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People talk about “grail” pens, meaning those pens you long for and cannot afford, or perhaps are very rare and difficult to find. But the idea can apply to anything really, and today I am excited to share one of my “grail” notebooks, the Franklin-Christoph Firma-Flex Journal Notebook in a Saddleboot Leather Notebook Cover in A5 brown.

I have been excited about Franklin-Christoph for a couple of years now. I’ve heard good things about their pens and inks, and I am in love with their Penvelopes. I’ve watched YouTube videos about their notebooks and read reviews of their notebook covers. I think the best thing about Franklin-Christoph is international customers can enjoy free shipping just as their domestic customers do, although at a higher price point. For US destinations free shipping kicks in at $50. For international, shipping is free at $75. The Saddleboot Notebook Covers in A5 are $69.50 US and do not come with a notebook. The Firma-Flex Journal Notebooks in A5 are $14.50 US. So that put me in the free shipping zone! With some of my latest World Mail Panel Survey money to spend I finally felt the time was right to pull the trigger on this expensive notebook and cover. It was thrilling to click the Calculate Shipping button on the site and see it read $0.00!

The package arrived a couple of weeks ago. No invoice in the box, no note from the company. Very different from the service experience with Goulet Pens or WonderPens. But super fast shipping and excellent packaging.


The notebook arrived in its own suede bag. Fancy!


And here it is. The Franklin-Christoph Celtic logo is embossed on the front. The leather smells really good and feels butter soft. The workmanship is superb.


Franklin-Christoph’s Saddleboot Leather is vegetable tanned and comes in maroon, black and brown. I chose the brown and it has a cream contrasting stitching.


A second Franklin-Christoph logo on the back.


There is a pocket on the back as well.


Here is the inside of the notebook and the cover. I apologize for the blurry picture; I didn’t notice until after editing.


The notebooks themselves are a work of art. Each type of notebook is indicated by the colour of stitching: ruled is maroon, graph is olive green, dots is purple, and blank is grey. I wanted ruled so the stitching is maroon. The Celtic logo is on the front and that circular indentation on the right of the logo is the metal closure button on the cover. And as expected the notebook fits perfectly into the cover.


Each notebook has 192 pages. The ruled lines are 7mm apart on the A4 and A5, and 5mm apart on the A6. Ruled, graph and dots are 30% black (light grey) with top and bottom margin lines in maroon. Above you can see the ruling and the black nylon page marker.

The paper is 90gsm and made from sugar cane extract. It is pH neutral and acid free. In certain lights the paper seems to have a purple glow. I can see it but I don’t think it’s coming through in the photos.


I did a quick pen test on the back page of the notebook. The paper took fountain pen ink beautifully, as well as gel ink, with the exception of the Pilot Varsity, which showed some feathering.


Here’s a closeup and you can see the feathering for the Pilot Varsity.


As for show through, only the Pilot Varsity and of course the Sharpie marker were visible on the underside of the paper. The paper was very absorbent and smooth. I really enjoyed using the fountain pens on it.


I was curious to see if the Seven Seas Writer notebook would fit, and it did! Not as perfectly as the Franklin-Christoph Firma-Flex but pretty close. Not that I don’t love the brown vinyl notebook cover that I purchased for the Seven Seas Writer, but there is really no comparison with this beautiful leather cover. Franklin-Christoph notebooks are certainly more consistently available than the Seven Seas Writer.


And last but not least we come to the pen loop. It is leather but has an elastic piece on the left which allows for different pen sizes. My Jinhao 159 is the widest pen I own and it fit very nicely.

The attention to detail for this cover and notebook is impressive. I can wholeheartedly recommend Franklin-Christoph and this notebook/cover combination. I think their shipping rates are great and the quality of their products is well worth the price. I can only imagine how delightful their pens, inks and other leather accessories would be. I don’t know when this notebook will go into the rotation as I don’t want to write in it (besides the pen test). But it will probably be next in line because I find myself taking it out of its suede bag and just looking at it.

It’s just that beautiful.