My Favourite Field Notes: Shenandoah

Field Notes have just released the new Utility edition so our favourite brand are fresh on our minds. In the spirit of Field Notes season, I’m starting a mini-series, which will cover my favourite editions, and my not-so-favourites, as well as some of the ways that I’ve used some of my Field Notes in the past. I’m starting on a high with my favourite Field Notes edition: Shenandoah, the Fall 2015 COLORS edition.

How I got interested in Field Notes

I discovered Field Notes when I first started getting more interested in my old stationery hobby, at some point in 2014. The latest COLORS edition at that point was Arts and Sciences. I picked up a couple of sets of the original Kraft notebooks at the time, although I didn’t actually start buying any COLORS edition until Shenandoah came along.

Since then, I’ve bought every COLORS edition since. I have never been a Field Notes subscriber, having subscribed to other stationery subscriptions such as Pocket Notebooks (which actually provided me with the Lunacy and Black Ice editions anyway). Recently, I decided I was going to create a piece of artwork for my future office or study out of my used Field Notes and my aim is to collect all the editions back to when I met my fiancé until we buy a house. Now that I have this quest to keep collecting them, it probably makes more sense for me to sign up. I’m waiting for a subscriber extra that I’m really into (for example the Commemorative Reprints last year) and then I’ll go for it.

The Fall 2015 COLORS edition: Shenandoah

As I mentioned, this was the first Field Notes COLORS edition that I bought. I was attracted to it straight away, with the gorgeous line-up of greens, natural touches, wood belly band and the beautiful accompanying video of Shenandoah National Park.

Shenandoah turned out not to just be a pretty face though. Although the overall effect of Shenandoah is fairly simple, I love how much thought has gone into the small details that make the whole edition. It’s a genuinely clever edition. The innards are seriously beautiful and are made using their own custom-made paper by a duplexing method: in Field Notes’ words, “Using brute force and adhesives, you take two different colored papers and fuse them together so that they become one”.

External Red Maple notebook shade, with the internal, stunning shade of red that this tree is known for. One thing that makes me happy looking back is that I wrote down “Longitude 0°” when I started this particular notebook. I was living in Greenwich at the time and it’s at 0° longitude on the globe.

Not only that, but the shades used match the leaf colours of three trees that are found in the Shenandoah National Park. So the shades used aren’t just green, yellow and red; they’re Shenandoah green, yellow and red, and each book has a little mention about the specific tree on the reverse. The branding and cover printing uses an ink with a shade known as “Shenandoah Salamander”, an endangered and endemic species found (pretty much only) in the park. The graph grid is printed using “Appalachian Moss” ink. Part of the Appalachian Trail passes through, you guessed it, Shenandoah National Park.

A couple of the leaf details on the reverse of two Shenandoah notebooks: Chestnut Oak and Red Maple. It’s a small point, but I love how Field Notes have managed to make the little bit of text about each tree the same length. It makes the notebooks look super consistent.

I find these notebooks really sturdy. The paper inside reminds me of the classic Kraft editions, and I think white paper was the best choice against the bright cover paper stock. I wouldn’t normally choose a white paper (I prefer an off-white or grey) but it works. I also love how these notebooks look with use. They really stand up to being jostled around in a handbag all the time.

A used (top) and unused (bottom) Chestnut Oak notebook for comparison.

As you can see, the used notebooks have taken on a bit of the texture of being rubbed up against other things, with a few little indentations here and there. To my eye, the colour is also very slightly faded, particularly the actual “Field Notes” brown ink. I love that, and this is one of the things that makes this edition so great for me. I love the wear and tear that comes along with actually using paper products. The trees that inspired this edition aren’t perfect, and these notebooks shouldn’t be either.

A used and new Chestnut Oak and the Red Maple, for comparison of wear and tear.
One curious piece of wear and tear. I used a gold bull clip to keep this notebook together, and the screws of the clip have left an interesting rusty mark on it, as well as indenting the cover where it was clipping it shut.
A sneak peek into the interior of one of my Shenandoah notebooks: this was written with a micro-gel pen. I used this to make a few notes around work at the time.

Looking back at the two I’ve already used, I have mostly used pencil, ballpoint and micro-gel pens, with a smattering of washi tape. Fountain pens don’t work amazingly with the paper stock. I’m okay with that though, I don’t buy Field Notes to be fountain pen friendly.

I noted down a few lines from the poem “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann. I thought these were good words to start a notebook with.
Some not so professional ballpoint sketches on staple day
I pasted in some beautiful, thin French paper I bought while in Paris just as a bit of decoration

In summary

For me, this edition really does no wrong and Field Notes would be hard pushed to beat this edition. It’s unique, creative, clever and in its dedication to a great National Park, embodies the all-American-ness that Field Notes stands for. It’s just not something that any other brand could, or would, produce. The three cover shades are beautiful and natural, and remind me of trees with full foliage. The interiors are bright and remind me of the autumn, when this edition was released. I find the contrast between the cover and interiors so striking and gorgeous and importantly, I think the notebooks themselves are lovely to use.

The gorgeous, unique, natural wood belly band used for the Shenandoah edition. It matches the feel of the notebooks perfectly.

I’m surprised that Shenandoah doesn’t get more love out there, perhaps due to the fact that it had one of the largest print runs (it’s still in stock!). It’s one of the editions that I rarely hear people mention and I hardly ever see it up for trade, whether it’s people seeking it or wanting to trade it off. Interestingly, Brad on this week’s Pen Addict episode mentioned that he hadn’t been really struck by a COLORS edition since Shenandoah, and I completely agree. I definitely started on a high with buying this edition. Green is a fairly rare but seemingly popular Field Notes colour: I notice that Grass Stain Green is a classic edition that serious collectors seem to need to have. Balsam Fir, Day Game and Portland also incorporated green. Green seems to be a fairly special occurrence in Field Notes limited editions though, and I think Shenandoah really stands out. Now to stock up on a good few more packs while I can!

Jinnie at Three Staples has a great review of this edition, including some of the finer details.


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