Friday, April 07, 2006
Le Carnet Légendaire
In June, 2000 I was running around the Typo Media conference in Germany carrying a palm-sized Boorum memo book. Notable only because I finally found a notebook I could carry everywhere. I was tired of the novelty of getting different notebooks everytime I needed one and never really being satisfied: Too big. Too small. Cheap paper. Over-designed.
Admittedly, the Boorum memo book was very small but I felt unfettered carrying it around. I was confident it would be big enough to hold my scribblings. And it was.
So, there I was in Mainz trying my best to understand Italian. The Italian speaker was trying his best to speak English. After glancing at my notebook he was trying to tell me something about one of his design projects. He was gesturing wildly, even for an Italian, and I was scrunching up my face in various expressions of "Quoi?".
Finally, I placed my little notebook and a pen in front of him. He drew an animal: a mole next to a molehill. And then he named the mole Chatwin.
His sketch and pantomime revealed information of little interest to me then: Bruce Chatwin was a writer; Chatwin used notebooks of which the cover was made of the skin of moles; Modo & Modo somewhere in Italy were now producing these notebooks and my charades partner was involved in designing them.
10 months later in Frankfurt, in a book shop I realized how great Moleskines were and how interesting Bruce Chatwin THE travel-writer is. I've been a fan of both since.
Today, I got another Moleskine. I freed it from it's cellophane packaging and running my hand over the sleek black cover thought fondly of my introduction to the cult of Moleskine. I cracked open the notebook and gingerly took out the little pamphlet from the inner pocket and read the history in English, yet again.
Today, I read it en français, too and that is when I realized for the first time that these notebooks were "Produit à l'origine par de petites manufactures françaises . . .", hmm. I looked up moleskine in my French dictionary. It means imitation leather. Duh! Non, sans blague!
Vive les taupes!
le carnet légendaire = the legendary notebook
"Produit à l'origine par de petites manufactures françaises . . ." = "originally produced by small French bookbinders . . ."
sans blague! = no joke! / duh!
la taupe = mole
vive les taupes = long live the moles
Photo: My stack of beloved Moleskines and the original "chatwin-mole" drawing
aujourd'hui en Allemagne
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