Moleskine Surprise


When it comes to journals, Moleskine has set the standard for form. Sturdy, but lays flat. Natural white paper. Ribbon marker. Elastic band and rear pocket. The size is just right in the hand. But in recent times, the paper has left much to be desired when it comes to fountain pen ink.

When I started using Moleskine some twelve years ago, my pens were quite happy with it and the few inks I owned would cozy up to the paper and leave marks with clean outlines. Extra-fine and fine nibs were perfect, especially a vintage Parker 51 fine-medium that was the pen I carried everywhere.

Skip forward a few years and the paper quality suffered. Spidery feathers bloomed from every letter and blobs of ink showed through on the backs of pages making them worthless. One-sided writing cut the value of the pricey journals by half. Moleskine betrayed my trust and I swore off for good.

To be fair, paper sources can change over time and being ever hopeful that the company had come to its senses, I tucked a squared notebook into a recent Amazon order. The wrapper says “Mix. Paper from responsible sources.” What does that mean? It also says the notebook was manufactured in China. Lots of paper comes from China, but most of it isn’t fountain pen friendly. Hoping to be surprised, I put the Moleskine to the test.

Every instrument except the fountain pens worked well enough that both sides of the paper were useful. Clean outlines and almost no feathering with only very faint ghosting from the Sharpie Pen and the Pentel Touch make the Moleskine an excellent choice.

The scan shows a new Moleskine at the upper left with a Rhodia notebook to the right. The bottom two are Moleskine journals purchased several years ago. The recent Moleskine has paper that is more white than in the past which is another indication that the paper is from a different batch.

Fountain pen ink produced mixed results. To the good, feathering has been reduced. Not gone entirely, but spidery offshoots did not happen. That is a significant improvement over the Moleskine journals I last purchased. Outlines are less jagged though under magnification still imperfect with some inks. It isn’t Rhodia quality, but it will do.

Bleed-through on the reverse proved frustrating, but ink and nib width made a difference. Noodler’s Black in a fine nib was perfect. Sailor Peach Pink did not bleed even from a Platinum #3776 Music Nib. J. Herbin Bleu Azure from a Platinum Century B Nib left only a couple of dots. Other inks in wide nibs left so many spots that the reverse was unusable at least by my standards. However, a dry nib or an extra-fine to fine nib should have less trouble. The narrow nib for many users will be more suitable for the size of the journal and the 5 mm grid spacing anyway.

The bottom line is Moleskine has improved the quality of its paper at least in the grid notebook I tested. Some pen and ink duos will work beautifully on both sides of the paper. If you only write on one side, use any pen and ink. With the feathering reduced, Moleskine is no longer off my list. Is it time to put it on yours?





  1. Interesting that Moleskine seem to have upped their game in the paper stakes, but there are too many other interesting notebooks out there to try before I go back to thinking about Moleskine!


  2. I bought my last Moleskine NB in 2011. I found the quality of the paper has deteriorated to significantly for fountain pen use that I switched to Rhodia’s. I’ve been very satisfied with Rhodia’s since then.
    Your analysis implies Moleskine paper quality may have improved over time, but I really have no reason to switch aback. There may be a price differential between the two, but I’m kinda elastic with respect to price in that I’ll pay for quality.


  3. I’m happy with my Rhodia notebooks and QuoVadis journals which show no bleed through with any pens/inks in my collection. Certainly Moleskine products are popular but the quality isn’t that good considering the price here in France


  4. I did a recent test as well and had similar improvements in results too. While I know lots of folks have switched to other brands and are steadfast now, for me, this makes it easier to either recommend Moleskines for folks starting out since they are so ubiquitous or more comfortable grabbing one in a pinch knowing I won’t be completely disappointed. I’m glad that Moleskine improved the paper, whether they heard our complaints or not.


    • Ana, did you find that bleed-through with fountain pen ink was still significant? Moleskine was a specialty item when I purchased my first one, but as you say, it is now ubiquitous. Amazingly successful marketing especially given the quality of the paper and the negative reviews. My mechanical pencil loves it regardless so my mistakes never go to waste.


  5. I have three notebooks* I picked up from Daiso ($1.50 per every item forever) and none of them have even any *show through*, even with a Pilot Parallel laying 3.8mm of Iroshizuku. I’m entirely too spoiled by Japanese paper ::x


    • That’s a great deal, Kelvin! Good to know you had an even better experience than I did. Are your notebooks lined, plain or grid?


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