Whether you love Moleskines for their sleek design and portability, or loathe them for their price and pretentiousness, there’s no denying that they’ve got quite a following. These fun and functional little notebooks have quite a history, and the company has built upon it, sharing stories, famous users, and embracing the Moleskine community to inspire a variety of interesting creations. We’ve discovered 14 fun Moleskine facts that we’re betting you didn’t know, and we’re glad to share them here.
Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde are said to have used small black notebooks like the Moleskine design to write down their work. Even artists including Matisse, van Gogh, and Picasso had little black books.
If you’re feeling a little awkward about how exactly to say “moleskine,” you’re not alone. There is no official pronunciation, because, as the Moleskine brand reports, it is a “brand name with undefined national identity.” But if you want to be in line with the Italian maker of Moleskine, the Italian pronunciation is “mole’ski:ne.”
Although many manufacturers are criticized for moving operations to China for cut-rate labor, the Moleskine company assures users that their decision was more historical than financial. Designed in Italy and manufactured in China, Moleskine points out that China has the “world’s most longstanding tradition in the production and processing of paper,” and the China that makes their notebooks is the one that invented paper and a great tradition of book binding.
The Moleskine notebooks users enjoy today are fashioned after notebooks described in Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines. In this novel, Chatwin discusses the discontinued production of notebooks after the death of the notebook manufacturer. The name specifically comes from a line spoken by the owner of a stationery shop informing Chatswin of the death: Le vrai Moleskine n’est plus (“The real Moleskine is no more”).
There were once several companies making moleskine notebooks
The moleskine design was popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, made by many independent French stationary shops. At the time, they did not have a brand name, and they were simple, plain notebooks. They all vanished in the 1980s, and moleskines went unproduced until 1997.
In 1997, a Milanese publisher began making the Moleskine notebooks again. The books continue to be Italian designed and manufactured in various pieces worldwide.
For quality control, Moleskine assigns an individual ID number to each notebook. They ask that you keep this number safe so that you can report any problems with your notebook, but we like to think of it as your notebook’s own name.
Artists including Christian Lacroix and Dave Eggers have created decorated Moleskine notebooks, and the company shares them through Detour: The Moleskine Notebook Experience. This exhibit has traveled the world to share their stories and designs.
Moleskine was inspired to create a new product, the Moleskine City notebooks, by the Moleskine online community. These books are used for traveling, organizing trips, and recording information about cities in the world, and are interfaced with a website, moleskinecity.com, with a series of cityblogs for all notebook owners to use as a point of contact.
Advertising experts have wondered about Moleskine’s lack of advertising. Moleskine prefers instead to use word-of-mouth, special editions, and even sightings in films like The Devil Wears Prada and The Motorcycle Diaries, to give the notebooks credible visibility.
Moleskine has created a myMoleskine area on their website, where fans and owners can share their artworks, hacks, passion templates and more. There are more than 86,000 registered users and nearly 6,500 artworks posted.
Although typically made for corporate clients, Moleskine offers custom editions of their famous notebooks. Notable editions include a MoMA Tim Burton retrospective, The Glass House, and The Helvetica Project.
The Moleskine website is host to an Artist Marketplace, where artists sell their customized notebooks with one of a kind art on the cover. Some are created to look like a MacBook Air, others simply feature acrylic paints.
Moleskine gives a nod to social and environmental responsibility
The Moleskine company is careful to select manufacturers that support environmentally responsible practices, including the use of acid-free paper and Forest Stewardship Council certification. Moleskine also supports lettera27, an organization that supports literacy, education, and access to knowledge worldwide, particularly in Africa.