If you want sheen to develop, you need to leave the ink wet on the page for it to develop. It’s only necessary though with thick nibs and wet inks.
When you are taking quick notes and need to turn the page, or close the notebook, then you need to use a fast drying ink and/or a finer nib. An alternative is to use blotting paper. It’s a good option when you are writing fast. Just keep in mind that you can’t have it both ways. Either you apply a lot of ink and let it air-dry to let sheening inks develop, or you write fast and blot. It’s one or the other.
The increased drying times are particularly relevant if you are a left-handed writer who does not over-write or under-write. Those are both ways to turn your wrist up or down to avoid smudging the wet ink with the side of your hand. Unless you are writing a language written right-to-left, then the smudging applies to right-handed writers instead. For those writers, it’s advisable to use a fine nib and a fast drying ink with this notebook. Ask around the fountain pen community for suggestions. There are plenty of friendly people (yes, on the internet) with lots of experience. However, for some people Tomoe River paper just might not work out.
The Endless Recorder is exactly the Tomoe River paper notebook I had hoped for. I would have been pleased with the same high level of build quality and finish as Leuchtturm and 52 gsm Tomoe River paper. Endless Works have exceeded my expectations by going beyond Leuchtturm and most other manufacturers in the choice of materials and binding. Plus, they used the 68 gsm Tomoe River paper which has less show-through than the 52 gsm paper. The only flaw is in the ribbon fabric, which looks pretty and feels silky, but just isn’t well suited to everyday notebook use. This will hopefully be improved in the next batch.
Overall, the Endless Recorder is a fabulous notebook if you are looking for Tomoe River paper in A5 hardback. Neil Gaiman joked on the Tim Ferriss podcast that Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks were the Porsche of Moleskines. I am awarding that title to the Endless Recorder, despite the need for a few improvements.
Purchased June 2019 with own money.
I will update this post if any issues arise, and if the notebook is improved.
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USA: Goulet Pens
UK: Stationery Scotland eBay shop
Romania: Pen Venture (Italian pen specialist)
India: Endless Works