The world of fountain pens and its disciples is contrarian in nature. I know many people who spend in excess of $1000 on a single pen, and yet balk at spending more than $20 on paper. Similarly, I noticed a trend of looking for value in inks while simultaneously ignoring an utter lack of value in maki-e arsenal. This weird contrarian position isn’t uncommon in hobbiest circles. You often see people with high end European cars who will fill up with basic gasoline, and people rocking Barker brogues coupled with Costco socks.
This isn’t to say that value doesn’t have its place or that the accessories to high end items need or do not need to also be high end, but rather to point out our own bias with regards to the perception of optimal performance.
Which brings me to this high end pad of paper. In practical terms, it’s way outside the mainstream in terms of availability and price-point. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s affordable taking into account the novel writing experience it offers. I am one of the few outliers that is quite happy to use a $4 Jinhao with high end ink and paper because to me the feel of the nib gliding on the paper is more important than how I look doing it.
My priorities have always been paper first, nib second, and ink third. The body of the pen beyond ergonomic bias isn’t superlative in nature. At least for me.
The G. Lalo Toile Imperiale is a pseudo old school type of laid paper. In practical terms, the texture is one one side only (which is fine), but the feedback is reminiscent of high end correspondence papeterie, the sort of stuff my grandmother would use to ask me how my summer was going. Reviewing paper is always going to be a mixed bag because the performance side of things will always be squared away once you get into the higher price brackets.
The difference will lie in the feedback and how you personally feel about it. Personally, I prefer super smooth paper like Tomoe River or the crazy vellum from Clairefontaine. But that’s me and it’s not to say that the textured stuff doesn’t have its place. Textured paper will force you to change your writing tools if like me you prefer the needlepoints. Using an UEF nib on this isn’t fun, as without glassy paper, the nib likes to catch on fibers.
For me, this is all about playing with ink and enjoying that super tactile feeling. It’s about taking pause and thinking about what you are scribbling instead of nuking a page of notes a minute.
Before I discuss the actual performance, the pad itself comes with a lined guideline. It steps into the ring with a weight of 100/gsm and the size of my particular pad is A5, although it comes in A4 too. Its binding is the standard correspondence top glue binding; super easy to remove sheets, and beyond that there is nothing to discuss. The design of the cover is super sexy, but when you think that the price of 50 sheets is similar to a Moleskine, it’s frankly expected.
On another note, because this was asked before – no, the paper isn’t watermarked unlike the G. Lalo Verge stuff. This is neither a pro nor a con for me, as I simply don’t care.
Right, so in terms of its handling characteristics, it deals with ink pretty well. No issues with feathering, even with mega-wet BB+ nibs, and it handled pretty much everything without bleedthrough. It does ghost a smidgen, but the photographs make it look far worse than it is. Honestly, this is a solid luxury paper and handles as such.
I would recommend using <M> nibs or above for the most pleasant experience, but it did handle a Japanese EF with aplomb.
As you can see, the texture is an effect added when it was milled, so it’s not a true laid paper as the purists would define it.
The issue, as I mentioned before, with paper of this caliber is that the review will always be superficially positive. It will function perfectly. But the caveat of pleasure will be up to you: if you like a slightly rougher texture and the enhanced tactical sensation when both scribbling and handling paper, then it’s a home run. Outside of that, it is grossly overpriced when you can buy a stack of vellum paper for much less.
Value is a tricky thing to assess. The Western medium nib pen I used in my test was my Waterman Exception Slim, which will set you back over $300. Is writing on a block of paper that cost me $13 so unreasonable, all things considered? I don’t think so, but that’s just me.
Perfectly made with no flaws of any kind, the cover is embossed and super pretty. Perfect to sit on your desk so visitors can feel inferior in your presence. Taking into account that I have over 100+ fountain pens, many of them quite pricey by any mainstream standard, I can’t bring myself to quibble over the cost.
The texture is interesting and makes a point to whomever is going to receive that letter. Even people who don’t care for fountain pens (weird, I know) will automatically have a modicum of respect for your scribbles.
Some might use it to write to their loved ones. I prefer to write to my local politicians with it, so they may feel small and insignificant in light of my criticisms, with the paper to match my self-righteous scorn.
Your mileage may vary.