These days, our phones, laptops, even watches hold our innermost thoughts: plans, messages, to-do lists, scraps of inspiration. But Julian Rothenstein, the founder of Redstone Press and creator of its eponymous diary planner, has found there is still appetite for tactile organisers 35 years after launching the very first Redstone Diary – which offers a charming spin on diaries, filled with insight, inspiration, and life’s big questions.
“The first Redstone Diary was The City Diary for 1989,” Rothenstein tells us. “I had come across the wonderful novels-told-in-woodcuts which were unpublished in the UK, by the Flemish master Frans Masereel. His series of images depicting both the brilliance and the darkness of city life were, I thought, strong enough to sustain interest throughout the year. Masereel was mostly unknown in England but, after publishing a boxed edition of the Story Without Words in 1986, his reputation was already established among art lovers – so the timing was perfect.”
The 2024 diary has been edited by novelist Julian Barnes, who has also written an introduction for it, all based on the theme of family. It features texts by the likes of Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf, and works by artists such as Paula Rego, Frida Kahlo, and John Lennon pertaining to family relationships and genealogy. As with all editions, the 2024 diary is about piquing curiosity through a broad range of unexpected materials each week of the year.
“The diary format doesn’t come with many of the usual constraints so my guiding principle has always been to ensure that the user never knows what is coming on the next page,” Rothenstein says.
“The main restriction is financial, which means avoiding the incredibly high fees that picture libraries and museums charge and in some ways this works to my advantage as I want the images I find to be unfamiliar. It takes a year to source all the material but the editing process is usually quick, spreading printouts on the floor to decide what goes where.”
The diaries have built up something of a cult following, which has helped them to keep going after all this time, but Rothenstein also suspects that modern life has something to do with their ongoing popularity.
“It is definitely the case that people get used to a particular format for a desk diary and want the same product year after year – in the case of the Redstone diary – regardless of the theme,” he says. “The pre-digital days when the big bookshop chains were ordering large quantities in advance are over and shops will now go on to sell other diaries instead of re-ordering.
“But in the last few years, since Covid when people were stuck at home, sales are becoming stronger again. Perhaps some people were rediscovering the pleasures of writing and doodling, pasting down scraps among reminders of dentist appointments – who knows?”
The Redstone Diary 2024 is available now; theredstoneshop.com