A simple black rectangle with rounded, childproof corners; an elegant, elastic page-holder; and an internal expandable pocket for keepsakes and prophylactics. A “notebook,” or “book of notes,” a nomadic object with a spare perfection all its own, if you simply ignore the millions upon millions of other notebooks. You’ve seen it, coveted it, longed to hold it tight and spill with ink your darkest secrets and most harebrained ideas.
But do you know the history of the legend of the myth of the Moleskine?
The name dates back to the Lascaux cave paintings and a heavy-browed savant plagued by rectangular dreams. Archaeologists now know that bison translates to mole, deer means skine, and horse means overpriced.
God Himself emblazoned the Ten Commandments on a pair of Moleskines — only the notebooks’ tremendous gravitas made them feel like stone tablets. Moses used to push the books into friends’ hands, saying, “Feel these. No, seriously, feel them. Aren’t they substantial?”
The first article printed on the Gutenberg Press? This history of the legend of the myth of the Moleskine. Indeed, the printed word peaked at birth.
Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period coincided exactly with the loss of his Moleskine. It ended after three years, when he found the impossibly compact book wedged in the cushions of his wife’s fainting couch — or, as Picasso called it, “that thieving sonuva bitch half-couch.”
Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear when the Arles stationary shoppe where he procured his Moleskines closed its doors. “Le vrai moleskine n’est plus,” he screamed, taking a razor blade to the side of his head. The seemingly infinite spirals that bound his new notebook had driven him mad.
At a bar in Paris, Ernest Hemingway beat a man to death with his Moleskine. (Ironically, they came to blows because the man had called Hemingway’s notebook “petite.”)
The travel writer Bruce Chatwin moved to Australia in 1983 to legally marry his Moleskine. A year later the notebook drowned in a suspicious boating accident, and Chatwin wrote its bestselling biography on another Moleskine, infuriating the original Moleskine’s surviving family, except for the one he wrote the biography on, which really needed the work and had never much cared for the Moleskine that Chatwin had married and possibly murdered.
Today, Chatwin etc. posthumously endorse Moleskines to the tune of $360 million. Don’t think about how oily and gross that is; just let the branding wash over you, like so much water over Bruce Chatwin’s beloved. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmoleskinnnnnnnnne.
It’s almost sensual, no? No?! Hearing “mole skin” doesn’t make you want to spend $20 on a notebook? Weird. If we replaced the word “Moleskine” with “Target,” we wouldn’t sell five of these things. They’re made in China, you know.
What better way to capture reality in movement, inscribe the unique nature of experience on paper, or telegraph to other café patrons that you too love Cormac McCarthy and Jean-Luc Godard?
Moleskine. Since 1997.