I’m mildly obsessed with composition notebooks. There’s something about that familiar black and white marble pattern that is incredibly appealing. In the past year alone, I’ve somehow amassed over 40 marble notebooks, each with a distinct cover. It’s interesting to see the same base pattern being used–and distorted–by different brands.

Composition Notebook Patterns

(center pattern is flipped upside-down)

Composition Notebook Patterns

While some companies create their own style of the pattern, others manipulate a particular version, first seen in the Roaring Spring books (they’ve been producing composition books since 1887), which early catalogues describe as “black agate marble with paper sides.” Their pattern has no copyright, and is considered public domain.

Roaring Spring Composition Notebooks

Roaring Spring Composition Notebook Pattern

(the Roaring Spring pattern on other covers)

Composition Notebook Patterns

Companies even use multiple patterns within their own product line (perhaps to indicate a different paper style). The pattern is so recognizable that lately it’s been used on a range of things other than notebooks (shoes, socks, bags, hats, art objects, and other random stuff).

Composition Notebook Pattern Shoes

my shoes

(I also think it would make a great jacket):

Composition Notebook Pattern Jacket Sketch

Ultimately, I think the most beautiful versions are the ones that are completely original and unique to one brand:

Montag's Blue Horse Composition Book

More images below…

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I can only imagine what else Thierry Pastor and Al Jolson have in common, aside from font choice (and angle).

Thierry Pastor Le Coup de Folie

Al Jolson Souvenir Album

The original version of Brush Script was drawn by Robert E. Smith in 1942 for American Type Founders.


Stamps. Found in the stamp market (Marché Rond-Point des Champs Elysées) where the movie Charade was filmed.

Vernacular Typography Stamps Indochine

Vernacular Typography Guys on Stamps

Vernacular Typography Moscow Metro Stamps

Complete set of 6 stamps showing Moscow's Metro stations: Elektrozavodskaya, Mayakovsky, Ismailovsky, Sokol, Stalinskay, and Kiev

Vernacular Typography Soviet 7 Year Plan Stamps

These 8 stamps are from a set of 12, depicting aspects of Khrushchev's 7-Year Plan. Clockwise from top right: Spasski Tower, Chemicals, Meat, Home Building, Electric Power, Oil Production, Machinery, and Grain. 1959.


On vacations, I usually try to avoid bringing home typical tourist junk. Inexplicably, I couldn’t resist these sweatbands. They are perhaps the least Parisian souvenirs imaginable.

Paris Sweatband


I love these little red guides by Ward, Lock & Co. In addition to nearly 200 pages of text, this thirteenth edition features six beautifully illustrated maps and several pages of great ads (“Northern Ireland is Worth Seeing!”).

Ebenezer Ward & George Lock opened their publishing business in 1854 on Fleet Street. In 1892, they began publishing their guide books in red cloth covers (originally they had been hard, green covers). Today, Ward, Lock & Co. is owned by Octopus Publishing Group.

Ward, Lock & Co. Edinburgh Cover

Ward, Lock & Co. Edinburgh

Ward, Lock & Co. Edinburgh

Ward, Lock & Co. Edinburgh

Ward, Lock & Co. Edinburgh

Ward, Lock & Co. Edinburgh

Ward, Lock & Co. Edinburgh Map

Ward, Lock & Co. Edinburgh

Ward, Lock & Co. Edinburgh Map

Ward, Lock & Co. Edinburgh Map