Design: Lines on design The Notebook

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The Independent Culture
IN BRUCE Chatwin's Songlines (Cape), worked up from notebook sources during a relapse of his AIDS-related illness, the author recounts how he would only ever take one particular type of notebook on his many travels to the ends of the earth.

"In France, these notebooks are known as carnets moleskines: `moleskine', in this case, being its black oilcloth binding. Each time I went to Paris, I would buy a fresh supply from a papeterie in the Rue de l'Ancienne Comedie. The pages were squared and the end papers held in place with an elastic band. I had numbered them in series. I wrote my name and address on the front page, offering a reward to the finder. To lose a passport was the least of one's worries: to lose a notebook was a catastrophe.

In 20 odd years of travel, I lost only two. One vanished on an Afghan bus. The other was filched by the Brazilian secret police, who, with a certain clairvoyance, imagined that some lines I had written - about the wounds of a Baroque Christ - were a description, in code, of their own work on political prisoners.

Some months before I left for Australia, the owner of the papeterie said that the vrai moleskine was getting harder and harder to get. There was one supplier: a small family business in Tours. `I'd like to order a hundred,' I said to Madame. She promised to phone Tours at once, that afternoon.

At five I kept my appointment with Madame. The manufacturer had died. His heirs had sold the business. She removed her spectacles and, almost with an air of mourning, said, `Le vrai moleskine n'est plus.' "

Willowgrain journal (in several colours), pounds 50; from Pickett Fine Leather, 32/33 and 41 Burlington Arcade, London W1 (0171-493 8939) and 149 Sloane Street, London SW1 (0171-823 5638)

Linen-covered plain paper notebooks in four sizes, pounds 4.25-pounds 10.50; from Paperchase, 213 Tottenham Court Road, London W1 (0181-580 8496)

Duotone plain-paper notebooks, small pounds 4.25 each; large pounds 10.50; from


as before.

Goatskin cahier roule (in blue, yellow, red and green), mini pounds 120, large pounds 160; from Hermes, 179 Sloane Street, London SW1 (0171-259 5191) and 155 New Bond Street, London W1 (0171-499 8856)

Above: full-calf bound journal, from pounds 280;

from Shepherds Bookbinders (0171-630 1184)