‘…back to the roots’ – testing small portable notebooks – Part 4. ‘Back to basics’

Clairefontaine notebooks pads and exercise books own reputation of  having one of the best paper around for writing and their products are well acclaimed in the world of fountain pen enthusiasts.

To celebrate the history of the brand, Clairefontaine has reinvented recently original notebook covers they made with a modern touch.  The 1951 Retro Nova series combines legacy of the original covers and beautifully smooth paper Clairefontaine is famous for, which resulted in a high quality moder-retro looking notebooks.

Clairefontaine 1951 Reto Nova pocket notebooks are available in six different colours and three vintage patterns:  ‘parallèles’, ‘nouvelle vague’ and ‘arlequin”. Notebook I kindly obtained for review from Pocket Notebooks (UK) is purple ‘nouvelle vague’.



Retro Nova notebooks contain spine sewed 64 pages  (32 sheets) of Clairefontaine’s ‘Satiné’ 90 gsm ivory toned lined paper. The size is 3.5″ x 5.5″ / 9 cm x 14 cm, which is the same as Fieldnotes.

Clairefontaine did very good job with this notebook. It is very well built and it feels very sturdy. Sheets are sewed and stitches and endings are well made. I really like the way Clairefontaone pulled it out. Moreover, all pages are well aligned together so the lines on following pages match up. Corners are uniformly rounded.



How it performs with fountain pens and inks?

I tested it very very hard using different pens with selection of different nibs and sets of inks which often exhibits interesting features.

Writing experience is very good. Pens glide smoothly across this paper with no issues.

Robert Oster’s Signature inks Khaki and Fire & Ice gave on this paper beautiful and pleasing shading.

One of my favourite inks – Diamine Terracotta I am using with very wet Visconti Homo Sapiens pen laid very well  with not show through and feathering.

However, inks like Pilot Iroshizuku – Yama Budo, Sailor Jentle – Tokiwa Matsu and also mentioned above Rober Oster’s –  Fire and Ice do not show any expected sheen they are famous of. This is probably due to slightly absorbing properties of Clairefontaine paper I have noticed. Interestingly,


Inks with golden sparkly particles works quite well.

 I have not noticed any bleeding through or severe feathering at all. Although, some ghosting may be seen for wet and very saturated inks especially used with flexible nibs. In general – pretty good and solid performance.


My ‘Ultimate Baystate Blue test’ somehow failed, which is not uncommon, especially for paper which to some extent absorbs ink. With Noodler’s Baystate Blue ink both feathering as well as bleeding through was noticeable.

My verdict:

Clairefontaine 1951 Retro Nova notebook is a solid performer for standard pen users as well as more demanding fountain pens warriors. It is very well built and it looks great too. However, there is still some room for improvement


  • Pretty modern vs.vintage looking notebook
  • lovely notebook as an insert for leather covers 
  • Well built and sturdy
  • Sewing and stitches are superbly done.
  • Overall, smooth good quality paper
  • Clear delicate lines
  • Inks look good and  can deliver really nice shading


  • Paper could be a bit less absorbing, but still this is a very good paper
  • Not much sheen

Clairefontaine  1951 Retro Nova pocket notebooks come as a set of 3 books (all in the same colour and  1 of each design). They are available widely available from most retailers. Set of 3 costs around £ 9.0 in the UK which in my opinion is really good price for quality notebooks.


(*) Disclaimer/ I have no affiliation with the all brands and companies mentioned above and this short review reflects only my personal views and findings about the product.

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