George Bell & Sons
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
George Bell & Sons was a book publishing house located in London, United Kingdom, from 1839 to 1986. It was founded by George Bell as an educational bookseller, with the intention of selling the output of London university presses; but became best known as an independent publisher of classics and children's books.
One of Bell's first investments in publishing was a series of Railway Companions; that is, booklets of timetables and tourist guides. Within a year Bell's publishing business had outstripped his retail business, and he elected to move from his original offices into Fleet Street. There G. Bell & Sons branched into the publication of books on art, architecture, and archaeology, in addition to the classics for which the company was already known. Bell's reputation was only improved by his association with Henry Cole.
In the mid-1850s, Bell expanded again, printing the children's books of Margaret Gatty (Parables from Nature) and Juliana Horatia Ewing (the Nursery Magazine). Around the same time, in 1854, he acquired J. & J.J. Deighton, a bookseller's outfit in Cambridge, which thereupon changed its name to Deighton, Bell & Co. and continued to operate out of Cambridge until at least 1998, although it had been sold to Dawson Books by then. Then, in 1856, Bell brought on board as a partner Frederick Daldy, and renamed the company Bell & Daldy.
With Daldy, Bell began to print more poetry collections, including the Aldine Edition of British Poets and the works of Andrew Lang and Robert Bridges. To the firm's educational output was added Webster's Dictionary, after Bell acquired the British rights to Webster's work. Then, Bell & Daldy took over the libraries of Henry George Bohn, a Covent Garden publisher, and moved their operation to Bohn's former location. With such an extensive library available for publication, Bell's original retail location in Fleet Street was no longer necessary; the firm moved out of Fleet Street for good in 1867.
Daldy left the firm (renamed George Bell & Sons) in 1873, to join the firm of Virtue, Spalding, & Daldy. In 1888, Bell left the piloting of the firm to his sons, Edward and Ernest, but maintained a healthy interest in its day-to-day operation until his death in 1890. In 1910 the firm became a limited liability company, George Bell & Sons, Ltd.
In 1926 Edward Bell died; his son Arthur took his place on the board and became chairman himself in 1936. Other members of the board gradually took over the operation of the firm, until Arthur's death in 1968. In 1977, R.P. Hyman became the managing director of Bell & Hyman, Ltd., and the firm moved to Queen Elizabeth Street, London, where it remained until going out of business in 1989.
George Bell's brother John also worked for the Bell firm; John managed the Chiswick Press until his death in 1885.
Location of the Bell houses 
- 1839: 1 Bouverie Street
- 1840: 186 Fleet Street
- 1854: Acquired Deighton's offices at Green Street and Trinity Street, Cambridge
- 1864: Acquired 4 York Street, Covent Garden. This location had quite a pedigree: The previous occupant of these houses was the publishing company of Henry George Bohn; before that they had belonged to the bookseller J.H. Bohte, who specialized in classics; and before that (though not immediately before) they had been the home of Thomas de Quincey.
- 1867: Moved out of Fleet Street
- 1910: York House, Portugal Street
- 1977: Denmark House, Queen Elizabeth Street