Paper Over The Cracks

by Scribble Monboddo

The question "what's the best paper?" gets asked so often that we return to answering it here every year or so - but since the supply moves on so fast, why not?

As ever, the answer is that it depends upon what you want to write with. If you only have ballpoints to hand, raise your expectations - seriously, you can do better. For everyone else, there's a world of choice. 

If you're a pencil fan, the key is texture. The tip makes a mark by some graphite being rubbed off as it passes over the surface, so a few ridges and furrows really help. Ask your friendly neighbourhood carpenter how much use super-smooth sandpaper is and you'll get the gist. There are some solid texture performers, like Field Notes - who should only ever be approached with a pencil in hand - and texture superstars like France's venerable G Lalo. Try some; you'll like it.

For fountain penthusiasts, the picture is more complicated, perhaps unnecessarily so. In short, you want a surface which is smooth enough to avoid shaky results, impenetrable enough to avoid blotting and feathering, but not so unabsorbent that ink takes forever to dry. That entails a bit of caution with Tomoe River. If you're planning long, contemplative calligraphy sessions, it might be worth the premium - but a smidgeon of restraint may be advisable otherwise. Endless ran out of Tomoe and started manufacturing their own alternative, which dries faster but is just as eye-wateringly expensive, and that won't convince everyone - but your mileage may vary, as the saying goes. If you like the idea of Japanese paper but want some which works reliably, try Life. Not the pictorial magazine from between the wars, of course - write on that and you will get some very dark looks from the librarian. But modern Life paper is the absolute bee's knees for nib-wielders, at a reassuringly expensive but not daft price point. Closer to home, Fedrigoni has often made some very decent fountain pen paper, and even if factory closures have interfered in availability the mighty are still producing fine notebooks with the stuff - including for Nero. But if you like writing with a fountain pen and you want something which always behaves, reliably, without protest and at a bearable price, it's hard to beat Clairefontaine and its sub-brand Rhodia. It doesn't cost a fortune, it looks terrific, it's lovely to use and it won't let you down. No-drama llama? Vive la France!