A No-Name Notebook from the Balkans

When I was in Albania one of the few things I found that I still wish I could find was a bunch of cheap notebooks.

Although very little seemed to work in Albania from 1992-1994, someone managed to produce surprisingly good notebooks. They had plastic covers with an odd internal pocket and came in pocket and large size. They were about the same size and thickness as modern Moleskine notebooks. They had stitched and glued spines that laid flat when open.

I bought a stack of them as they were only 15 lek (about 15 US cents at the time; 25 cents with inflation) and used them while I was in Mississippi and after I came to Japan. They are among the few thick notebooks I’ve ever completely filled. The plastic cover made them comfortable to carry in the pocket but they were sturdy enough to write on without needing a hard surface.

My Albanian notebook compared to a Field Notes notebook. You can see the damaged spine.

My Albanian notebook compared to a Field Notes notebook. You can see the damaged spine at the right..

Inside the notebook. You can see the construction and deconstruction.

Inside the notebook. You can see the construction thanks to the deconstruction.

The paper seemed to be one part pulp paperback and one part newsprint. It was not especially fountain pen friendly as it was rough and scratchy with fine nibs awhile thicker nibs tended to cause feathering. That said, although it had a little ghosting, it didn’t have much bleedthrough so it was possible to use with fountain pens.

You can kind of see Noodler's Old Manhattan and and Apache Sunset.

You can kind of see Noodler’s Old Manhattan and can see Apache Sunset pretty well. You can also see the roughness.

I had two of the pocket sized notebooks that have long since been scanned and retired. I’m tempted to try to use the cover for something but it tends to chip off plastic bits as it’s carried around. I still have half of one of the larger ones that started out as scrapbook that was eventually abandoned. I’m also tempted to start carry it in order to finish it, but I don’t really have a use for it. I’d be carrying it out of nostalgia not need.

That said, I wouldn’t mind picking up a few new ones if I ever get the chance to go back to Albania and if they still exist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *