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Andrew Bell (engraver)

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Andrew Bell by George Watson
Bell's copperplate of a first rate ship-of-war from the First Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica - "undoubtedly the noblest machine that ever was invented"

Andrew Bell (1726–1809) was a Scottish engraver and printer, who co-founded Encyclopædia Britannica with Colin Macfarquhar.


Bell was born in Edinburgh in 1726, his father a baker. He had little formal education and was apprenticed to the engraver Richard Cooper.[1] Bell was a colourful Scot. His height was four foot six inches (1.37 m); he had crooked legs and an enormous nose that he would sometimes augment with a papier-mache version whenever anyone stared at his natural nose.[2] Bell began work as an engraver of crests, names, etc. on dog collars.[2] Despite his small stature, he deliberately rode the tallest horse available in Edinburgh, dismounting by a ladder to the cheers of onlookers.[2]

Bell produced almost all of the copperplate engravings for the 1st–4th editions of the Britannica: 160 for the 1st, 340 for the 2nd, 542 for the 3rd, and 531 for the 4th.[3] By contrast, the 50 plates of the Supplement to the 3rd edition were engraved by D. Lizars.[citation needed]

After Macfarquhar died in 1793, Bell bought out his heirs and became sole owner of the Britannica until his own death in 1809. He quarrelled with his son-in-law, Thomson Bonar, and refused to speak with him for the last ten years of his life.[citation needed]


He married Anne Wake who was the daughter of an excise officer in 1756.[4] She was apparently the granddaughter of the artist John Scougal and through this connection Bell inherited many of Scougal's paintings.[5]


  1. ^ Kafker, Frank A. (1 October 2008). "The Achievement of Andrew Bell and Colin Macfarquhar as the First Publishers of the Encyclopaedia Britannica". Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies. 18 (2): 139–152. doi:10.1111/j.1754-0208.1995.tb00185.x.
  2. ^ a b c Kogan, Herman (1958). The Great EB: The Story of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. LCCN 58-8379.
  3. ^ Gunn, Ann. ‘Five Hundred and Forty-Two Copperplates’: Andrew Bell’s Illustrations for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1771–97.” Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History. V. 22, (2017–2018): 7-14.
  4. ^ Kafker, Frank A. (1 October 2008). "THE ACHIEVEMENT OF ANDREW BELL and COLIN MACFARQUHAR AS THE FIRST PUBLISHERS OF THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA". Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies. 18 (2): 139–152. doi:10.1111/j.1754-0208.1995.tb00185.x. ISSN 1754-0194.
  5. ^ Cassell's Old and New Edinburgh vol. II p. 222/3