Antique & Vintage Papers

What's so special about vintage and antique paper?

Firstly there's the rarity; good quality old paper is so hard to find.

Secondly, handmade papers for fine art were made by time served craftspeople and the quality was/is fabulous. Not just the way it was made but the materials and fibres that were used to make them.

Most of the fibres in the old papers were linen or cotton rag. That is to say they used recycled clothing to make the pulp. They cut them up and beat them for days to make the base fibre. These fibres were longer and stronger than the fibres we use today to make paper and so they performed in better, they made better paper.

Today's papers are usually made with wood pulp or something called cotton linters. Cotton linters are a by product of the cotton industry and they are neither as long or as strong as rag fibres, therefore the sheets made with these tend to be inferior.

Thirdy is the sizing. Sizing is an added ingredient that allows water based media (paint and ink) to sit on the surface of the paper. Without sizing, paints and inks seep into the paper and blot. The most effective form of sizing is gelatine which is an animal product. Nowadays most papermakers use a vegetable starch or a chemical called Aquapel. Aquapel is a product used to coat windscreens of vehicles to help drive away water. It works as a sizing agent but not as well as gelatine. 

Here's a short 3 minute film showing you the process of making paper from recycled rag. 


Our selection of paper ranges from the 1850s through to the 1980s. We specialise in papers from three mills:

J Whatman paper

J Green & Sons (including Hayle Mill & Barcham Green) - 

WS Hodgkinson

Usage - most of these papers were marketed as Drawing Papers but were meant for multipurpose use from watercolour, printmaking, pen & ink etc. We have seen most of these papers used successfully in watercolour, letterpress, etching, screenprint, drawing, pastels and even digital print. 



The Green family were engaged in paper making from the 17th century until 1987 and produced papers under various names including; J Green & Sons, Barcham Green, FJ Head and Hayle Mill

J Barcham Green handmade paper

Responsible for making many much loved papers of incredible quality, these are still highly sought after by artists, printmakers and bookbinders today. 

Find out more about this paper mill



Dated 1850s - 1960s. 

Made variously from linen and cotton rag, these are gelatin sized and of the highest possible quality. The condition of the papers are good to excellent with some sheets showing some minor signs of age.

J Whatman paper was used by the artists Constable, Rossetti, Picasso, Henry Moore, Thomas Gainsborough and J M W Turner. William Blake used Whatman paper for four of his illuminated books. Audubon's Birds of America was painted on Double Elephant J Whatman paper. Wellington wrote many of his famous dispatches on J Whatman paper and Napoleon sat on the island of St Helena and wrote his long and detailed will on J Whatman paper only three weeks before his death in 1821. George Washington signed many state documents on J Whatman paper and Queen Victoria chose J Whatman paper for her personal correspondence. In the 1930's Soviet leaders used the paper to publish their five year plan for the future of the USSR while the Peace Treaty with Japan was signed on Whatman paper at the close of World War Two.

The listings detail the size in mm, inches and traditional paper size (eg Medium, Imperial, Double Elephant etc.) The weight is in gsm and has been calculated by measuring and weighing the sheets

Discover more about J Whatman papers



Heritage papers made in the 1950s and 1960s by one of the most important English paper makers; W.S. Hodgkinson & Co., Ltd. at the Wookey Hole mill in Somerset. 

These have been tried and tested with: watercolour, letterpress, screen printing, digital inkjet, drawing, pastel, pen & ink, marbling.