Biella Index Cards

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Biella Index Card

Biella is a Swiss stationery company. Though 120 years old, they don’t seem to be engaged in much export activity as far as I can tell. Their one product that I’ve previously purchased is the Canteo Notebook, which we took a look at in 2009. It was a nice product – conceptually similar to Leuchtturm and Moleskine notebooks, but a step up in paper quality and design. And being sold with a pencil and metal page darts in a glassine envelope didn’t hurt.

Biella Index Card

Last year I was fortunate to be able to visit Zürich’s four story stationer Papeterie Zumstein, and came across another Biella product – their version of the index card.

I love index cards, and my favourite is the Exacompta Record Card. I have used them almost every day for over a decade!

A small detour – there was a blog titled “Pile of Index Cards” that served as an inspiration (I think it is now offline) and which recommended some very particular tools. In particular, the “Correct” brand index card from Japan. Their benefit was said to be rule placement – with a 5mm x 5mm square grid, the first vertical rule was 5mm to the right of the card’s left side, and the first horizontal rule 5mm below the card’s top side. i.e. – the grid ruling was printed to respect and match the card’s dimensions. Further, each card could be expected to match this pattern. This allowed marking the edges of cards to give them particular meaning and to visually convey basic information even before one reads the card. Years later, I can buy Japanese index cards locally. Unfortunately, even if possessing super deliberate ruling, they’re made from thin paper. In fact they seem to me to simply be small dimension pieces of paper. I do find that I like the thicker card stock of North American or European index cards.

Biella Index Card

This particular card is a small A7 size with a 4mm grey square rule. It looks great, but I noticed right away that the paper seems thinner and less smooth than the coated Exacompta. I’ll be sticking with Exacompta, but I’m glad to know that there are competitors around.

Stationery Street: Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe

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2019 seems like it was eons ago, not just last year. Stationery and material things don’t seem so important right now as we continue to face this pandemic. I hope you’re well, and that it might be cheerful to hear about a bona fide stationery destination.

I’d like to write about a remarkable street that I visited twice last year. I had heard about it from multiple sources, though I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe is a small street in the historic Le Marais neighborhood of the Paris’s 4th district. It runs north from Pont Louis Phillipe, a bridge from the charming Ile Saint-Louis. (Very close to Shakespeare and Co. and the Notre Dame cathedral.) A brief walk along the street will take one directly to the Picasso Museum. Ile Saint-Loius, the smaller of the two islands in the Seine, has beautiful views and is very nicely preserved.


Westward view

I don’t know the whole history, but the street is often noted as a stationery location, with Calligrane (no. 6), Papier Plus (No. 9), and Melodies Graphiques (No. 10) having storefronts. Melodies Graphiques in fact has two storefonts, so depending on how you count – there are three or four stationers on this single block. These stores all date from the 1970s or 1980s, so their presence is established.


Calligrane – No. 6

In the order one will see them walking northward – the first stop is Calligrane. It is well beyond offering office supplies. Calligrane is an incredible temple to the art of paper. There is nothing mass manufactured or branded in their store. Everything is a visual delight, all hand made by artisans (mainly French or Japanese) with high quality materials. They have loose paper, from business card size to A2 or larger formats for artists. They have some notebooks, though I would not say that is their specialty. They sell paper for writing and art, and paper objects which are themselves art forms.


Calligrane Interior

Founded in 1979, I would say that this a global stationery destination worth a special visit. I found it to be a very satisfying experience.

Next is Melodies Graphique. They are a traditional stationer with an emphasis on calligraphy and handwriting. They have vintage school essay books, and a comprehensive nib and ink section. I saw a delightful Herbin notebook which starts the pupil with a sample letter to be copied. They have an adjacent second storefront devoted to wrapping paper and decorative items.

If you like vintage ink bottles, nibs, and highly traditional stationery emphasis, this store is a bit of heaven. They have an adjacent second storefront with an emphasis on wrapping paper and cards. They were founded in 1986.


Melodies Graphiques – No. 10

If you know the elite brand Soumkine – this is (or was at the time of my visit) Soumkine’s sole retailer in the entire world!


Melodies Graphiques – additional storefront

On the other side of the street is Papier Plus. It is the only store that I noticed having significantly changed between May and November, diminishing the presence of global brands. They do still stock some mass appeal brands (e.g. Lamy) but their emphasis is on their own paper/notebook and photo album brand, and products from boutique Paris artisans. If you like swatches of colour, they have many of their notebooks in over two dozen colour choices. They date from 1976.


Papier Plus – No. 9

Overall, it was a special pleasure to visit these three exceptional stationery boutiques on the same street, and recommend a visit. There are multiple places in Paris where one can find typical arrays of commercial stationery, but the emphasis of these shops on local and artisan created products was particularly distinctive.

I was enroute to another destination, so I didn’t want to overfill my suitcase. But, I did pick up a few very special items.

From Calligrane, a hand bound accordion album. Unfortunately it is currently residing in my too nice to use archive.

From Papier Plus, an Armorial gold edged pad. Incredibly nice!

From Melodies Graphiques, a Soumkine notebook:

I hope you enjoyed this mini tour.

La Petite Papeterie Française

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Unfortunately, the high quality French stationer La Petite Papeterie Française has announced their closure.

This blog hasn’t formally featured any Petite Papeterie products yet, but a couple have appeared on the Instagram feed. I first learned of them via the Toronto retailer Take Note. Petite Papeterie design and manufacture standard office supplies with high quality materials and strong designs. They’re having a final sale where you can find many items marked down. I suspect this is not the last we’ll hear from them.

Fruit Sticker Album

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A pencil talk Instagram post that got some direct queries and interest featured the Fruit Sticker Album.

This very interesting small book was picked up on my London Trip at Choosing Keeping. For £5, it is a bargain. As specialized as oh – a pencil blog – might be, the well of ephemeral interests run even deeper. Someone has published a book for collecting fruit stickers!

Here is some more information on fruit stickers. And even documentation – “9” means organic!

So about the book – there is a cardboard cover, translucent overlay page, then 24 right hand pages that hold 15 stickers a page – allowing one to accumulate 360 stickers.

Fruit Sticker Album

Fruit Sticker Album

Fruit Sticker Album

Fruit Sticker Album

Fruit Sticker Album

The copyright notice indicates that we can give thanks to Carl Middleton for this small joy!

Mark+Fold 2019 Wall Planner

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An exciting item from British Stationer Mark+Fold just arrived – a limited edition 2019 wall planner.

The planner arrived in a tube with Mark+Fold’s signature label:
Mark+Fold 2019 Wall Planner

The planner itself was encased in some very nice kraft paper, which I will not be discarding.
Mark+Fold 2019 Wall Planner

The planner brochure claims it is “50 x 70 mm”. A typo? It looks they meant cm. The paper would thus be almost B2 size.

Isn’t it beautiful? The paper is described as 175gsm, printed by Evolution Print in Sheffield.

Mark+Fold 2019 Wall Planner

Mark+Fold 2019 Wall Planner

The kit includes some very special index tabs and sticky tabs for wall mounting. I’ll be flattening it and putting it on the wall very soon. I will share a picture.

A custom Pentel Kerry pencil and a surprise from Clairefontaine

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2.0mm Pentel Kerry

Sometimes familiar stationery items aren’t what they seem. Here is a Pentel Kerry mechanical pencil – but unlike any most of us have ever seen. It is paired with a Clairefontaine pocket notebook.

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

This pencil – a classic – is a custom modification by isu of the uncomfortable chair, turning the pencil into a 2.0mm version! It continues to fully function as a mechanical pencil. Look at the quality of the finish – it appears as if it came from the factory.

Thank you isu for such a wonderful gift!

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

As to the the second surprise – let me mention some context. Many of us were very surprised to learn that Tombow has moved (at least some) production of their iconic Mono 100, one of the world’s best pencils, to Vietnam. There is a great account at Lexikaliker. The news so far isn’t good – unfortunately, the Vietnamese version appears diminished in finish quality, even if retaining the same lead core.

So what a surprise to find a notebook the same week from Clairefontaine, which like sibling brands Rhodia and Exacompta, strongly associates itself with “Made in France”, that is made in Morocco. Yes, “design” and “paper” from France. Fortunately, I find the notebook to be excellent, with creamy 90 g/m2 paper (presumably the same as the “Rhodia R” series) and a pocket format. I’ll note a particular pencil advantage – this thick paper takes well to traditional rubber erasers, such as the round Graf von Faber-Castell.