by Mike Shea on 13 October 2005
Fifteen hundred years ago Christian monks from St. Pachomius stored their leather-wrapped books in sealed jars to hide their library from the wrath of Athanasius who considered such works heresy. Fifteen hundred years later, in 1945, these books were discovered by a local farmer and after changing hands between thieves, smugglers, aristocrats, and government officials, they found their way on display in Coptic Museum in Cairo.
About a year ago during my own journal hunting crusade, I ran into my current favorite leather-bound journal, the Renaissance Art large leather journal. One only has to compare the picture of this journal with that of the Hammadi library to see the similarity even over fifteen centuries of technological advancement. It is this lineage that attracts many of us to handwriting in journals in the first place.
I wrote about the Renaissance Art large leather journal before in my review of five journals. Since then I have filled three of the books with stories, maps, drawings, and notes. Every time I take one out of its cloth cover and untie the long tie, I begin to feel the excitement of creative energy unleashed.
Like many others, however, I am a Moleskine user. I love my Moleskine notebooks. They are built from tradition, they are very high quality, they have great utility, they are very durable, and they are built to last. They have one major advantage over the Renaissance Art journal. They're cheap.
I never thought my two journal worlds would blend together until I spoke to Arthur from Renaissance Art and found out that he had begun working on a Moleskine cover. After I had sent a few frantic and enthusiastic emails, I managed to try out his first prototypes.
Renaissance Art offers three types of Moleskine covers including the wrap-and-tie, the snap closure, and the open sided version. After a month, I continued to prefer the wrap and tie style. Heritage and tradition are the reasons I love these leatherbound covers and carrying a journal in my pocket with the same basic build as the 1500 year old Hammadi journals gives me a special thrill.
The snap closure journal is probably the most practical of the covers. It is not any larger than the wrap-and-tie and snapping it open and closed is very convenient. The two-toned cover, brown for the base leather and black for the closure flap looks excellent. For a daily carry-around cover with a more modern look, it is perfect.
Both the wrap-and-tie and the snap closure include handy pen loops. These loops come in three sizes depending on the type of pen you use. The large loop fits a variety of larger pens including my beloved Pilot Vanishing Point, a Waterman Phileas, and a Pilot Dr. Grip. Medium and small loops work well for Pilot G2s and the popular Fisher Space Pen.
The traditional cover is open on the end without a pen loop. It works nicely for a home journal or for someone who doesn't need any sort of pen loop or closure. It is also the lowest price of the three covers.
The construction on all three covers are excellent. Thick thread sews together the tough leather. The leather will scar from daily use and abuse but the scars add character more than detracting from the look. These leather covers are meant to protect your words, not look pretty and new. The more you use them, the better they look.
The leather cover will make a Moleskine about the same size as a paperback book. The size gets smaller the more its used as the leather forms around the Moleskine. The tie on the wrap-and-tie is extremely strong and hasn't shown any sign of weakness over the months I have used it.
Putting a Moleskine into the cover doesn't require much work. The cover still allows access to the back pocket of the notebook though it won't allow the accordion to open up all the way. The elastic strap of the Moleskine can be wrapped around the back cover to keep it out of the way when putting the Moleskine into the cover.
These covers also offer an excellent value. Instead of paying a high cost for a non-refillable journal, we can buy a single Moleskine journal cover for between $20 and $30 that we can refill as often as we need. Renaissance Art is also one of the cheapest online vendors for Moleskine journals, selling Moleskines at $9 for the small and $13 for the large.
Renaissance Art offers six varieties of these covers, three for the small pocket Moleskine and three for the larger Moleskines. I have never been a fan of the larger books but with this handsome cover, I may change my mind and try one out.
I've used the Renaissance Art leather wrap-and-tie cover for months now and I love it as much now as I did when I first opened up the package. It adds utility, durability, and tradition to our favorite pocket journals. I highly recommend them.