Ian and Sam from Papers PastIan and Sam from Papers Past

How the business started / about us

Until the late 1970's most Libraries kept a daily newspaper for their Reference Department and stored them in big bound volumes. Over the years these volumes took up lots of space and when newspapers on microfilm became available many volumes were disposed of enabling the Libraries to save space.

Ian Willsher

Date of Birth - Sun 22nd July 1956

I founded Papers Past in March 1981 and began acquiring collections of newspapers from Libraries, Government Departments and Private Collectors. Thus the Papers Past Newspaper Archive was established all those years ago. It now exceeds 200 tons of carefully preserved newspapers held in storage facilities now in Devon.

I adore newspapers and I give regular talks about them to local clubs and W.I. groups. Sometimes I can be found deep in the Newspaper Storage Vaults reading articles and old adverts by torchlight when really I should be moving stocks around or tidying up.

Because of my job I'm great in Pub Quizzes when there are questions about dates of historical events but I'm still rubbish at questions on music and films.


Sam Willsher

Date of Birth - Thu 20th September 1984

I entered the business in 2008 but you could say I have been in it all my life because ever since I was a kid newspapers have always been around the house which was great for "Show and Tell" and "WW2 History Projects".

One of my earliest childhood memories is Dad coming home from work with a strange, but not unpleasant, smell clinging to his clothes. That, I now know, was the smell of newspapers.

29 years later through School, College and University I am pleased to say that my Business Degree is finally paying dividends as I have just implemented a dynamic new Sales and Marketing Strategy for Papers Past but our Board Meetings are still held round the kitchen table and we have to clear away in time for lunch.

Last year we beat our annual sales target, I got a generous bonus and a massive bear hug from Dad - the money was great but the bear hug was priceless. My own son was born on 24th May 2012 and, yes, I have saved his Birthday Newspaper and, yes, his nose does a funny little twitch when I come home in my dusty work overalls, lean over and kiss him.

Most of the time at work it's just me and Dad and 200 tons of old newspapers. We both love and believe in the product. We work together efficiently and usually despatch orders the same day they come in. We might be a small business but there are not many big businesses that can work as fast.

We really get a buzz out of solving customers gift problems. The most marvellous thing ever is when we receive positive feedback and thank you letters from customers which we take great pride in reading, each one another one of those priceless moments.

I hesitated to write this "About Us" page because it portrays us as being so small but, you know what? I'm proud of who we are and how we do it.