Independent in All Things, Neutral in Nothing

Col. Littleton No. 9 Journal: The Near-Perfect Writing Companion

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Late in 2010, I began writing a journal every day, having abandoned the practice several years ago. Going full-time on Chiefist prompted  me to start again. As my friends know, I like, use and admire high quality products, preferring a nice fountain pen to a Bic any day. So I looked around for a nice journal, and found an outstanding one in the Col. Littleton No. 9 Journal

Col. Littleton, a purveyor of fine leather and other goods out of Tennessee, sells its wares directly and via a few distributors. I found the journal through Orvis. I ordered the journal with ruled paper (paper comes in unruled, fly fishing and golf versions as well), and monogrammed with my initials.

Upon receiving the journal, I first noted the excellent quality of the leather. While soft, the leather feels sturdy in your hands, which adds a sense of permanency in journal writing. I like that feel a great deal. The feel also puts me in a contemplative mood whenever I write in it, even for quick-hit notes. If possible, I believe the high-quality and even beauty of the journal contributes to better thinking. Winston Churchill observed that, “We make our buildings and then our buildings make us.” That insight seems true of this journal as well.

The second aspect of the journal I noted — its heft. It measures 9″ x 7″ x 1.5″ and it weighs more than most journals of that size. The leather and the high-quality, thick paper both contribute to the weight. Normally, I consider the weight as contributing to the sturdy feel of the journal. On travel around town, and out of town, it can make the journal a lot to carry. To jot down notes in meetings around town, I’ve begun traveling with smaller, lighter journals (including the Col. Littleton No. 23 Pocket Journal, and Field Notes memo and steno books). When on overnight travel, I’ll usually take the Col. Littleton journal with me, although sometimes opt for lighter notebooks.

The journal comes with a pencil, but I’ve replaced it with a very nice, and thin, Kaweco fountain pen.

The pen makes a light and excellent writing companion for the journal. As noted above, the journal paper has some thickness in it and the fountain pen ink looks great on it.

The leather serves as a journal cover, and paper insert holder. Col. Littleton sells refills, which you must tie into the leather cover:

The first time I replaced the insert, I worried about tying it in improperly, needlessly as it turned out. The system adds a level of elegance and almost rustic beauty to the journal.

I use this journal almost every day. In it, I record my daily thoughts, reflections, hopes and concerns. It also contains the record of my daily walking, in miles and steps taken. I treasure it as I do few of my possessions.

All of those positive qualities noted, I would change a few things about the journal. First, the insert system generally prevents the paper from lying flat. As a result, writing on the left-hand side of the page (for a right-handed writer) proves challenging. In fact, with this insert, I’ve taken to only writing journal entries on the right-hand side. I use the left-hand side to write in landscape (often sketches of charts), and preserving articles or other items of interest:

That system has worked out fine, but I’d prefer to write on both side of the page. (Lines on the left-hand side of the paper would help, too.)

Second, the journal closes via a small brass knob on the front. That closure sticks out slightly from the rest of the journal, and therefore makes stacking other items against the journal (for example, books) awkward. As a workaround, I’ve taken to placing the journal as the item closest to the outside of the briefcase or bag I’m carrying it in. That works fine, but I’d prefer a different closure, which allows the journal to take a completely rectangular shape, or no closure at all.

Finally, the cover page of each insert contains a quote from Col. Garry A. Littleton. It’s a decent, although unspectacular quote, in terms of conveying wisdom. It clearly belongs in the company’s marketing materials for the journal. But I’d prefer to use that space as I see fit; the company should remove it from the insert covers.

However, those requested improvements should not detract from an outstanding and cherished journal. Now on my second insert, I’ve used the journal for over a year. Because of the Colonel’s focus on singular quality, I’ll use it as my main journal for years to come.


Written by Russell S.

February 27, 2012 at 9:16 pm

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