I cannot seem to resist the pull of a finely constructed book. My parents, lovers of fine art, invested in beautiful leather-bound books, antique books with swirling marbled covers, art books with gilded pages, books with gold leaf and hand tooled leather; I grew up with a library filled with gilded spines and the smell of hand-tooled leather.
Now, as an adult, each time I look at the raised banded spines of beautiful hardcover journals, I am reminded of the library in my family home. And when I see the smooth, buttery texture of softcover journals it is reminiscent of the type of manuscripts explorers and nature writers brought with them on their travels. They would have drawn maps, sketched, and wrote about everything they absorbed in their working day. These luxurious bindings and exquisite papers are associated with old world treasures, necessities used to record history and life, to pen literature, religious texts, and works of art.
I loved pulling the books off the shelves to see what was inside, to feel and flip through pages that felt so different than what my textbooks were made of. I always fought with the urge to pick up a pen and write inside them. The most tempting pages were those that were somewhat blank – negative spaces signifying the end of a chapter, or pages with lavishly wide white margins which emphasized art prints. But I could never bring myself to do it- graffiti a book not meant to be in the hands of children. One day, I wanted books like these; but mine would be blank. I would get to write and mark up pages, and be messy and adventurous with pen, pencil, or watercolor. I could practice calligraphy and show myself how refined my penmanship could look. And then I could close the book up, put it back on the shelf, and know that those pages, which I considered my work space, were encased as exquisitely as any other work of literature. Now, when I look at my Epica journals - hardbound leather, softcover leather with Amalfi paper, and a behemoth 1000-page tome encased in reclaimed Italian wood, I know that long after I am gone, those books might very well be the most interesting artifacts to come out of my library.
In search of the best leather journal for writing
Over the years I have purchased many journals, hoping to find the perfect one. In grade school I purchased journals at chain bookstores. They were adequate for what I could afford back then, but as I got older, I expected more than cardboard printed covers or leather covers which leaked dye when wet. I wanted more than papers bound with glue, disposable pages which dispersed veins of ink, making my script illegible and childish. I didn’t want the indignity of spending $50 on a journal with the same paper quality as higher end copy paper. When I traveled to Europe in my teens, I found journals that looked so very much like the prized books in our library. The paper inside was unlike any other paper I had felt before. The edges looked torn, as if someone cut the paper without scissors, exposing filaments of cotton fibers. I later learned that this was actually handmade paper milled in from centuries-old workshops in Amalfi, Italy, among the oldest mills in the world.
So, I found my ultimate journal. I finished it. I wanted another. Simple. I ordered the cheapest Amalfi journal could find. But alas, the paper was not the caliber as the one I purchased on my trip overseas. I ordered another journal which stocked Italian made paper. Again, similar enough, but lower quality paper. I had given up on Amalfi paper – there was no consistency to be had, I still wanted artisan paper encased in leather or marbled paper, much like I had seen in Europe. I ordered a leather journal from a Swedish company which, the name of which had the word “paper” in it. Maybe this is what I was looking for. I was disappointed to find that the paper in the journal was eerily similar that of journal I purchased at a chain craft store. I bought lots of little journals as stocking stuffers. This could not be happening!
Discovering the journals of Epica online
I had seen a few advertisements for Epica, but wasn’t finding reviews which spoke to exactly what I was looking for. Adding tinder to my fear, one of the reviews that I did find discussed that they would be using the journal they purchased for the rest of their lives. I thought that it might be too precious or delicate for my intentions, to document everyday life, not just milestones. The price point was a little steep for an initial purchase, around $200. However, given the amount of writing paper in the journal, I could justify the price. And if the journal was as beautiful as people described it to be, then I needed to order it. But first I would call to inquire about whether or not the pages were suited for my pointed pen nibs and calligraphy ink.
The person I talked to was so generous in educating me about the company, the personalized services they offer (you can commission them to make something tailored to you), and how they choose their paper. They were infinitely patient, welcoming every question I had. When I received my book, I was completely taken aback by the remarkable quality of the deckled-edge paper, which can tolerate heavy pressure from a pointed nib without bleed-through (although one should not be pressing that hard on a nib). The leather and raised spine epitomized refined luxury. I called to thank you all and ask a little more about your Amalfi paper…but that is an altogether different story. I will say that putting pen to paper on that medium is black tie all the way. Bring your best hand-written self to the table. You will never look back.
Thank you for believing in the product and having faith that people like me would find their way to your store. Thank you for assembling a great team of oh-so-patient employees. I would have never taken the leap without them.
We consider it our privilege to serve passionate journalers, like Gigi, and casual writers alike. If you would like to contribute a guest blog, we’d love to collaborate with you. And if you liked Gigi’s article, please post a comment. We’ll send you a $20 promo code toward any Epica journal.
I’ve always loved old books, but particularly as I got older and into my university studies my love of illuminated manuscripts intensified. I have long wanted to create my own version using family recipes and gardening wisdom for an illuminated family heirloom. It will be a very long project to be sure. Epica journals, especially the thick ones, give the right image of an old tome that would not be amiss containing some illuminations.