While browsing the Vanness website, looking to pick up the green Diplomat Aero I’d had my sights on for a while, I came across the Clairefontaine Flying Spirit line of notebooks. Perhaps because the Diplomat’s design had already plated some aviation-inspired seeds in my mind, I was instantly smitten with the style and look of these notebooks — especially the black versions and gold editions (a personal favorite color combo).
These stitched spine A5 notebooks feature 96 pages (48 sheets) of Clairefontaine’s ivory-colored, acid-free, lined, 90 GSM paper. Like most Clairefontaine products, the paper is smooth and extremely fountain pen friendly — showing both sheen and shading with no bleeding or feathering. I believe but have not confirmed that this is the same paper used in my beloved Neo Deco notebooks by the same manufacturer.
What grabbed my attention was the design of the front and rear covers. This version of the Flying Spirit features a stiff black cardstock mottled with glossy and matte textures — giving the notebook an aged, almost antique appearance. The front cover bears the Clairfontaine logo and a simple wordmark of “Flying Spirit” in a spot of golden metallic ink. The Back cover features one of five illustrations that all emphasize the theme of flight in some way and features slogans like “make it happen…”, “it’s always now…” and “free yourself…”
Each of the illustrations appeals to different facets of the flight theme and includes a steampunk-inspired airship, a feather, a moth, an early airplane/glider, and the seed of a dandelion blowing away in the wind. Naturally, I went for the airship as it fits right in with my love of sci-fi and fantasy (and who doesn’t want a notebook with a kickass gilded balloon ship on it?). These illustrations appeal to a variety of interests while still being unified across the line.
The collection is also available in white and brown versions. The brown ones feature the same illustration options as the black collection, but in a black spot color instead of gold. The white ones differ in that they feature an entirely different set of illustrations (ranging from an astronaut floating in space to the Eiffel Tower) and sport them on the front cover alongside the Flying Spirit wordmark. The Clairefontaine brand mark resides on the back cover with this version. Clairefontaine also offers other configurations in this line, including cloth and leather-bound journals and sketchbooks in various sizes (again, featuring different sets of illustrations) as well as pencil cases and pouches to match each colorway.
One thing that initially frustrated me was that these notebooks feature a fold-in flap attached to the rear cover that features written copy describing Clairefontaine’s brand story. At first, I assumed that this would be perforated and easy to remove; however, it is not, and the only option, if you want it gone, would be to fold and tear it away very carefully or cut it off cleanly. I’ve adapted and left mine on; I found that I can tuck it in between the most recent pages that I’ve been writing on as a makeshift yet conveniently affixed bookmark.
Flying Spirit is not a new product line for Clairefontaine, but one that I only recently discovered and that appealed to my tastes. These illustrations captured my imagination and fit well with my own personal aesthetic.
Minus the fold-in flap, this is very similar to other Clairefontaine notebooks I’ve used in the past and maintains the high brand standards and paper quality for which the company is known. However, there is a lot to be said about some products’ feel and pure cool factor, and the Flying Spirit line scores very high in that regard for me.
(The items in this review were purchased by me for my own collection. This post contains no sponsored content, affiliate links, or items provided for review by vendors/manufacturers)