I’m continuing on my journey to write about almost every quarterly edition of Field Notes that I have, and today, I’m reaching a milestone. There were a few exceptions I had to make, but with this post, I’m going to consider myself “caught up” and “done” with my original goal. Last time I wrote about Mackinaw Autumn, and this time it’ll be, perhaps predictably, Night Sky, one of my all-time favorites. Timely, too, since this year’s summer edition is about to be released very soon. As usual, this post will be image- and trivia-heavy, with a summary of details at the end. My goodness, these posts keep getting longer and longer. #sorrynotsorry
Night Sky is the summer release of Field Notes from 2013, 19th in their quarterly edition series (called COLORS back then). To say it’s an absolute favorite of mine would be an understatement. It’s an all-black edition of 3 different memo books that have summer constellations printed all over the back in holographic foil. What’s not to like? Apparently, everyone agreed: upon its release in mid-June 2013, Night Sky sold out in a week at Field Notes’ website, becoming one of the fastest selling editions at the time. It even sold out before the previous season’s Colors edition, America the Beautiful, had a chance to sell out. (Both had the same edition size of 15,000 packs). Unfortunately, I was not subscribed to COLORS when Night Sky was released, and was in a rare (and regrettable) period of “buy just one pack and get more later if I like it” state of mind. I remember having to resort to other online shops later, not without difficulty.
Why Night Sky is no. 1 in my book ✶✧⋆
I love Night Sky and rank it #1 in my FN ranking because it’s a black, understated variation on the classic kraft Field Notes, with just enough “oomph” in the form of holographic stars, one of my favorite visual motifs. The seasonal theme, spread out among three different books each representing early, mid-, and late summer sky in the northern hemisphere, is tastefully done without overwhelming the original design (constellations and asterisms are on the exterior back cover only). I’m a big fan of matte French Paper covers, too, and the versatility and practicality of the color black can’t be beat.
Another reason Night Sky is a winner in my book: I may not like summer as a season but absolutely love summer nights. I won’t wax poetic too much about it, but I simply love how the air of summer nights can feel calming and electric at the same time. And I have once experienced a night of phenomenal stargazing, in middle of nowhere (read middle of cornfields in central Illinois) that I think of whenever I look at Night Sky. I’m sure it doesn’t hold a candle to the view at Great Basin National Park in Nevada, where the Field Notes crew shot the Night Sky film, but I still get shivers remembering my own experience. I remember feeling incredibly small, and feeling like the vastness of whatever was up there was going to swallow me up in a blanket of stars. How everything felt like nothing, and vice versa...
I said I wouldn’t wax poetic, didn’t I? Oops. The point is, I love the theme of Night Sky and all the aforementioned details that support it, plus other subtle details like black staples, reticle-graph grid, and the grey ink on black matte paper. I’ll get into these specs in more detail in the next section, but I’ll briefly talk about its body paper here. As with many other older editions, Night Sky has the 50#T version of Finch Paper Opaque Smooth in Bright White, while these days you’re more likely to see the thicker 60#T or 70#T. It does feel decidedly thinner in my hand compared to the newer editions. I don’t hold this against Night Sky. In fact, I actually enjoy how slim and “pocketable” the older editions feel, and how when the spine is broken in, the cover closes on its own. And the paper in Night Sky performs well and feels smooth with my usual gel pens.
What sets Night Sky apart from any other quarterly edition of Field Notes is that it features holographic foil. It’s not the first to get foil-stamped; Balsam Fir and Day Game were the firsts (Winter 2010 and Summer 2012 respectively). But it is the first, and the only one so far, to be hot-stamped with silver holographic foil. I love how the stars flash and shine in a rainbow of colors depending on the angle I hold the books. Fun fact: Field Notes originally wanted to print the stars in a glow-in-the-dark ink but it wasn’t “glowy” enough. Thankfully, they instead found a satisfactory alternative in the holographic foil, and I’m so glad they didn’t give up on the idea. I suspect the foil will last longer than glow-in-the-dark ink anyway. Not that I wouldn’t want to see Field Notes successfully incorporate glow-in-the-dark in a future release. But at this point, I’m not holding my breath.
Another major “first” in Night Sky: black staples. It was a no brainer for a black edition, but I appreciate that they went the extra step and made sure that the only things shining on the cover would be the stars. By the way, Night Sky was not the first edition to deviate from the standard silver staples. America the Beautiful from Spring 2013, just before Night Sky, was the first ever Colors edition to do so, with copper-colored staples.
Night Sky was also the first to get a reticle-graph grid, a sort of a hybrid between dot grid and graph grid, with tiny cross-hairs like the ones found in optical instruments. A very fitting detail that makes Night Sky even more special. I like both dot grid and graph grid, and this reticle-graph has worked nicely for me so far. Not too distracting as long as I use a dark pen or pencil. There have been only two other quarterly editions that feature the reticle-graph grid since: Unexposed from 2014 and Lunacy from 2016, both fall editions.
One last “first”: Night Sky was the first Colors edition to forego the “Practical Applications” section usually found on the back inside cover. I think it was a sensible design move, obviously to make room for paragraphs of corresponding information on what kind of constellations and asterisms to look out for at different times of the summer (at roughly midnight), like Ursa Major, “The Summer Triangle”, and Cassiopeia. But I like that they didn’t try to cram that on the back cover or the front inside cover. Other quarterly editions that skipped “Practical Applications”: Arts & Sciences, Two Rivers, and Byline. Coincidentally, A&S and Byline are both summer editions, just like Nighty Sky.
By now, I think it’s safe to generalize that black Field Notes are very popular. It’s been said on a few occasions that Raven’s Wing and Night Sky were some of the fastest selling Field Notes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lunacy (Fall 2016) is also up there. So it was not surprising that Field Notes followed up Night Sky with Pitch Black in November 2013 for their product line-up as a non-limited offering. Pitch Black has gone into a second iteration and looks different now, but the original version was a very close cousin of Night Sky, just like Red Blooded was an off-shoot of Fire Spotter in 2011. Same materials and colors but with dot grid, a new set of “Practical Applications”, and without the holographic stars on the back. Identical to Night Sky when viewed from the front, closed. The new version of Pitch Black looks great but I admit I was a bit sad to see the 1st version of Pitch Black go, because I knew it was as close as one could get to Night Sky.
I already mentioned the film Field Notes made for Night Sky, but I would be remiss if I didn’t direct you to read up on how they filmed it at The Mather Overlook in The Great Basin National Park in Nevada. I haven’t watched the whole thing, nor do I have the right equipment to fully appreciate it, but there’s also a 6+ hour version up on YouTube, where you can watch the stars slowly moving across the sky in real time. (The HD version is up on Vimeo). Apparently, it was one of the very first 4k videos uploaded to YouTube. It must have been an unforgettable experience filming and seeing the stars at such a location, because Bryan Bedell (of Field Notes, who made the film along with Steve Delahoyde) often mentions it when asked which edition is his favorite (source links below). I love the lengths that Field Notes go to to create videos like this that don’t even show the actual product they’re promoting.
Jim Coudal, co-founder of Field Notes, also often says Night Sky is one of his favorites. Below are some video and podcast links where the FN crew talk about Night Sky, and how they originally wanted to do glow-in-the-dark for it, etc, etc.:
- An Obsessive’s Guide to Field Notes COLORS: Part Five (2013) on Vimeo
- CMD Space #57: Digital and Physical things, with Jim Coudal - Relay FM (August 16th, 2013): about 1 hour and 4 minutes in.
- The Pen Addict #69: Give ‘em Hell Bryan Bedell! - Relay FM (August 27th, 2013): about 18 minutes in.
Overall, Night Sky is a great-looking and versatile edition that never fails to remind me why I love Field Notes. At this point, I don’t know if or how any edition will ever top it. If one ever does, then I’ll be very pleasantly surprised and I look forward to that day.
Some Fun (for me) Details
- Night Sky is the 2013 Summer edition of COLORS, the 19th in the series.
- Item number: FNC-19
- Price: $9.95/pack of 3 books
- Edition size: 15,000 packs (or 45,000 books)
- Printed: June 2013
- The old website said 700 subscriptions were available starting with Night Sky; the email announcement at the time said 500.
- Printed by: Service Graphics, Inc., Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.
- Cover paper: French Paper Construction “Blacktop” in 100#C, printed with “Stealth Gray” soy-based Toyo ink and holographic hot-stamped foil.
- Inside covers: printed with the same “Stealth Gray” ink
- Body paper: Finch Paper Opaque Smooth 50#T in “Bright White”
- Reticle-graph grid inside (3/16"x 3/16"): unspecified light gray soy-based Toyo ink
- Edition-specific extras: none
- Belly band: white paper printed with dark gray ink
- Staples color: black
- Film: An Obsessive’s Guide to Field Notes COLORS: Part Five (2013) on Vimeo
- Film: Field Notes: Night Sky Edition on Vimeo
- Film: The Stars and Their Courses on Vimeo (3+ hours)
- Film: Field Notes: The Stars and Their Courses - YouTube (6+ hours)
- How they shot the video: “Walk Out on the Milky Way.” | Field Notes
My Favorite “Practical Applications”
There were no “Practical Applications” printed on the back cover of Nighty Sky, but there were some suggested by Field Notes in their email announcement, including:
- Homemade Firework Construction Plans
- Which Orchard Walls Are High and Hard to Climb
- Favorite Quotes from Dandelion Wine (one of my favorite books)
Thanks for reading until the end! What are your thoughts on Night Sky?