Picking Perfect Paper

by Scribble Monboddo

The interwebs are a place for healthy debate - OK, mostly healthy, at least - and one of the questions which pops up with great regularity on stationery forums (or fora, as one pedantically prefers) is "what's the best paper?".

Which is a silly question, because there's no way to arrive at a definitive answer. It's just so subjective; to take an extreme example, ballpoint aficionados and ardent fontoplumisti will never agree. About anything at all, probably. So we need to ask a better one, don't we?

The wiser question to ask is "what's the best paper for me?". The answer to that one can be found - the truth is out there somewhere. We can get you started, at least.

Let's start with graphite, as Nero purveys such quantities of the stuff. To make a pencil work, a little friction helps; the aim of the game is for some graphite to rub off on the paper, so excessive smoothness is as helpful here as it is in a used car salesman. Many of the most obviously textured papers are those which are frankly somewhat inimical to fountain pens, and if this is your bag then Field Notes, Calepino and Moleskine positively leap to mind. 

If you actually do want to use a ballpoint, then firstly please raise your expectations, but secondly also relax, because if Mr Biro's infernal invention really is all you have to hand you may rest assured that it will be equally underwhelming on just about any surface available. Moving swiftly on...

Fountain pens are fussy - like their owners, if we're being honest. Rough stuff which can't handle ink is a terrible disappointment, so it pays to cast a discriminating eye over the competition. The winner isn't who you might be expecting, though. For all the fuss about Tomoe River - and boy, is there plenty - it is best suited to circumstances where you can wait patiently for ink to dry, as it takes ages. So, fine for actual calligraphers working in cosy studios, but close to disastrous if you wish to jot in, say, a pocket notebook. The bullet-proof paper to start with if you are a nascent nib-twiddler is from France rather than Japan, and it's gratifyingly affordable too; almost anything from Clairefontaine (and its sub-brand, Rhodia), will see you right.

But what to buy the stationery obsessive who insists upon using both fountain pens and graphite, you ask? Well, obviously, not a flipping ballpoint - please, please, distant relatives and unspecified friends of the family - not another one! But lots of the bespoke notebooks carried by Nero's Notes use multi-porpoise paper which can satisfy both types of dolphin. Wilder, FaVo and BomoArt are all strong contenders, and in fact the majority of what Nero stocks is probably somewhere in this 'universal' territory - so experiment liberally and find out what floats your boat, because THAT is perfection.