For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with notebooks.
Nothing made me happier as a little kid than those big, soft, recycled Big Chief notepads, ruled with the little dotted line at the x-height for clumsy young hands just figuring out how words worked. Birthdays were always marked with a new sketchbook; school years with the much-coveted Five Star and Trapper Keeper. The first journalism professor who introduced me to the holiest of holies, the Reporter’s Notebook, has my undying gratitude.
Over the years, my obsession has evolved into a preference for handbound artist journals and a frankly alarming devotion to Moleskines. Moving has become a grueling process of lugging box after box of scrapbooks, sketchbooks, diaries, floppy stacks of bookboard and cold press paper, and lots of side-eye from the long-suffering family members and friends who have been suckered in to helping.
The process usually includes at least one episode of me sprawled across the pile of unshelved books like a dragon over its hoard, one part smugly pleased at the accumulation, five parts stressed about their longevity and my silly sentimentality, and three parts in an existential funk over whether or not anybody will care about my books after I am dead and in the ground.
I decided to build a digital archive for both narcissistic (I travel a fair bit: now my collection is always just an open Wi-Fi connection away!) and altruistic sharing purposes: having the opportunity to pore over other artists’ and chroniclers’ and documentarians’ collections gives me pretty much the same sense of deep satisfaction as thumbing through my own. So: I showed you mine, will you show me yours?
Note: not every gallery is “encyclopedic,” nor is every volume included in this archive. Nobody needs to know what a whiney, entitled little twerp I was at 16, nor is anybody interested in the illustrated Watership Down fan fiction my 9-year-old self was super proud to produce.