John Bell (publisher)

John Bell
John-bell-publisher.jpg
Born1745
Died1831
Fulham
OccupationPublisher
LanguageEnglish
NationalityEnglish

John Bell (1745–1831) was an English publisher. Originally a bookseller and printer, he also innovated in typography, being responsible for an influential font that omitted the long s.[1] He was also noted for drawing the reading public to "the best literature" by commissioning attractive art work to accompany the printed work.[1]

Life[edit]

From 1769, Bell owned a bookshop in the Strand, London, the "British Library".[1] His 109-volume, literature-for-the-masses The Poets of Great Britain Complete from Chaucer to Churchill, which rivalled Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1781), was published from 1777 to 1783. Each volume cost just six shillings, much less than what was commonly charged.[2]

Bell's joint-stock organisation of his publishing company defied "the trade" — forty dominant publishing companies — to establish a monopoly on top publications. In addition to the extensive Poets of Great Britain, he published book sets on Shakespeare and The British Theatre. The drawings and illustrations in these works influenced later publishers.[2][2] He also ran a circulating library.[3][4] In 1788-1789, he operated a type foundry called the British Letter Foundry in collaboration with punchcutter Richard Austin.[5] Revivals of these typefaces have been made under the name of Bell and Austin.[6][7][8]

Bell died in Fulham in 1831, summed up by publisher Charles Knight as a "mischievous spirit, the very Puck of booksellers." He was the uncle of the engraver Edward Bell.[2]

Periodicals[edit]

Bell was one of the founders of the Morning Post, a London daily newspaper, in 1772. In 1787 he launched The World, with Edward Topham. Later he set up the Sunday newspaper Bell's Weekly Messenger, the women's monthly magazine La Belle Assemblée, Bell's classical arrangement of fugitive poetry (1789-1810) and other periodicals.[1]

Works[edit]

British Theatre[edit]

Bell's British Theatre was published in 1776–1778,[9] and sold in sets 140 plays in 21 volumes, each with a unique choice of plays.[10] For example, one set is arranged thus:

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Barker, Hannah. "Bell, John". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/2014.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b c d Harrison 1885.
  3. ^ John Trusler (1790), London Adviser and Guide (2nd ed.), Printed for the author at the Literary-Press, OCLC 15076772
  4. ^ Paul Kaufman (1967). "The Community Library: A Chapter in English Social History". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. 57. JSTOR 1006043.
  5. ^ Kalman A. Burnim; Philip H. Highfill (1998). John Bell, Patron of British Theatrical Portraiture: A Catalog of the Theatrical Portraits in His Editions of Bell's Shakespeare and Bell's British Theatre. SIU Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-8093-2123-0.
  6. ^ Mosley, James. "Scotch Roman". Type Foundry (blog). Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Austin". Commercial Type. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  8. ^ Stanley Morison (19 November 2009). John Bell, 1745-1831: A Memoir. Cambridge University Press. pp. 15–25. ISBN 978-0-521-14314-1.
  9. ^ Haithi Trust: Bell's British Theatre
  10. ^ "Description", British theatre (1791), record at the Internet Archive. See for example two title pages for "Volume 7", one featuring "Maid of the Mill", the other featuring "Love Makes a Man"
  11. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 2, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mrs Mattocks, Mrs Powell, Mrs Angelo, Mr Macklin
  12. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 3, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Miss Brunton, Mr Holman, Mr Kemble, Mrs Siddons, Mrs Merry
  13. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 4, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Lee-Lewis, Mr Bernard, Mrs Siddons, Mr Fawcet
  14. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 5, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mrs Siddons (as Cleone), Mrs Siddons (as Isabella), Mrs Rock, Mrs Esten
  15. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 6, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Farren, Mr Wroughton, Mrs Siddons, Mrs Farren, Mr Bensley
  16. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 7, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Quick, Mrs Ann Brunton Merry, Mrs Hunter, Mrs Heard
  17. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 8, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Blanchard, Mr Lewis, Mr Farren, Mrs Brooks
  18. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 9, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Holman, Mr Martyr, Mr Quick, Mr Kemble
  19. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 10, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Barrymore and Warthen, Mr Hull, Mrs Lee Lewis, Alexander Pope
  20. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 11, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mrs Crouch, Mr Palmer, Mr Yates, Mrs Mountain
  21. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 12, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mrs Wells, Mrs Mattocks, Mrs Webb, Mr Harley
  22. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 13, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mrs Billington, Mrs Jordan, Mr Palmer, Mrs Martyr
  23. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 14, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations:Mr Moody, Mr Holman , Mr Palmer, Mr King
  24. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 15, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mrs Esten, Mrs Inchbald, Mr Kemble, Mr Palmer
  25. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 16, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Munden, Mrs Ward, Mrs Goodall, Mrs Siddons
  26. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 17, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Harley, Mrs Abington, Miss Barclay, Mrs Whitelock
  27. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 18, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Dimond, Mr Wilson, Miss Chapman, Mr Middleton
  28. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 19, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Pope, Mrs Kemble, Mr Johnstone, Mr Kemble
  29. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 20, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Baddeley, Mr Rock, Mr Parsons, Mr Bensley
  30. ^ Bell, John, 1745–1831, British theatre (1791), Volume 21, Publisher: J. Bell Year, 1791. Illustrations: Mr Parsons, Mr Fawcet, Mr Dimond, Mrs Jordan
Attribution

Harrison, Robert (1885). "Bell, John (1745-1831)" . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 4. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Further reading[edit]

  • A New Catalogue of Bell's Circulating Library. London: J. Bell. c. 1777.
  • Stanley Morison, John Bell, 1745–1831. Cambridge University Press, 1930; reprinted by Garland Publishing, Inc., 1981.
  • Kalman A. Burnim and Philip H. Highfill Jr., John Bell, Patron of British Theatrical Portraiture: Catalog of the Theatrical Portraits in His Editions of Bell's Shakespeare and Shakespeare and Bell's British Theatre, Southern Illinois University Press, 1998
  • Thomas F. Bonnell, The Most Disreputable Trade: Publishing the Classics of English Poetry 1765-1810, Oxford University Press, 2008

External links[edit]

  • Portraits of Actors, 1720–1920 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Ian Maxted (2007), "John Bell", The London Book Trades 1775–1800: a preliminary checklist of members, Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History