Fabriano Secolo XIII (13th Century) Stationery Review

Fabriano Secolo XIII Paper (13th Century)

Fabriano Secolo XIII (13th Century) is a handmade 100% cotton paper that is supposedly produced using a 13th century “Fabrianese” paper making method, hence the name Secolo XIII.

This paper can be purchased from Fabriano’s US web boutique in a set of 50 sheets and 50 envelopes at a staggering (and oddly specific) price of $257.39.

Luckily I was in Italy a couple of weeks ago and passed by a Fabriano boutique which sold Secolo XIII in packages of 20 writing sheets.

In the store only the hugely expensive box set was displayed. I had to ask if it was possible to buy a smaller quantity. The shop attendant said yes and yelled some unintelligible Italian up a small stairwell behind the register and what seemed like an hour later a small package of Secolo XIII writing sheets arrived.  The shop attendant insisted on counting each sheet. I told him I was in a bit of a hurry and not to worry about it. The pack was supposed to have twenty sheets. The attendant counts “twenty one”; he starts over and gets twenty one for a second time and still surprised at the result counts a third time, “twenty one”. He removed one sheet and allowed me to pay and I ran out of there.

So how is Fabriano’s top-of-the-line paper? Well let’s start with the good.

Fabriano Secolo XIII Paper (13th Century)

The deckled edges are much nicer and much more consistent than the Amalfi paper’s.

Fabriano Secolo XIII Paper (13th Century)

The paper has a unique texture. If you hold it up to the light you can see that it is a laid paper but the texture isn’t actually ribbed, it has a more sporadic mould made texture like Fabriano’s bottom-of-the-line (but still wonderful) Medioevalis. The texture is finer than Medioevalis but rougher their than mid priced paper, Minerva (review to come).

Secolo XIII only comes in an ivory color (the Amalfi looks white by comparison).  It is quite an attractive looking paper.

Fabriano Secolo XIII Paper (13th Century)

The paper handles fountain pen ink well and like the Amalfi only the Pilot Hi Tec 1.0mm gel ink pen caused minor bleeding.

Slightly more noticeable ghosting than on the Amalfi but overall very good performance with fountain pen ink.
Slightly more noticeable ghosting than on the Amalfi but overall excellent performance with fountain pen ink.

Now for the bad:

Despite having a finer texture than the Medioevalis, Secolo XIII has a good deal more feedback with my pens.  It’s more resistance than I like.  Cotton usually isn’t as nice to write on as wood pulp paper and this seems be the case with Secolo XIII.

The paper feels…well, like paper.  It doesn’t have that special fabric-like hand that you get with Amalfi.  Secolo XIII reminds me of a Southworth Resume cotton paper I have.

Secolo XIII is thick and I cannot use a ruled guide sheet underneath it.

Lastly, the price…it’s more than twice as expensive as Amalfi and I don’t understand why.  Secolo XIII is beautiful looking but for a luxury paper it really isn’t that nice to write on…or touch for that matter.

Fabriano’s Minerva and Medioevalis papers are some of the nicest I have used and as such I had high expectations for Secolo XIII; ultimately I was disappointed.  Not only is it the worst paper to write on in Fabriano’s correspondence line, it’s also one of the most expensive plain writing papers on the market.  Secolo XIII is a hard pass for me.

Amatruda Amalfi Paper Review

Amatruda Amalfi Paper

Amatruda’s Amalfi paper is the most beautiful handmade paper I have used to date. It is a 100% cotton rag paper with a 100 lb weight (approximately 148 gsm). It is soft and in hand it drapes like a fabric. Needless to say this a very special paper.

Amatruda Amalfi Paper

Amatruda has been producing paper since 1390, making it one of the oldest paper mills in Europe. The Amalfi paper is a traditional handmade paper.

This paper comes in a various formats and colors and like most wonderful papers is annoyingly difficult to find in the United States. There are some good online retailers who sell this paper but the format and color options are quite limited.

Amatruda Amalfi Paper

I purchased a stationery set in the ivory color and it contains twenty A4 sheets and envelopes for $38. At this price it definitely will not be my everyday writing paper.

The sheets and envelopes have deckled edges though on the sheets I received the right edge seems to be a bit more deckled than the rest. I am not sure if this is a characteristic of the paper in general or of the batch I received.

Amatruda Amalfi Paper

The Amalfi Crest watermark is pressed into the paper making it much more visible than a normal watermark. It is very easy to feel with your finger but surprisingly I couldn’t feel it when writing over it.  This paper is also available with an angel watermark.

Amatruda Amalfi Paper

Amalfi has a nice texture to it and I found it provided pleasant feedback.

Amatruda Amalfi Paper

The only pen that I tested that bled was the Pilot Hi Tec Point 1.0mm gel pen. None of the fountain pens I tried including the 2.4mm Pilot Parallel bled.

Amatruda Amalfi Paper

I experienced no ghosting and none of the gel ink from the Hi Tec Point came through to the back of the page. I was also able to clearly see my ruled guide sheet underneath this paper, a nice bonus for a thick paper.

Amalfi is my favorite paper to date but I am not happy with the formats available in the USA. I have only been able to find the writing sheets sold in sets and I am too cheap to pay for the envelopes. If anyone knows of a place that sells only the sheets please let me know.

Later this week I will be reviewing another handmade cotton paper, Fabriano’s top-of-the-line Secolo XIII and will provide a comparison to the Amalfi; it will be a battle of the handmade paper titans…

Pilot “Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen” Stationery Review

Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen"

This is the first and only paper product I have tried from Pilot.  The cover accurately states that this is “Super Quality Paper For Fountain Pen”.  Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen"

The paper is considered “semi-B5” measuring 177 x 250 mm.  Each page only has fifteen grey lines making for a rather wide 12mm rule.  The paper is not lined on both sides.Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen"

The pad has 30 sheets and a one blotter sheet. The paper does not bleed or feather in my tests and is quite nice to write on.  The paper is on the thinner side and it’s weight is not specified but I suspect that it is somewhere around 70-80 gsm.  Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen"

There is some ghosting but you can easily write on both sides.Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen"

The matching envelopes come in a pack of ten and open on the short side.  They have a paper lining.Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen" The paper used in the pad and the envelopes is not watermarked.  I purchased these in Japan for about $7 USD for the set and at that price they are great as every day stationery.  I have seen this paper for sale in some stores in the USA at much higher price and for me, even though this paper is excellent, it doesn’t have enough character to justify a price much beyond $10 for the set.


Smythson MEGA Review Part 3 – 12 Writing Papers Reviewed!

Part 3

(Be sure you don’t miss Part 1 and Part 2)

Smythson Writing Papers

Out of all the Smythson writing papers my four favorites are the ones I find to be the most unique.

Out of all the 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 for it's beautiful watermark, and Mayfair White Linen and Blue Linen for their interesting finish. 

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.

Smythson Envelopes

To compliment the writing sheets Smythson makes matching envelopes.  Boxes of 25 (Kings size) go for $20.

Smythson Envelopes

The envelopes are made out of the same papers as the writing papers.

Smythson Marston Mill Envelopes

They are watermarked and are embossed with “SMYTHSON” along the flap closure.

Smythson Marston Mill Envelopes

The envelopes are unlined and have and adhesive that needs to be wetted.  I prefer self seal envelopes like the ones Clairefontaine makes.

Smythson Marston Mill Envelopes

I don’t care too much about having a matching envelope as they are expensive and usually discarded.

Buyer’s Guide

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.

Smythson MEGA Review Part 2 – 12 Writing Papers Reviewed!

Part 2

(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)

Smythson Marston Mill Thick

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.

Smythson Marston Mill Thick

Three Crowns (140 gsm / 37 lbs)

Smythson Three Crowns Paper

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.

Smythson Three Crowns Paper

The feathering doesn’t put me off of this paper as it’s unique color.

Smythson Three Crowns Paper

Despite the minor feathering there was no bleed through.

Bond Street Blue (115 gsm / 30 lbs)

Smythson Bond Street Blue Paper

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.

Smythson Writing papers

Bond Street Blue is a woven paper slightly heavier than White Wove.  Excellent performance all around no bleeding or feathering.

Smythson Bond Street Blue Paper

Blue Linen (105 gsm / 28 lbs)

Smythson Blue Linen Paper

Same finish as Mayfair White Linen but noticeably lighter in weight with the same feedback and feel.

Smythson Blue Linen Paper

No feathering or bleeding.  The color is identical to the Bond Street Blue.
Smythson Blue Linen Paper

Featherweight Blue (85 gsm)

Smythson Featherweight Paper

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”.

Featherweight watermark
The featherweight watermarks are spaced much closer together than the standard Smythson watermarks as this paper was designed for use with much smaller paper formats.

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.

Smythson Featherweight Paper

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)

Smythson Nile Blue Paper

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.

Smythson Nile Blue Paper

I will post Part 3 soon with a US Buyer’s guide and conclusion.


Smythson MEGA Review Part 1 – 12 Writing Papers Reviewed!

Smythson Writing Paper

Smythson of Bond Street is a stationery and luxury goods manufacturer that holds three proper Royal Warrants.

The print is quite small but left to right are UK warrants for the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Price of Wales
The print is quite small but left to right are UK warrants for the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales

Smythson’s focus these days appears to be on overpriced luxury leather products rather than the stationery that made them famous.

Smythson Writing papers

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.).

Smythson Writing papers

I will be reviewing twelve different Smythson writing papers in a two three part review.

Part 1

The first six for Part 1
The first six for Part 1

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).

Smythson Watermark

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)

Smythson White Wove

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.

Smythson White Wove

Cream Wove (140 gsm / 37 lbs)

Smythson Cream Wove
Shot alone my camera tries to make this paper look very white so please see the pictures with multiple papers above to get a better sense of the actual color.

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.

Smythson Cream Wove

Mayfair White Linen (135 gsm / 36 lbs)

Smythson Mayfair White Linen

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.

Smythson Mayfair White Linen

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.

Smythson Mayfair White Linen

 Mayfair Smooth White (135 gsm / 36 lbs)

Smythson Mayfair Smooth White

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.

Smythson Mayfair Smooth White

Ermine White Laid (115 gsm /30 lbs)

Smythson Ermine White Laid

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.

Smythson Ermine White Laid

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)

Smythson White Matt

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.

Smythson White Matt

Please stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3.

Fabriano Medioevalis Stationery Review

Fabriano Medioevalis Stationery

Fabriano is one of the oldest paper mills still operating in Europe and they produce a plethora of high quality papers.  Medioevalis is the most affordable line stationery in their “prestige correspondence” range and it is the only one that can be easily bought in the United States.

Medioevalis comes in two colors, a cream, and a white, as well as various paper weights.  There are numerous formats including ones specifically designed to be used with inkjet and laser printers.

The format I am reviewing is the A5 writing pad and envelopes.  The pad is in the cream color and contains twenty-five A5 size sheets and one blotting page.

Fabriano Medioevalis Stationery

The blotting page is a really nice feature that most stationery writing pads omit.

Fabriano Medioevalis Stationery

The mold made paper is 120 g/m² and has a hand torn deckled edged.  The sheets are “self-deckling” such that when removed the top edge has the same delicate deckled finish as the other edges.

Fabriano Medioevalis Stationery

Despite its textured finish this paper works very well with fountain pens.  There is a minimal but pleasant amount of feedback and being made out of a wood pulp it accepts fountain pen ink quite nicely.  The paper absorbs the fountain pen ink making for quick dry times.  In my test there was no bleed and very minimal ghosting a feathering.

Fabriano Medioevalis Stationery

This paper is not watermarked and the envelopes are unlined.

Fabriano Medioevalis Stationery

I prefer self adhesive envelopes but these ones close up just fine.

Fabriano Medioevalis Stationery

This have been one of my favorite papers for several years now.  The writing pad costs $9.50 and the envelopes are $10.99 for 25.  At less than 50 cents a sheet you can’t really go wrong with this paper.  I highly recommend it.

Fabriano Medioevalis Stationery
Medioevalis logo on the blotting page.


LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery Review

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery

The LIFE Airmail letter set (LIFE L1096 + E26) offers both retro styling and an affordable price.  I paid approximately $7 USD for the set which contains 10 “VIA AIR MAIL” envelopes and 50 sheets of onion skin paper.  Purchased individually the pad is $5 and the envelope is $2.

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery

For those not familiar with onion skin paper, it is a durable but thin transparent paper that resembles, you guessed it, the skin of an onion.

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery

I wouldn’t dare use a fountain pen on a standard tracing paper but this LIFE onion skin paper is of excellent quality.

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery


There is some very minor feathering with all of the fountain pens and the Pilot Hi-Tec Point gel pen but it is not enough to bother me.

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery

I experienced no bleed through as evidenced by this perfectly clean template I used for the writing sample.

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery

The guide sheet is double sided to accommodate different writing styles.

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery

Because this paper is transparent you aren’t likely going to want to write on both sides.

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery


The envelopes are my favorite part of the set.

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery


They look great.

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery

The envelopes feature self adhesive and have a security pattern on the inside which reads “TOKYO LIFE”.

LIFE Airmail Letter Set Stationery

Like all other LIFE products I have come across, the Airmail letter set is well executed and of a high quality.   I would have liked to see a blotter page in the pad but that is a small gripe.

Score from First Day in Tokyo

Itoyas famous red paper clip sign out their temporary store location.
Itoya’s famous red paper clip sign out their temporary store location.

I have been in Tokyo for a few days now and it is amazing.  This is pen lovers paradise.  There are so many pen shops, it is truly unbelievable.  The first day I stopped by Itoya’s two stores in Ginza.  One is dedicated to fountain pens and art supplies and the other is dedicated to stationery and office pens.  Both stores are 5 stories each and the selection is just incredible.

K. Itoya, the fountain pen shop.  This is the second floor dedicated to Maki-e pens and limited editions.  They had tons of Maki-e pens from Namiki, Danitrio, Nakaya, Pelikan, and even Parker.
K. Itoya, the fountain pen shop. This is the second floor dedicated to Maki-e pens and limited editions. They had tons of Maki-e pens from Namiki, Sailor, Platinum, Danitrio, Nakaya, Pelikan, and even Parker.

I was a bit overwhelmed my first day so I did not buy a ton but I did find the Midori World Meister’s note Vol. 2 that I was not able to source in the USA.

Itoya Score


Down the street from Itoya is Euro-Box, a tiny shop that specializes in vintage European fountain pens.  The stores owner Eizo Fujii speaks English quite well and let me dip any pen that caught my eye.  He had an amazing selection of vintage Montblancs and Pelikans.  I looked a few of the Soenneckens he had but I couldn’t stay for long because it was incredibly hot humid in the store.  I am going to try and go back before I leave Japan because he had some very nice Montblanc 146s from the 1950’s that I would like to take a closer look at.

The store is located on the 4th floor of this dilapidated building  in a posh part of town next to the high end furniture store, IDC Otsuka (if you love modern European furniture like I do, IDC is a must see;  they have a beautiful selection of de Sede, Rolf Benz, and Poltrona Frau).

[It looks much worse inside]
[It looks much worse inside than out]
I also stopped by Pilot Pen Station a few blocks from Euro-Box.  Pilot Pen Station is Pilot’s HQ in Tokyo.  It features a small fountain pen history museum and cafe.  It’s not a brilliant museum but admission is free so there is nothing I can complain about.

Pilot Pen Station


That’s all I have for now.  I have been to a few more shops since my first day and spent plenty of money but I am hoping to escape Japan with a few dollars left in my bank account, so far it isn’t looking good.