I am addicted to the little black notebooks called “moleskine” (pronounced as in Italian: mo – les – SKEE – neh). Their history goes back to at least the late part of the 19th century and were used as sketch books by Van Gogh and Matisse, and as notebooks by Hemingway and other literary features. In more recent years the American author Bruce Chatwin turned them into a personal fetish. Moleskines were very hard to come by for a while, but are now being manufactured again (in an expanded line-up) by an Italian firm Modo e Modo.
These little notebooks have a solid feel in your hand, small enough to put in your trouser pocket, briefcase, or purse, have a semi-hard binding covered in oiled buckram, with a black elastic band to keep the books closed and protected. There is also a black ribbon bound into the books as a bookmark. The paper is a creamy off-white and takes ink well (although it can be a little thin for some dark ink colors.) There is just something satisfying about how the moleskine looks and feels in the hand, and how they write.
I’ve been using moleskines for several years. I bought my first in a Barnes and Noble store in Cleveland, but then I couldn’t find them for a while. I now discover they they are something of a cult, with several web sites devoted to them, as well as news articles (a Google search for the term moleskine turns up a surprising number of hits. Probably the best known of the web sites is moleskinerie.com, which is a blog devoted to entries about moleskines and “moleskine sightings” in other media. It is quite fun. Here’s another good link with description and picture.