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Stillman & Birn "epsilon" Sketchbook Impressions

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This is more a series of quick impressions than an all out review, but I thought I should mount the info while I had the time else I may never be able to get around to it.


Months ago, I won a wirebound, 6 x 8 inch, Stillman & Birn sketchbook in a giveaway from the European Paper blog. Despite being sold by EuropeanPaper.com, Stillman & Birn is an American company, and a new one. The series of sketchbooks are designed for artists and the sketchbooks come in a variety of paper types. I can't sketch at all, but seem to have the best luck using sketchbooks as journals. The Stillman & Birn journals come in a variety of paper types. The Epsilon series is described as a smooth, 150gsm and "recommended for Pen & Ink, Colored Pencil, Water-based Markers & Watercolor." OK, maybe it'll be fountain pen friendly, right?





The photo actually shows a larger 8.5 x 11 inch journal that I bought to replace the Kunst & Papier sketchbooks I had been using for years. When my supply of A4 size Dutch K&P sketchbooks ran out, I switched to 8.5 x 11 inch Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbooks. The paper is thicker than the Kunst & Papier and smoother. And best of all, it is very fountain pen friendly. I write small (around 2mm x-height) using a .5mm cursive italic, and most paper will bloat the line to the extent or reducing the line variation of the nib. I hate that.


The Stillman & Birn Epsilon paper maintains the line variation very very well.


[The pen is my "daily arsenal" pen of the day (most days), a Pelikan M620 Grand Place. The nib is a .5mm cursive italic by Richard Binder, and the ink is Platinum Pigment Brun Sepia.]


And yes, I drew a text box and lines onto the page. When I used the Kunst & Papier sketchbooks, I'd draw a text box (based on the medieval Villard de Honnecourt formula) and although I can write a fairly straight line freehand, I'd use a guidesheet of lines under the page I was writing on. Stillman & Birn Epsilon is thicker paper so I decided to draw in some lines too. Lines are 7mm apart here.


The paper is a "natural white" color, which is brighter than the Kunst & Papiers off-white ivory, but not as blinding as most copy paper, bond, or Clairefontaine Triomphe. It works as well with Platinum Pigment Blue and Sailor Kiwa Guro black as it does with the Platinum Pigment Brun Sepia in the photos.


Even disregarding the price advantage of the Stillman & Birn Epsilon, I find myself thinking that this is my new blank journal source, and another fairly significant step toward my "ideal" journal. It takes a bit of "breaking" for the book to open flat, but it does.



When I put these photos up on Flickr, I got a response from Michael C. Kalman, one of the founders of Stillman & Birn thanking me and wanting to know more about how I learned of Villard de Honnecourt's page layout formula. I'll be writing a post on their blog about the formula and its use for contemporary "journalists."

In short, great fountain pen friendly paper available in large sizes for those who want them. There are few moments as wonderful as cracking open a brand new journal full of blank pages waiting to be written on.





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Thanks for the review. Your handwriting is beautiful. I love the paper in the S&B sketch books.


Let us know when you write about Villard de Honnecourt's page layout formula.

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zebra baker

You've convinced me to try a Stillman & Birn notebook -- partially (I admit) in the hope that my handwriting might start to look like yours. But a notebook with soft white fountain-pen friendly pages might help even my scribbles look better.


And I too would like to hear more about the page layout formula. Do you, for instance, measure out each page anew, or do you create a template for each notebook?

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