It all started with a black rectangle with rounded corners, an elastic page-holder, and an internal pocket: a nameless object with a spare perfection all its own, produced for over a century by a small French bookbinder that supplied the stationery shops of Paris, where the artistic and literary avant-gardes of the world browsed and bought them.
For writer Bruce Chatwin, these pocket-sized notebooks were the ideal travel companion. He called them carnet moleskines for the similarity of the cover material with a mole’s skin. In the mid-1980s, these notebooks became increasingly scarce, and then vanished entirely. In his book The Songlines, Chatwin tells the story of the little black notebook: in 1986, the manufacturer, a small family-owned company in the French city of Tours, went out of business. "Le vrai moleskine n'est plus," are the lapidary words he puts into the mouth of the owner of the stationery shop in the Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, where he usually purchased his notebooks. Chatwin set about buying up all the notebooks that he could find before his departure for Australia, but there were still not enough.
In 1997, the small Milanese publisher of Modo&Modo brought the legendary notebook back to life under the name Moleskine. Today the company creates, produces, and distributes not only the notebooks and their various offshoots, but also a series of objects “for the creativity of the contemporary nomad.”
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