In this age of e-mail, text-messaging, and smart-phones, it’s probably understandable that snail-mail letters are few and far between. Given the world we live in, it might be a little bit surprising that a company would choose to introduce new stationery nominally meant for international airmail, but that’s the case.
Newly launched onto the market in the last month or two with absolutely zero fanfare are 50-sheet pads of “Blue Airmail Paper”, under the “Mailblok” brand. Given that airmail stationery is extremely hard to come by, and these pads emulate, at least superficially, the long-discontinued aerogramme of yesteryear, one supposes there must be at least a small market for this.
But is it any good? Let’s find out…
I acquired a pad last week on Amazon, and I believe they’re available on eBay and elsewhere.
The package looks exactly like it does in the pictures – “Blue Airmail Paper”, “Lettre-Enveloppe ‘Par Avion'”, et cetera. Designed by Kikkerland, manufactured in China.
The first thing you note – and how can you not? – is that the paper isn’t blue. It’s white. White with blue lines, to be sure, but nothing like the striking blue color of the old USPS aerogrammes. It’s also rather thicker than the nearly-onionskin paper of yore, which is probably a good thing, given that there is no longer any sort of special rate for light-weight aerogrammes.
The paper weight isn’t specified anywhere that I can find, but it’s very comparable to that of Leuchtturm notebooks, which are said to be 80GSM (and which I quite like.) It’s not just the thickness, but the finish that’s similar – a very smooth finish with no real tooth to speak of. It takes the couple of fountain-pen inks I threw at it (Noodler’s Eel Blue and Skrip Black) beautifully – no feathering or bleeding whatsoever. Being a lightweight paper, there’s a hint of show-through on the back side, but it’s not really a big deal – no worse than cheap copy paper, or a Moleskine, say.
So, all in all, a pretty serviceable paper, I guess.
What lets the Mailblok airmail paper down are some of the mildly incomprehensible design choices which suggest quite strongly that whomever designed these things had neither ever actually handled a real aerogramme, nor thought too hard about how they were to be used.
For starters, the paper is white, not blue. The blue color of many actual aerogrammes was there for a reason – it made the paper somewhat more opaque, and served to offer a bit more privacy to one’s correspondence. There were many white aerogrammes, of course – but the product specifically says “BLUE Airmail Paper”, so the conspicuous absence of any blueness is… remarkable. Second, while the paper is lined (6mm spacing, narrow even for “narrow-ruled” paper), it’s only lined on one side, leaving 25% of the usable writing surface unlined. I suppose you can sort of see the lines on the other side through the paper, but it seems a foolish oversight, and doesn’t exactly scream “hey, you can write here too, y’know!” to the (many!) people who’ve never used a real aerogramme.
Third, while there are lines for a recipient address on the printed front, there are no lines (either on the front or back) for the sender’s address. How many people in this day and age still have address stickers? Yeah, that’s about what I thought. Petty, perhaps – but how about the lack of instructions for folding and opening? Postal stationery like this has, since time immemorial, included instructions both to the sender (“fold here first”, et cetera) and the recipient (“slice here to open”). The Mailblok paper features none of these things.
The bottom line: It’s quite decent paper whose design and character might make your next handwritten snail-mail letter somewhat more memorable, but those of us who lament the passing of the aerogramme and are patiently waiting for competently-designed airmail stationery to return to the market are going to be at least a little bit disappointed.