In this 4K video I review the Smythson Panama notebook. This luxury notebook features a lambskin cover and Smythson’s patented Featherweight Paper.
Out of all the Smythson writing papers my four favorites are the ones I find to be the most unique.
Three Crowns for it’s interesting but subtle color, Featherweight Blue for it’s beautiful watermark, and Mayfair White Linen and Blue Linen for their interesting finish. As I said at the begging of Part 1 all of Smythson’s papers are excellent and all are suitable for use with fountain pens.
To compliment the writing sheets Smythson makes matching envelopes. Boxes of 25 (Kings size) go for $20.
The envelopes are made out of the same papers as the writing papers.
They are watermarked and are embossed with “SMYTHSON” along the flap closure.
The envelopes are unlined and have and adhesive that needs to be wetted. I prefer self seal envelopes like the ones Clairefontaine makes.
I don’t care too much about having a matching envelope as they are expensive and usually discarded.
I thought I would end this third post with a Smythson buying guide designed for US customers. Buying most of these writing papers in the US is not that straight forward.
There are three ways to go about acquiring Smythson paper:
1. Purchase prepackaged writing sheets and envelopes domestically (via Smythson.com or the New York store)
This way is the easiest but the paper choices are limited. Online you will be able to buy four standard papers (White Laid, Cream Wove, Nile Blue, Bond Street Blue) in Quarto (8″ x10″) and Kings (6.25″ x 8″) paper sizes. Packs of 50 in the Kings size cost $15 and 25 Kings envelopes are $20. Shipping is from the UK via DHL at a cost of $15.
At the New York store they carry one additional paper seasonally called Park Avenue Pink. This store also carries all of Smythson’s standard sizes: Duke (5.5″ x 7″), Kings (6.25″ x 8″), Imperial (7″ x 9″), Quarto (8″ x10″).
2. Purchase directly from Smythson UK (not recommended)
To do this call Smythson’s 1-800 number and ask to talk to a UK representative at a retail store. You will be put through to either the Bond Street or Sloane Street store in London. They carry the full range of Smythson papers prepackaged and though the cost is comparable (or better with the current exchange rates) the shipping cost is prohibitive such that you need to order a good volume for it to be worthwhile.
3. Purchase through the US Bespoke department (recommended)
Call the New York store and ask to speak to the Bespoke department. Tell them you want to order plain stationery. They can order the full range of the Smythson line in any quantity. You could buy 5 sheets or 1,000 (price breaks start at 250).
50 sheets in a Kings size is $18 and 50 Imperial sheets is $23. For the $18 you pay those 50 sheets don’t all have to be one paper you could do 10 sheets of 5 different papers and the cost would be the same.
The other benefit of ordering through the Bespoke department is that shipping is free, so even if it’s an extra $3 for 50 sheets you save by not having to pay $15 for shipping.
Lastly, there are nonstandard Smythson papers that can be purchased bespoke through their Color Plan line. These papers are considered a proper custom order and as a result have a longer lead time and a much higher price. I have not had the opportunity to sample any of these papers.
(Be sure you don’t miss Part 1 and please stay tuned for Part 3, including a US buyer’s guide)
Marston Mill Thick (135 gsm / 36 lbs)
This is a thicker laid paper that is a light cream color with a touch of green in it. No bleed through no feathering and smooth on the back. Another excellent paper with a somewhat unusual color but it’s quite subtle.
Three Crowns (140 gsm / 37 lbs)
This is a woven light mint colored paper. Compared to its counterpart, Cream Wove, I noticed some mild feathering with some of my juicier pens.
The feathering doesn’t put me off of this paper as it’s unique color.
Despite the minor feathering there was no bleed through.
Bond Street Blue (115 gsm / 30 lbs)
There are four “standard” blues in Smythson’s line but Bond Street Blue is touted as their signature color. It is a very nice pale blue. Many luxury goods manufacturers have signature colors that are often denoted by their boxes: Hermes in orange, Cartier in dark red, Tiffany & Co. in robin’s egg blue, and Rolex in dark green, etc. Smythson boxes however are not Bond Street Blue they are the darker Nile Blue…oh well.
Bond Street Blue is a woven paper slightly heavier than White Wove. Excellent performance all around no bleeding or feathering.
Blue Linen (105 gsm / 28 lbs)
Same finish as Mayfair White Linen but noticeably lighter in weight with the same feedback and feel.
Featherweight Blue (85 gsm)
This is the paper that Smythson uses in their famous Panama diaries and in the majority of the organizers and books they sell. “Featherweight” paper is trademarked and even its unique watermark reads “REGISTERED”.
The reason for all the fuss is that Featherweight allows you to get lots of absorbent fountain-pen-friendly-pages into a diary with minimal bulk. This is less important when we are talking about loose sheets but it is a lovely paper even in loose leaf form.
The color is a pale blue slightly lighter than that of Bond Street Blue. I have noticed some color variation with this paper and when I asked Smythson about it they replied that because it is”handmade” there is variation between runs.
In my experience some batches will be a bit darker but it is always a pale blue. There is no bleeding no feathering. Compared to the heavier wove papers Featherweight has a smoother texture. It has a nice feel too it without getting crinkly like Tomoe River paper (though to be fair Tomoe is 52 gsm). For my purposes I prefer Featherweight because I can write on both sides where TR has a bad case of ghosting.
Nile Blue ( 100 gsm / 26 lbs)
Last but not least is Nile Blue (the color of the boxes). This is a laid paper in a much darker blue. Nile Blue is the lightest (in weight not color) of Smythson’s laid papers and despite this it performs as well as the thicker ones with no feathering and no bleed through. Because it is a darker paper you do start to lose the ink colors a bit. Out of all of the laid papers in Smythson’s line the ribbed texture is the most visually apparent with Nile Blue.
I will post Part 3 soon with a US Buyer’s guide and conclusion.
Smythson of Bond Street is a stationery and luxury goods manufacturer that holds three proper Royal Warrants.
Smythson’s focus these days appears to be on overpriced luxury leather products rather than the stationery that made them famous.
The good news is that Smythson still makes a lot of excellent papers. By my count there are fourteen different writing papers; that is far more than any of their competitors (namely the Wren Press, Dempsey & Caroll, and Crane & Co.).
I will be reviewing twelve different Smythson writing papers in a
two three part review.
Per my understanding Smythson papers are all made in the United Kingdom out of 100% wood pulp. The absence of cotton or linen makes these papers highly suitable for use with fountain pens.
Cotton and linen papers are generally considered superior to ones made out of wood because they can last much longer. If you are signing important documents that you expect to be around for 500+ years then cotton is the way to go. If you want to maximize the joy of writing with fountain pens wood papers are far superior (and with some care can last as long as 200 years).
All of Smythson’s papers carry the watermark shown below (with the exception of one special paper that I will cover in Part 2).
Because the paper is produced in a larger format than it is sold, most sheets do not have a complete watermark and this is especially true if you buy the Kings format that I prefer. Kings writing sheets are similar to A5 but are slightly taller and wider measuring W16 x H20.5 cm. Writing sheets are sold in packs of 50 for $15. All of the papers cost the same but most unfortunately most of them are not available in store or online. You will have to call Smythson and specifically request them ( I will discuss which ones these are later on).
Also it should be noted that the sheets I have used here (with the exception of the Featherweight paper) are from a personalized stationery sampler and as such have the name of the paper and weight engraved on the top left corner.
Lastly, before we jump into the individual reviews, I am sorry to say that all twelve of these papers are wonderful and there isn’t one I wouldn’t recommend. It is a bit anticlimactic to read through this two part post to learn that they are all excellent but it is what it.
White Wove (110 gsm / 29lbs)
This paper is lightly textured and handles fountain pen ink very nicely. Feedback on this paper is very minor; pens glide nicely over the surface even though it’s not glass smooth. Minimal feathering and almost not bleed through. The back is ever so slightly smoother than the front and you can write on both sides no problem.
Cream Wove (140 gsm / 37 lbs)
Similar texture as White Wove but thicker. To me the White Wove is a bit more elegant with a more delicate but sturdy feel. The performance is the same as White Wove though I so no bleed through at all.
Mayfair White Linen (135 gsm / 36 lbs)
This paper and the Mayfair Smooth White are the whitest papers in the Smythson line. Despite being called White Linen this paper is 100% wood pulp and as a result it works beautifully with fountain pen ink unlike most papers made out of real linen. The gorgeous linen texture provides more feedback than the other finishes but still works very nicely with my pens.
I do make an effort though to hold the page while writing as nibs can grab. This paper has no bleed through and no feathering that I can see. The back of the page is much smoother than the front and you can write on both sides of the paper.
Mayfair Smooth White (135 gsm / 36 lbs)
Same color and weight as Mayfair White Linen but with a smooth finish. It is smoother than Rhodia’s 80 gsm paper and comparable to Clairefontaine’s 90gsm. In other words, this is on par with the smoothest paper on I own. Performance is excellent. No bleeding nor any noticeable feathering. I highly recommend this paper for finer scratchier nibs.
Ermine White Laid (115 gsm /30 lbs)
This paper is the most off white of the papers that Smythson calls “white”. Laid paper has a ribbed texture to it and is an older form of paper making. In most mills laid paper was superseded by wove paper. This paper is smooth on the back but you can write on both sides. This paper does not feather but because of the ribbed texture lines may look slightly less clean.
I saw no bleed through on this paper and overall it is the best performing laid paper I have ever owned. If you want to see what bad laid paper looks like see my review of Original Crown Mill’s laid paper.
White Matt (150 gsm / 39 lbs)
This is simply a heavier version of White Wove. The finish and color is exactly the same. I saw no bleed through once so ever on this paper where the White Wove had the slightest signs of spotting. This is a nice paper but I prefer the lighter White Wove.
Please stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3.
I have been hearing about this supernatural Tomoe River paper for a while but I could not find it in a format that I liked. Through The Fountain Pen Network I saw that is was available in notebook form from PaperForFountainPens.com (no affiliation).
Tomoe River paper is ultra light weight at 52 gsm with a very smooth texture. This paper has been getting a lot of praise in the fountain pen community for its ability to handle fountain pen ink. I have been playing with this paper the last few days and it is amazing. There is virtually no bleed through. With some abuse I did get it to bleed in one spot. I used my Rohrer & Klinger glass dip pen without removing the excess ink first and the only point of bleed through is where the bottom of the “g” made contact with the “a” in “Scabiosa”. The wettest letter though is the first “R” in “Rohrer” which had zero bleed through. There is no feathering to mention and ink looks beautiful on this paper. The paper is fragile and easily crinkles; to me this is just part of the charm of the paper. Dry times are comparable to Rhodia and Clairefontaine papers.
I did abuse the paper a bit more. I tried a drop Noodler’s Qin Shi Huang on the paper. There was no bleed through for about the first hour. Here is the result after 3 hours:
The results are very impressive. I let the ink sit overnight and the ink finally bled through all the way. The ink did not spread at all and if you use the widest and juiciest of pens with blotter paper you should experience no bleed. This is an excellent paper for fountain pens.
The notebook contains 320 cream colored pages (160 leaves) that measure 4.9″ x 8″. There is ghosting so I only like to write on one side. It is worth noting that because this paper is so thin you will get ghosting even with a pencil. The notebook is nicely made and lays pretty flat. I am really happy with these notebooks and plan to use them as my primary journal. The price per notebook varies based on how many you order: 1 for $29, 2 for $53 ($26.50 each), and 3 for $75 ($25 each).
The only paper I can compare to the Tomoe River is Smythson’s Featherweight 50 gsm paper. Smythson’s paper handles fountain pen ink just as well but costs an absolute fortune. Think $29 is a lot for a notebook? A 5.5″ x 7.5″ Smythson notebook with 192 leaves (not refillable) costs £135 (approx. $220 USD)! To by fair, Smythson notebooks have beautiful leather covers, blue paper with gilt edges and three real ROYAL WARRANTS. Having been gifted a Smythson’s Panama diary a few years ago I can say that they are easily the nicest notebooks (calendar) I have ever used but for almost 1/10th the price of a Smythson, the Paper For Fountain Pens Tomoe River notebook is a fantastic value. I haven’t been this happy with a notebook in a long time. I highly recommend giving one a try.
Here are some great reviews of Tomoe River paper:
(I have no affiliation to the sites linked below)