George Bell & Sons was a book publishing house located in London, United Kingdom, from 1839 to 1986.

George Bell & Sons
StatusDefunct (1986)
Founded1839; 185 years ago (1839)
FounderGeorge Bell
Defunct1986 Edit this on Wikidata
SuccessorUnwin Hyman
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Headquarters locationLondon
Publication typesBooks
Nonfiction topicsEducation
Fiction genresClassics, children's literature



George Bell & Sons 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, & Company.[1] 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.[2] 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, Robin Philip 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 1986, Bell & Hyman Ltd merged with George Allen & Unwin to form Unwin Hyman. Unwin Hyman was acquired by HarperCollins in 1990.[3][4]

George Bell's brother John also worked for the Bell firm; John managed the Chiswick Press until his death in 1885.


  • 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.[5]
  • 1867: Moved out of Fleet Street
  • 1903: York House, 6 Portugal Street, WC2 designed for George Bell & Sons by Horace Field[6]
  • 1977: Denmark House, Queen Elizabeth Street

Selected publications


Book series

  • The Aldine Edition of the British Poets[7]
  • Alpha Classics[8]
  • Bell's Annotated English Classics[9]
  • Bell's Cathedral Series
  • Bell's English Classics[9]
  • Bell's Everyday Arithmetics[10]
  • Bell's Explorer Geographies[10]
  • Bell's Handbooks to Continental Churches
  • Bell's Indian & Colonial Library[11]
  • Bell's Intermediate Geographies[10]
  • Bell's Novelist Readers[10]
  • Bell's Reading Books
  • Bell's Stages in Bookland[10]
  • Bibliotheca Classica[12]
  • Bohn's Libraries[13][14]
  • Bohn's Popular Library[15]
  • Classics of Scientific Method[9]
  • Easy Steps in English Composition[10]
  • Great Masters in Painting and Sculpture[16]
  • The Great Public Schools
  • Life and Light Books[17]
  • Little Gem Poetry Books[10]
  • The Queen's Treasures Series.[18]
  • Shakespeare Retold for Little People[10]
  • York Library[9]


  1. ^ Deighton, Bell, and Co., Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  2. ^ Weedon, A. Victorian Publishing: The Economics of Book Production for a Mass Market 1836-1916 (2003) Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-3527-9
  3. ^ FOB Search Results 191 - 200 of 409
  4. ^ "Robin Hyman interviewed by Sue Bradley - British Library". Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  5. ^ "Life & the Libraries". Archived from the original on 8 September 2007.
  6. ^ "6 AND 7, PORTUGAL STREET AND 5, ST CLEMENT'S LANE". Historic England. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  7. ^ The Aldine Edition of the British Poets (William Pickering; then Bell & Daldy; then George Bell) - Book Series List, Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  8. ^ Alpha Classics (George Bell & Sons) - Book Series List, Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d Publishers and Series List, Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h (Publisher's advertisement), in: J. Livingstone, National Union of Teachers Conference Cambridge Souvenir, Cambridge University Press, 1928. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  11. ^ Publisher's advertisement in final pages of: M. Eagar, Six Years at the Russian Court, London: George Bell & Sons, 1906. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  12. ^ Bibliotheca Classica (George Bell & Sons) - Book Series List, Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  13. ^ Life & the Libraries, (copy of the original at Retrieved on 18 March 2017.
  14. ^ Bohn's Libraries (George Bell & Sons) - Book Series List, Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  15. ^ Bohn’s Popular Library, Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  16. ^ Great Masters in Painting & Sculpture, Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  17. ^ Publisher's advertisement in final pages of: M. Eagar, Six Years at the Russian Court, London: George Bell & Sons, 1906. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  18. ^ Display advertisement, The Observer, 6 December 1908, p. 4.

Further reading

  • Edward Bell, George Bell, Publisher: A Brief Memoir, London: Printed for private circulation by the Chiswick Press, 1924.
  • Marjory Long, "George Bell and Sons", in: Patricia J. Anderson and Jonathan Rose, eds., Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 106: British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820-1880, Detroit and London: Gale, 1991, pp. 22-31.