Prologue: Apparently Johnny Gamber and I are on a similar review circuit — he just posted a review yesterday! Be sure to check it out at Pencil Revolution for much better pictures.
Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge from Gallery Leather for review purposes.
There was a period of four or five years back in my pre-iPhone, post-collegiate days where I religiously used a weekly planner. In fact, I had a yearly ritual to usher in the new calendar year: After the first week of January, I’d go into Barnes & Noble or Borders, walk straight over the journal aisle, and page through the weekly planners.
It was an intensive process, and I had a whole list of requirements. In fact, back in 2007, I wrote it all out on 43 Folders:
- Needs to be in the 5.5” x 8.5” range – slightly bigger or smaller is all right.
- The week has to fit onto one page or one spread.
- There cannot be markers on the day for hours. My day doesn’t start at 8 and end at 5, so don’t fence me in!
- It has to have simple styling – one simple color or design. None of this “180 Great Views of Ireland’s Splendor” kinda stuff.
- I need a bookmark or tabs to indicate where I am in the book, so I can easily turn to the right page.
- No spiral-binding. Yes, I know that makes it lay flat easier, but I’m left handed. That binding hurts. Plus, I like to feel like what I’m writing in is a book.
And, almost every year, the winner of my exhaustive search was Gallery Leather.
That’s why I was so excited when I got an email from a representative from Gallery Leather asking me if I’d be interested in reviewing one of their products. I almost asked for a planner for old times sake, but I realized I couldn’t utilize it properly — I work at a job where we must use our electronic calendars, so I’ve sadly given up on my analog workflow.
After poring through their product lineup, I set my eye on the gorgeous Oporto Journal line. The design is a bit more modern than the classic (though not stodgy) Gallery Leather styling, as you’d see in their desk journal or travel journal range. The edges are a bit more flush, the leather is bonded to the substrate, and the pages aren’t gold-edged.
In the grand tradition of Brad Dowdy when presented with a color conundrum, I chose an orange one.
Ah, it feel like I remember my planners to feel: Solid yet flexible in a way only leather can replicate, smooth and cool. I really like the A5 format for journals (imagine an 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper, folded lengthwise, and turned on its side). It fits really well in my hand and leaves plenty of room for writing without getting bulky. It’s perfect for writing in your lap or on a desk.
All of the ways I listed above where it differs from the traditional Gallery Leather I think work, really, really well to give it a refreshed, modern, more minimalist feel.
Except in one area: where the leather meets the substrate.
In the classic Gallery journals (and planners), the leather is folded neatly around the corners and sort of tucked around the back of the substrate, and under the paper liner. It gives the feeling of a neatly folded bed. With the Oporto, the leather is sheared off on the rounded corners, and the substrate/paper liner is glued to the back of it, about a quarter of an inch in. It’s a little hard to explain, so here’s a picture:
It feels a little bit weaker, and with time, I imagine the leather bending inward, wrinkling a little bit. I know that is essential to the modern styling, but it feels a little… unfinished.
The paper is, with my other books from Gallery Leather, top notch. It’s much whiter than the creamy manilla pages of their classic journals, but not a jarring bright white. It’s definitely duller than, say, a Rhodia notepad white.
It performed just as I expected, which is to say superbly. I tested a page out with a pencil, my trusty Peebs 602. It took the graphite really well, with nary a smear after laying down the mark. For as smooth as it seemed, there must have been some kind of tooth to the fiber.
To be fair to my inky friends, I also used a green gel pen that I found on my desk, and a gorgeous Kaweco AL Sport with a medium nib, laying down green ink from a cartridge I loaded into it.
The page was plenty thirsty, and barely smudged when I passed my finger over marks that have been created just a second or two before. Looking over on the other side of the page, I could see that there was just barely a bleed-through with the fountain pen, and absolutely nothing showing for the pencil or the gel pen:
Finally, holistically, the journal fared really well. I carried it around in my messenger bag for three weeks or so. While there aren’t really any loose sharp objects jostling around with it, my laptop charing cable, other books and notebooks, and some paper was in there with it. To this day, the journal looks brand new.
This journal is a treat to use. Gallery Leather flies under the radar a lot of times, with their understated marketing (the opposite, perhaps, of Moleskine) and their lack of gimmicky features (cough cough Baron Fig cough cough) You’ll see them for sale at Barnes & Noble, or right at their very own website.
The Oporto journal is very reasonably priced, in my opinion, at $20. As of June 26, it looks like they have a full stock of all colors except for black, which will be available again on July 25.
Check out some more pictures I took of this book.