Resources for Pens and Paper Part I: Brick and Mortar (Boston)

Now that I’m starting the process of launching an interview podcast/video series on the tools that historians use to organize and record their research and teaching, I thought I’d start by highlighting my favorite sources for the tools that I use.

Brick and Mortar Stores

Sometimes you need to try the pens. Or feel the paper. Plus, there is something about strolling through tightly packed aisles of unique notebooks, lab books, manila envelopes, and legal pads. Or you might want to see *exactly* how puffy the stickers are — or stumble across a brand you haven’t heard of, or gaze at the colors of Clairefontaine notebooks. With three small kids and an hour commute to work (and now a pandemic), I don’t get out very much. So forgive my limited range, but here’s where I go if I have a minute.

First up, just a bus ride away from where I live:

Bob Slate Stationer in Harvard Square, Cambridge. I love visiting here in the winter, when it’s 5:15pm and already dark.

There is a timeless quality to this store that makes me think of the tools laid on on Walter Gropius’s desk.

They have a range of notebooks designed for academic study, as well as planners, notecards, diaries, wrapping paper, leather goods, and custom stationery. The store carries Filofax, my previous planner system, as well as Traveler’s Notebook and other Japanese and British paper goods. But there is so much to see here, I’m only scratching the surface in describing it.

A pre-pandemic view of the door.
A rack of MD Paper by Midori — a lay flat notebook with subtle covers and fine details. I picked one up on my recent visit.
Travelers Notebook Supplies (2018)
I mean, does it get any better than this?

Bonus: not too far away are bookstores, including the Harvard Coop, the Harvard Book Store, plus rare book retailers. A recent haul says it all:


While we are here…I’ll include this memory of editing Dollars for Dixie at the now-closed Crema Cafe. Sob.


Next on the list is Black Ink — which used to have a Harvard Square location that is now closed. (A recent visit revealed that an accoutrements store has moved into that space, but I haven’t checked it out yet). But it’s worth going to their Charles St. location in Boston because you can also stop in at Rugg Road Paper, order custom stationery and invitations, and see their range of products. Get off at the Charles/MGH stop, ponder that the prison is now a fancy hotel, and walk toward the Public Garden. Alternatively, park in the lot under the garden.

(For these spots and the next, I don’t have a plethora of images as I do for Bob Slate. This must be rectified!)

This store is one of my favorites to visit because we used to live just up the street: a garden-level apartment complete with a tunnel entrance and an address that was 9 1/2, very evocative of Harry Potter.

Again, winter visits are best for viewing the decor. But May will also yield magnolias, dogwoods, and cherry blossoms, and the Public Garden in autumn is lovely. And there are always bumper stickers to find.

Anyways. Black Ink has toys, books, kitchen wares, umbrellas, useful items, and, for my purposes: stickers and paper fasteners, as well as cards. Visit them online at the Museum of Useful Things.

A bit further afield, but on the way to my favorite vacation spots in Down East Maine, is the delightful Rock, Paper, Scissors, in Wiscasset, located right on Rt. 1.

I mean, really, when you are going to see views like this, you NEED a new notebook.

But Rock, Paper, Scissors has more than notebooks and cards. They have beautiful tableware and linens, books, toys, and various tools and all sorts of bits and bobs tucked away. It’s a great place to stop on Route 1, and I always make a point to when traveling that way. It’s also exactly the right distance from Boston to stop for lunch. Most people go to the famous Red’s Eats down the way for seafood, but we like going to Sarah’s restaurant across the street for fish chowder.

There are also the many retail locations for the Paper Source around here. I often end up at the one in Burlington, but I prefer to visit the Porter Square and Brookline stores, simply because that is where I sourced the material for our DIY wedding invitations.

Boston and the surrounding area has so many places to visit, and my list is growing. There is also the Bromfield Pen Shop near Downtown Crossing, for when I want to invest in a truly fancy pen. Shockingly, I have not yet visited the MUJI store on Newbury Street. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I was on Newbury St., or in any other Boston neighborhood. What year is it? Oh, right, it’s still 2020. Much more to explore in 2021 — but there is always online, to be covered in Part II.

2 thoughts on “Resources for Pens and Paper Part I: Brick and Mortar (Boston)

  1. I miss these stores, when I travel I look for little stores such as these. I hope to get to Boston one day soon, I will try to remember to look for this store.

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