Monday, October 20, 2008

Review: Italian Cartesio Journal

Red Moleskine, Cartesio Journal and Lamy Studio Fountain Pen

Cartesio and Moleskine

The large Cartesio is the same size as a large Moleskine. (Note: the Barnes & Noble Red Moleskines have fewer pages than the regular black ones.)

Cartesio has a ribbon bookmark.

Cartesio Journal with Lamy Studio

Available in orange or black. Textured and ecological bonded leather.

From The Journal Shop "The notebooks have cream ruled paper (which is acid-free archival quality stock that takes fountain pen and ink beautifully) and are available in pocket 9x14cm and large 13x21cm sizes."

Cartesio Journal

Rounded cover, rounded pages. Rounded elastic band. Rounded edges allow for less damage to the book from repeatedly pulling it in and out of a purse or backpack.

Cartesio Journal

Cover is grooved, and the elastic band holds the book tightly closed with less chance of it slipping off in my bag like my Moleskine often does.

Cartesio Journal

A small raised emblem on the front cover designates the brand.

Cartesio Journal

Rear stamped logo "Tempo"

Cartesio Journal

Cover is a stiff recycled leather - and though not a hardcover, it's stiff enough that I can use it to write with it propped on my knee.

There is not a strong odor of leather with this cover.

Cartesio Journal

Cartesio Journal

The book lies "flat enough" for me, but not as dead flat as the Moleskines's do. Mid-weight pages are a creamy ivory. Signatures are sewn, not glued.

Cantesio Journal

See? Flat.

Cantesio Journal

Odd rear pocket. It's connected on the left, but it's left free to slide up and down the elastic on the right. I'm not sure I understand the purpose of that. Perhaps by being able to life the pocket away from the book, it's easier to get into?

Cartesio Fountain Pen Ink Test

Multiple fountain pen inks tested in various pens with various nib widths. No feathering, spreading, showthrough or bleeding at all.(See additional comments about this below - other people have had varying results.)

I did notice, that inks do not dry ultra quickly on this paper. It's not a shiny paper, and it actually has a small bit of tooth, (in a good way)

In the large Cartesio journal, the lines are ruled wider than in the large Moleskine. Cartesio lines are 8mm wide, versus Moleskines 6mm. 26 lines to the page versus Moleskines 30, but the Cartesio doesn't have the wide ruled top margin like the Moleskine.

I'm not crazy about the wide ruling, but because of all the other great features surrounding this journal, I think I'd be willing to overlook it.

Cartesio Fountain Pen Ink Test

Yes, you are seeing correctly. NO BLEEDING from ANY fountain inks. (Once again, see additional comments below.)

Cartesio Marker & Watercolor Test

Cartesio tested with various markers - as usual, Sharpie & Staedtler bled, but not as bad as in other journals. (I'm not even sure why I keep testing them, because journal paper is never thick enough for them)

I was surprised that the Japanese brush pen didn't bleed at all, because it's a highly pigmented pen that usually bleeds.

Artist grade watercolor test came out pretty darn well. Paints went down well on the paper, blended well, and didn't buckle the paper too badly.

Cartesio Journal Review

In all, the Cartesio is by far, one of the best journals I've yet to encounter. I wish it had a harder cover and that the lines were ruled smaller, but I can definitely say that YES, I would buy these and I do recommend it.

Unfortunately, it's availability in the US is severely limited. I could find no US retailers carrying it - so if you know of one, please let me know.

In the UK, I found The Journal Shop and though their inventory on the Cartesio's looks a little thin right now, I just received an e-mail from Alex at the Journal Shop that states, "After a very long wait indeed, we have now confirmed that our delivery is on its way to us from Italy and will be here in 7-10 days or so. We've ordered plenty..."

***11/29/08 Edited to add: Someone just contacted me that bought the Cartesio. She showed me pictures of how hers feathered pretty badly and also bled. I had written on about 7 pages of that book with no bleeding. I just whipped out my wettest three: .07 CI (Midnight Blues) M Sapporo (Imperial Purple) and .05 CI (Noodler's Red-Black) and wrote a few lines on that 7th page. Still no bleeding, there were only two small dots where the Midnight Blues tried to push through, but checking with a magnifying glass, I'm seeing at least a small amount of feathering with all three, the Midnight Blues in the .07 CI being the worst.

*** 11/26/10 Edited to add: Just heard word from someone else who is having bad feathering issues with fountain pen inks on this paper. (See the comments section below)  I would suggest purchasing at your own risk. 

See a previous review for the Cartesio on the Black Cover blog.


Win3XP said...

Dear Ms. Beans: A splendid review, as always. I might just be willing to ship from the UK, especially as the 3 for 2 program you mention might just be good enough to make it worthwhile. Meanwhile, thanks for the splendid pix and the apparent ease with which you write. It's always a pleasure to read your reviews.



Speedmaster said...

VERY nice indeed! I like the color and texture of the cover too. ;-)

Biffybeans said...

Thank you WInX3P! I appreciate your comments.

Thanks Speedmaster! I tend to like black & red covers - but the orange (Rhodia orange) is ok too.

inkophile said...

Great review, Ms. Beans! Lots of detail and writing samples. Orange is such a cheerful color. I'm happy to use it over red. In fact I'm looking at a terra cotta roof in bright sunlight and the cover matches perfectly. Love it!

Robert M. said...

I just thought I'd mention that I ordered 3 of the small Cartesios from the UK and found that all 3 of them had very coarse paper that bled and feathered pretty badly with everything I used (even my low-viscosity gels that never feather), and the paper didn't even feel good under my smoothest pencils. Perhaps the large version uses a more agreeable paper, or there have been some funky batches...

I ended up giving away 2 of them, hoping someone would love them more than I could...I thought the Moleskine was bad at times for feathering and bleeding, and the little Cartesios just gave me newfound appreciation for the Moleskine. Loved the cover texture though. Maybe I'll rip out the awful paper (it reminds me of the brown paper towels dispensed in high school bathrooms in terms of texture), and glue in paper? Bah!

Ontheroad said...

S - you probably already know but in a search for something I re-discovered the Cartesio review and wanted to share that a US distributor or seller exists these days:


Cynthia said...

The Cartesio ruled journals are in stock and available in the US from The Cartesio planners will be in stock by the end of the summer.

Christopher Humphries said...

Seems they only have the small ones. There is someone that sells big ones on eBay if you do a search for Cartesio.

Christopher Humphries said...

I just got mine today and it bled and feathered. I am definitely disappointed. I did tests on the first ruled page.

Cynthia said...

The large Cartesio ruled journals are in stock at If you can't find them, please email me at

Katu from FPN said...

I just found this review, and after reading through it, I decided that this journal would be the one to replace my current Paperblanks, which is just about out of blank paper. I decided to try and find a US retailer, and I was able to find, where the large journals are just about $21, plus shipping. However, if you order 3 at once, they are $18.99 apiece.

Thanks for the splendid review!
- Eric

Anonymous said...

I wish I could agree with this good review of yours. Like many others who commented, my Cartesio has coarse paper that definitely feathers with everything else except my F Pelikan (which is finer than my M Sapporo), and Herbin inks.

I must say I'm so tired of inconsistencies in paper quality in journals. European Habanas, Moleskines, and now Cartesios. It seems you never know what you get until you get it! It's such a shame.

If I had non-FP using friends who journaled, I could give my bad luck purchases to them, but as I don't, they just end up filling my drawers...

LuLu said...

Outstanding review - thank you!

I'm celebrating my 1st year blogoversary and would love for you to stop by to participate in the give-a-way!

blog hop #111

Sarah said...

I love reading your review, BiffyBeans, they're excellent.
I just bought a small Cartesio Journal to use as my pocket planner, and it has got to have the worst paper I've ever come across.
Fountain pens spread and bleed terribly. There's even too much show through for my liking with gel pens.
It looks as thpough I'm stuck using ballpoints!
My paper looks more yellowy than in the photos of yours, though I'm neutral on the colour.
Maybe it's just the smal sized books that have the horrible paper?
Or maybe they've changed the paper since you got yours?

Biffybeans said...

Please note that with all of your comments, I have altered the review above to reflect all of your comments on the Cartesio paper bleeding & feathering with the water based fountain pen inks.

Zosia said...

hi! I really want a journal/notebook that I can use to write my thoughts in, and sketch in too, and paint/stick things in - like a scrapbook. i guess i need something that has thick-enough paper to hold paint and glue as well as ink, maybe even watercolour paper thickness?

the real hardship i am finding is that i cannot find ANYWHERE that sells a notebook with adjacent pages ruled and blank (so, say the left-hand page ruled and then the right side blank so that i can sketch beside my notes).

any ideas where i could find something like this? i don't understand why i can't find this anywhere - i'm about to just buy a sketchbook and rule my own lines in out of desperation!

thanks! - desperate London English Lit. student :)

Biffybeans said...

Zosia - why not pick an adequate sketchbook and then grab something like one of the Block Rhodia lined pads in a matching size... sketch where you want and then paste in a page for your notes. OR you can just do as I do and both write/draw on blank pages. :o)

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