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Life Co. (Japan) - "Vincent" Notebooks


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#1 Phthalo

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 02:02

LIFE CO. (Japan) – "VINCENT" Wirebound Lined Notebooks

Introduction

This week, I became the lucky recipient of two "Vincent" notebooks, a gift from the lovely and generous chibimie, who picked them up in Japan last month! smile.gif These notebooks are produced by the Japanese stationery company Life Corporation / Life Co. Ltd.

I instantly liked the trendy Vincent notebook, and soon discovered that in addition to the clean design, high sheet count and quality construction, they also contain one of the nicest papers I have used.

This review discusses the two Life Vincent items shown below:
- Black Vincent Note Book, A5, 100 sheets
- Blue Vincent Note Pad, B6, 100 sheets.


(Vincent Black A5, Vincent Blue B6.)

Notebook Design

The Vincent range consists of sturdy double-wire bound notebooks in varying sizes (A4, A5, B6, A6 and A7 etc). The cardboard covers are about 1.5mm thick, with a semi-matte finish and are available in several solid colors. Generally, the portrait notebooks seem to contain pale cream-yellow paper with an 8mm ruling, while the landscape notebooks have blank pages.

I normally favor A5 notebooks for composing letters and general notes at home, but the sheer cuteness and compact size of the my little blue Vincent B6 Note Pad has earned it a prime position on my desk. wink.gif

Paper Characteristics

The Vincent notebooks have superb paper, with a cute quirk: the paper is a pale cream-yellow color called "Chou Cream", in reference to chou creams (cream puffs - one of Japan’s most popular sweet treats). Distracting thoughts of these delicious baked goods aside… Chou Cream is very fine paper indeed - incredibly smooth with near-perfect ink behavior.

The line rulings are printed in a reader-friendly middle blue color, which makes for a pleasant contrast with the pale cream-yellow, and the combination is also very easy on the eyes.


(Top: Clairefontaine Classic White. Bottom: Life Vincent Chou Cream)

Similar Product Comparisons

1. Comparison: Life Vincent N85E and Clairefontaine Classic 8546.

Life VincentClairefontaine Classic
Size:A5, 148 x 210mm (6 x 8¼")A5, 148 x 210mm (6 x 8¼")
Binding:Thick double-wireRegular double-wire
Cover:Thick semi-matte card Thin glossy card
Sheets:100 (200 pages)90 (180 pages)
Paper Color: Pale cream-yellowBright white
Paper Weight:90 g/m² (24lb)90 g/m² (24lb)
Ruling:8mm, very fine, mid blue, solid8mm, fine, light purple, solid
Visual Opacity:High, faint show-throughHigh, faint show-through
Surface Finish:Ultra smoothUltra smooth

(The features of these two notebooks allow for a direct comparison.)

In this comparison, I feel that Life delivers a higher-quality product than Clairefontaine. The Vincent notebook feels sturdy and strong, with the thicker covers providing better support and protection. The thicker wire used on the Vincent notebook also contributes to this feeling of sturdiness, as do the square binding holes which are smaller and allow for less movement of the cover.

Life also has the edge here regarding the paper. While I do prefer white paper in general, the Chou Cream paper used in the Vincent notebooks is more of a neutral pale cream-yellow color, and less obtrusive than some papers you will find (like Crane & Co. Ecruwhite, which is a much warmer, stronger cream-yellow).

In regard to ink behavior, Life again has the edge. The right-hand side or front of each Vincent page handles ink slightly better than the left-hand side or back of each page. This was also true for Clairefontaine, which surprisingly has very different results between pens and inks depending on which page side is used! The following summarizes my problem ink findings (note the use of "spread" vs. "feather"):

Life Vincent Clairefontaine Classic
Private Reserve Shoreline GoldVery slight spread on front. Very slight feathering on back.Slight spread on front. Slight feathering on back.
Rohrer & Klingner SmaragdgrünNo spread on front. Very slight spread on back.Slight spread on front. Considerable feathering on back.
Rohrer & Klingner MorindaNo spread on front. No spread on back.No spread on front. Very slight spread on back.
J. Herbin Vert OliveSlight spread on front. Noticeable feathering on back.Slight spread on front. Considerable feathering on back.

In this comparison, I prefer Life Vincent over Clairefontaine Classic due to the superior ink handling and more durable overall construction.

2. Comparison: Life Vincent N85E and Maruman Mnemosyne N195.

Life VincentMaruman Mnemosyne
Size:A5, 148 x 210mm (6 x 8¼")A5, 148 x 210mm (6 x 8¼")
Binding:Thick double-wireRegular double-wire, black
Cover:Thick semi-matte cardThin Polypropylene
Sheets:100 (200 pages)80 (160 pages)
Paper Color: Pale cream-yellowOff-white / 80% white
Paper Weight:90 g/m² (24lb)90 g/m² (24lb)
Ruling:8mm, very fine, mid blue, solid7mm, very fine, light gray, solid and dotted, Date and Title block
Visual Opacity:High, faint show-throughHigh, faint show-through
Surface Finish:Ultra smooth Ultra smooth
Perforated:NoYes

(I consider this as more of a product overview rather than a comparison between Life Vincent and Maruman Mnemosyne, as the features are different. I personally view the Mnemosyne as an office product, and the Vincent as a more flexible home / office product.)

I like the Mnemosyne for work - the Date and Title block are handy for everyday task recording or meetings, and the perforated pages are also a very useful feature here. The faint line color and 7mm line spacing are also features I like. Also, the black polypro cover with smart black binding looks the part.

I tested the same inks as discussed in Comparison 1, and some small differences were apparent. Both the Vincent and Mnemosyne have super smooth 90 g/m² paper, and where the problem inks will feather very slightly on the Vincent paper, they typically will not feather on the Mnemosyne, but they will take longer to dry.

(If you like the sound of the Maruman Mnemosyne and plan on using very wet writers, read on… wet writers can cause an interesting bleed somewhere between each side of the page. From the back of the Mnemosyne page, you will see numerous small blooms where the ink has almost bled through to the back - but from the front you can barely see these blooms, as they are just under the surface. The bleed can occur regardless of nib size or ink color, Sailor Yellow Orange and Noodler's Zhivago both produced noticeable blooms on the back of my pages. If you avoid wet writers, the Mnemosyne paper handles beautifully, and it will be possible to use both sides of the page.)

I don't pick between these two - both are high-quality items and provide a first-class writing experience. My Vincent and Mnemosyne notebooks each get used for something different, so just choose what best suits the way you work. smile.gif

Final Thoughts

I'm thoroughly enjoying my delightful little Vincent notebooks, and I'm frankly amazed that Life products are not better known to the FP community. In Japan they have a considerable presence - for example, on the popular Japanese notepaper-focused website the-Note.jp, Life has 93 products listed against 41 from Apica, 64 from Maruman, and 75 from Kokuyo. Out of the main Japanese brands on that site, only Tsubame at 107 have more products listed than Life.

Life Corporation has been in the stationery business for over 80 years, and their current product range consists of hundreds of paper items. Many of their papers are enthusiastically marketed toward fountain pen users, and some rather interesting paper products have been developed by them (writing paper which mimics the paper of vintage bank securities, for example).

Life Corporation products are well worth looking out for. smile.gif

Edited by Phthalo, 21 July 2008 - 11:35.

Laura / Phthalo
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#2 inkypete

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 04:52

For a dozen or so years of my life I was a fine paper merchant and Japanese papers were very well regarded then with many quality art grades and print grades being imported. The price then was very expensive but the quality was superb.


Edited by Phthalo, 13 January 2008 - 06:41.

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#3 Nikolaos

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 10:25

Once again a masterpiece of a review Laura! Thanks for taking the time to produce such fine work.
Now, off to try to find some of these Life notebooks

Nikolaos

#4 Sharkle

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 00:09

That's a wonderful, in-depth review, thank you. Are these notebooks available in the U.S.?

#5 Phthalo

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 03:49

I would imagine Kinokuniya bookstores would have some Life Co. products... (and lots of other Japanese stationery goodies!)
Laura / Phthalo
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#6 jbn10161

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 04:56

Very helpful review Laura; thanks.

Just when I think I'm well situated with pens, or with inks, or with notebooks/tablets/journals, I read something here in FPNland and try something new and my desires expand. It's an infinitely unfolding vortex....
JN

#7 yumbo

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 19:52

Great review. It's making me want to hop on a plane for Japan right now. Any chance of getting some pictures of ink on paper?

- Yumbo
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#8 Martius

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 20:49

Mmm, need to find me some-a this!
"Can I see Arcturus from where I stand?" -RPW

#9 KCat

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 01:21

Great review. thumbup.gif

Why can't US companies make stuff like this?

(whine whine whine)

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#10 dayonfire

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 22:15

The Vincent sounds like what I have been searching for...

ANYONE have a lead on finding Vincent in the US?

Da New Guy,
Michael

#11 MYU

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 22:53

I contacted Kinokuniya of NYC and they said they don't carry any Life Corporation products, unfortunately. They do have others, though. I'll have to make a point of stopping by there.

I inquired about bottled ink, and they said "Yes, we do have some." Of course, I had to ask if they carry Iroshizuku, but alas no. "Fountain pen ink doesn't sell very well, so we keep a limited supply of blue, black, and permanent black ink." sad.gif

Btw, for anyone living in the NYC area, the Kinokuniya Company store is located across from Bryant Park at 1073 Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave, 40/41st) New York, NY 10018. Phone: 212-869-1700

They are open 10am-8pm Monday-Saturday, and 11am-7:30pm Sunday.

Edited by MYU, 22 July 2008 - 23:00.

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