Archive of George Bell & Sons Ltd

George Bell founded his publishing company in 1839, specialising in educational books. He gained a reputation for books on art, architecture and archaeology but continued to be known chiefly for his educational output. During the 1850s he also ventured into children's literature and in later decades expanded into poetry and dictionaries. The firm became George Bell & Sons in 1873.

The collection consists of correspondence, ledgers & miscellaneous records 1813–1976, although the nineteenth century records are rather fragmentary. Some material is included from the subsidiary firm The Chiswick Press, purchased in 1880.

The initial deposit covers the period 1813-1976, though the records for the nineteenth century are fragmentary. It has been summarised as follows:

  • 1-70: Miscellaneous papers including legal and financial records and letters from authors 1813-1955
  • 71-102: Directors'correspondence with authors 1925-1957
  • 103-131: Miscellaneous correspondence arranged alphabetically 1928-1968
  • 132-361: Miscellaneous papers including correspondence relating to particular books, out-letter books, letters from authors, accounts of Chiswick Press, balance sheets, stock lists 1838-1972
  • 362-536: Richard Bell's correspondence 1946-1953
  • 537-2062: S.L. Dennis's correspondence 1939-1973
  • 2063-2075: Miscellaneous correspondence 1964-1973
  • 2076-3154: A.W. Ready's correspondence 1941-1965
  • 3155-3467: A.W. Ready's and R.J.B. Glanville's correspondence 1936-1940
  • 3468-4119: R.J.B. Glanville's correspondence 1946-1966
  • 4120-4567: Central files, mainly correspondence of R.J.B. Glanville and W.H. Mills 1965-1973
  • 4568-4694: Miscellaneous book files, mainly correspondence of M.H. Varvill 1958-1973
  • 4695-5400: Division files 1926-1929
  • 5401-6231: Division files 1930-1932
  • 6232-6695: Division files 1933-1935
  • 6696-7078: Division files 1936-1938
  • 7079-7221: Directors' correspondence with authors 1938-1968
  • 7222-7295: Editorial Department correspondence 1927-1934
  • 7296-7397: R.J.B. Glanville's foreign rights correspondence 1937-1974
  • 7398-7473: Richard Bell's and R.J.B. Glanville's correspondence about American rights, other subsidiary rights, review copies of books and related matters 1953-1955
  • 7474-7528: R.J.B. Glanville's American rights correspondence 1956-1964
  • 7529-7689: Production Department correspondence 1955-1970
  • 7690-7787: Reviews 1957-1966
  • 7788-7796: General correspondence about copyright 1938-1946
  • 7797-7814: Correspondence about paperback and other subsidiary rights 1963-1976
  • 7815-7822: Miscellaneous papers

MS 3741 consists of a further five boxes of correspondence, financial documents, photographic material and other papers. This part of the collection has yet to be catalogued, but there is an index to the autograph letters, which cover the period c. 1840-1920. In addition to the authors listed in this index, there are a number of letters from the children's author Margaret Gatty.

The Icons of Childhood project, funded by the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) under the Designation Development Fund, is a new University of Reading Special Collections project which seeks to preserve and create access to the George Bell and Records of Ladybird Books collections.

More information

  • A handlist, with index, of the original deposit is available at the Special Collections Service
  • A full description is available for MS 3741 from our  online database
  • Manuscript numbers MSS 1640, 3741
publishing history correspondence, business records bell george

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