The ‘hack’ journalist, the aspiring author, the inspired note-jotter; few erudite writers deny the pleasure that comes from opening a new notebook and finding the fresh, unblemished paper within. With our Soho Notebook, that experience reaches peak satisfaction. The paper itself, our own brand of Featherweight, is made from the same parchment as old five-pound notes (extremely thin but durable enough for the ink not to show through) and is watermarked with the Featherweight insignia of a compass and quill, and gilded in gold foil. The books are hand-bound with cream thread, their pages spine-nipped to ensure they always lie flat (is there anything more frustrating than pages that insist on springing back up?). Lined in silk and encased in grained leather, the modern incarnation of this notebook hardly differs from those first created by Smythson in 1887.


“I’m a prolific note-taker and love writing and journaling on trips. I’m always carrying a notebook, and I love Smythson’s Soho Notebooks.”—Jefferson Hack, Co-Founder of Dazed & Confused.

All of our notebooks – the Soho, Panama, and Portobello – are descendants of the first Smythson diary. In 1908, Frank Smythson moved diarizing from the desk to on the go. The original Panama Diary became known as ‘the Panama hat of books’ due to its hard-wearing nature: it could be rolled, folded and squashed without suffering the indignity of becoming marked or misshapen.

Smythson 1908 diary

Back then, our offerings were designed to fit perfectly in a gentleman’s breast pocket–now, of course, the three-piece suit has sadly fallen out of fashion, and both our notebooks and diaries come in a host of sizes.

In the 1940s, we extended our range of books to travel journals. The jet-set lifestyle was becoming popular among the golden elite of Hollywood and, as the first frequent flyers were born, our travel journals were there to record the thoughts and impressions of Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Hardy Amies and more of their ilk. We certainly kept good company.

The Cosmic Diary was created around the same time and, using our traditional binding technique and incorporating the hardy endurance of our very first books, and was designed for global travellers. This design includes larger note sections, day-per-page layouts and full-colour atlas maps on the final pages.

Our continued celebration of the global traveller made Smythson the only choice when it came to creating bespoke diaries and logbooks for the 1970s Transglobe Expedition (the first time anyone had travelled the world from pole to pole using only surface transport) undertaken by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Charles R. Burton and Oliver Shepard. The mind boggles at what sights they might have seen, and so it’s doubly impressive that Oliver Shepard didn’t even get through an entire notebook – claiming the quality of the paper was so impressive he could easily use both sides of each sheet – and perhaps even more so that it came back in one piece. A testament to endurance if ever there was one.Transglobal Log_2 copy

About This Series

Icons: Exploring our long-standing heritage through the people who love us and the products that define us. 

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