An Ivy Thing

All the greats did this. Kept a journal.

Perhaps the most famous journal entry of all time, Teddy Roosevelt the day his wife and his mother died.

We’ve gone over that. And, we have gone over how handwriting is Ivy. But if you want the research…

But what we have not yet addressed is perhaps the most Ivy solution to maintaining a calendar, a journal, a notebook, everything. The composition notebook.

I know you know it. Through elementary school, maybe even high school, the composition notebook was your iPhone, your calculator (remember the multiplication table on the inside cover?), your calendar, a fast way to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit…

Inside back cover of my March Composition Notebook

There’s not a notebook I haven’t tried. I have had more Moleskines than you have had slices of pizza. I have used the Midori Traveler in both sizes (definitely the coolest notebook but the hardest to write in), and every notebook in between.

Three reasons why I have returned, finally, to the composition notebook.

  1. Cost. At ShopRite, I can get a very good composition notebook for $1.99. A Moleskine costs you $25. I go through a notebook a month. 23 x 12 = I am saving $276 a year. That is a few white oxfords.
  2. Paper quality – which I find amazing. You write with a fountain pen? I do. And if you don’t you should try it. But then, try to find a notebook where the ink does not bleed through. There are a few, but if you think that Moleskine quote I just gave you was rich…. (by the way, the ink does bleed through in a Moleskine). Know where it doesn’t bleed through, not even a stitch? Composition notebook.
  3. Nostalgia. Composition notebooks are triggers – good triggers. They remind me that every once in awhile something is thought out, crafted, and available easily, that lasts generations. It is comforting to know that that is still out there.

Final recommendation, best disposable pen- uni-ball AIR. Has this amazing tip that drags like a fountain pen, uses fountain pen ink, isn’t a fountain pen.

33 Comments on "An Ivy Thing"

  1. Craig Sevde | March 26, 2024 at 11:52 am |

    The Day Timer was my I-phone for quite a few years. But more for appointments and reminders.
    I never picked up on Journaling. Wish I had.

  2. Our son (14) loves composition books for writing, sketching, and what-have-you. This began the summer after 1st Grade, when he began writing what we still refer to as “The Mean Father Books.” He’s written and illustrated an entire series although that first 12 months or so was his most prolific given the newness of the joke. While his interests have since moved on, he still loves his compositions books. I’m more of a spiral notebook guy myself,

    Kind Regards,


    • John Burton | March 28, 2024 at 6:45 pm |

      My daughter wrote a book, “I’m Mad At My Dad.” It was hilarious. It was couplets, then each page would end with, “Things here are bad, I’m mad at my dad.”

  3. MacMcConnell | March 26, 2024 at 2:26 pm |

    Is it really Ivy without using a fountain pen? ;<)

    • James H. Grant | March 27, 2024 at 11:02 pm |

      Mac: I had a professor at the University of Tennessee who required all his tests to be written in black ink — not a ball point, but a black fountain pen. He said, “All learned documents are written in black ink, but of course, that is not to say that all documents composed in black ink are learned.” And then he chuckled.

  4. Jesse Livermore | March 26, 2024 at 3:14 pm |

    I’ve been using black Oxford composition notebooks and Bic Cristal pens for decades.

  5. Hardbopper | March 26, 2024 at 4:31 pm |

    I don’t believe I’ve seen one of those, and dang it, I was just at Office Depot a little while ago. I’m that way (particular about), my Week at a Glance pocket calendar/phone & address book, my “little black book”. For over 40 years now, I write out my weekly schedule for the quarter, (7 days across, business hours plus up and down (in 1/2 hour increments, up and down on a piece of 8 1/2 x 11, using a pencil and a straight edge. I then go to the photo-copier and reduce it to fit the inside cover of my book, and tape it in. Of course, now I can do this portion, color coded, with a desktop and printer. I can do the same with any cheat sheets I might need. I wish “@-A-Glance would do an academic calendar refill to get me over the Holidays when things get really busy and not on a regular schedule. I use the calendar pages for details and irregularly scheduled appointments, final exams, out of towners, flights, dates, special events, etc.

  6. Tim Irvine | March 26, 2024 at 4:42 pm |

    I love composition books, too. My small Pelikan Souveran is my regular pen and a Koh-i-Noor Rapidograph is marvelous for drawing. A journal needs a few pictures. I miss the bookstore in school, a large closet with a counter in the school’s main hall where I could sign for paper, binders, pencils, ink, whatever.

  7. Bluchermoc | March 26, 2024 at 7:32 pm |

    Do you have any tips on how to start journaling? What to write how much when?

    • John Burton | March 28, 2024 at 6:41 pm |

      I do, as a matter of fact. Think pages. Think a page a day. Just write, don’t try to make it a journal. Write the word watermelon for a page, the act of writing begets writing. Soon you will be writing thoughts, soon you will have created a habit, and then NOT journaling will seem weird. DO NOT think about what you are writing. Just write. In a few days, it will be second nature.

  8. NaturalShoulder | March 26, 2024 at 10:39 pm |

    I have picked up the habit of journaling at night before bed. I have Pinedar Hollywood notebook which works well with fountain pens. Unfortunately Pinedar is not longer making the Hollywood but they have another model whose name escapes me. I have become a big fan of the fountain pen and nice to put pen to paper rather than use keystrokes on a computer (I realize irony of that statement as I type out this comment).

    • John Burton | March 28, 2024 at 6:39 pm |

      $46 a notebook I would run through my budget in two months! Composition? And yes to the fountain pen.

  9. whiskeydent | March 26, 2024 at 11:48 pm |

    For me, writing at a keyboard is a very different creative process from writing on paper. Tapping away at 50+ words a minute, I can easily chisel and polish sentences until I get what I want. I can also quickly reference stuff on the web to make sure I’ve got the facts correct. I find that writing by hand is way too slow and cumbersome. Plus, my handwriting looks like something the cat barfed up.

    • John Burton | March 28, 2024 at 6:37 pm |

      Everybody does it differently. When I write creatively, I type. Like now. But for a journal or anything personal, handwriting forces a pace that makes you introspect. Makes ME introspect anyway 🙂

  10. Truth about Uni-Ball AIR. Of course Japanese engineering triumphs again. No surprise. (related aside: Uni-Ball just bought Lamy. Whoa.).

    The best modern-day fountain pens are not German-made. They are … yep, made in Japan. My favorite makers are Sailor, Platinum, and Pilot.

    I’m still hoping the resurrected Southwick is now Japanese-owned.

    Tailor Caid is the modern-day equivalent of old Norman Hilton — in terms of Ivy quality. And then there’s Ring Jacket: terrific.

    Now that I’ve tried the Kamakura Ametora, no way I’m giving other ocbd makers the time of day.


    • John Burton | March 28, 2024 at 6:36 pm |

      WAIT. Too much to digest. So – Uni-Ball bought Lamy? I could never get into Lamy. Maybe now I can. You are so right about Japanese pens. My go to is a Jinhao. I replaced the nib, the pen is brilliant, as good as it gets, and under $20. Tell me more about the shirts?

    • whiskeydent | March 29, 2024 at 10:48 am |

      Why would they make a wool/poly suit? And then sell it for $1,500 off the rack? This is definitely a “wait and see.”

      • Hardbopper | March 29, 2024 at 6:58 pm |

        That whole situation is a head-scratcher. It is good to see the name Southwick in semi-gothic script again, but other than that, let it Rest In Peace. Not sure who, but did somebody acquire the trademark at a fire sale price, and they don’t know what to do with it? yet? Apparently no garment workers or tailors coming over the border?

  11. I use a Pilot Hi-point V5 Grip pen. (feels like a drafting pen to me except lighter). I use Rhodia dotbook’s (made in France)

    • John Burton | March 28, 2024 at 6:34 pm |

      K so the Rhodia notebooks are the other ones that hold fountain pen ink pretty well. Depends on how often you go through notebooks. Composition notebooks hold the ink as well if not better, and are a real savings. But Rhodia’s are great for sure. I googled that pen, it looks legit.

  12. Tim Irvine | March 28, 2024 at 9:36 pm |

    John, it is the smallest Souveran with an EF gold nib. It took me through most of my career. I started with Mont Blanc but changed to Pelikan in the late 1970s. I also began my career with a clean square, about 2’x2′, of a sheet and used it to wipe my nib after filling my pen. Now it is covered and looks like art work. It chronicles my flirtation with sepia ink, the mistake of black ink, mainly Pelikan blue black, and a bit of red from the Waterman I used for editing.

  13. There’s a pre-IvyHeyday, Apparel Arts(y), old Brooksy (read: Victorian British) vibe to the nicer, luxe-ish fountain pens. As always with everything, quality has declined. A lot. These days, cheaper materials and cheaply made. Don’t get me started.

    Find an old vintage MB 149/Diplomat and rehab. For the Anglophiles, there are the vintage Conway Stewarts.

  14. I stand corrected. The best OCBD I’ve seen/bought/owned/worn as of late is my tailor’s rendering, using hefty, beefy British (Acorn) cloth. He can copy the vintage Brooks “polo shirt” for a very reasonable price.

  15. Hello John!
    A fellow named Philip Meza mentioned Ivy Style in a note to me yesterday, while commenting on my book he received for Christmas from his wife. It’s a book about WWII “bomber jackets,” and is the culmination of 8 years of work photographing 162 jackets across the USA, from twelve different museums, including the Smithsonian Air & Space, the 390th Memorial Museum in Tucson, and the National Museum of the United States Air Force, among others. To date, it’s won silver awards in two prestigious design awards, and was short listed on the New York Art Directors Club competition. We think it’s a pretty handsome book, and at 398 pages, it’s a big book at 6 pounds too. Besides the 104 jackets pictured, there are contemporary portraits of over 25 veterans, along with numerous wartime stories, many of which have never been published. There is also a chapter written by fashion historian Laura McLaws Helms on the fashion and cultural impact of the jackets, a section on collecting written by Antiques Roadshow appraiser Jeff Shrader, and a section on their care, written as an FAQ, by a professional conservator. Rounding out the book is a professional index, and on the website is a downloadable PDF spreadsheet, that details the jackets by manufacturer, etc. The website is for more info. Hopefully this is of interest. By the way, I’m sending this note here, as I couldn’t find another way of contacting you on your site, which I was unaware of until now. I’ll spend more time this weekend going over it. Until, then, please feel free contact me, should you have questions.
    All Best,
    John Slemp

    • John Burton | March 29, 2024 at 4:05 pm |

      Hi John I emailed you!

    • whiskeydent | March 30, 2024 at 9:55 am |

      I have Banana Republic’s version from 1985 (before they became a mall store). It’s far from the real thing, but it still draws lots of compliments.

  16. Commonwealth Colonel | April 2, 2024 at 11:39 am |

    I use an At-A-Glance Weekly Planner.
    Each month has it’s a two page spread, it is then broken down by weeks and days on subsequent pages. I use the main calendar to run my schedule and then the weekly/daily pages to track activity and to create a record of what I have been doing.

    I am tied to digital calendars; on my phone from my wife (she runs the social calendar) and one from the office. With that said, at least once a day, I update my planner calendar that I keep with me so I can have one central calendar.

    Long live the paper calendar!

Comments are closed.