Bell, Andrew (1726-1809) (DNB00)

BELL, ANDREW (1726–1809), engraver, was born in 1726, and began his professional career in the humble employment of engraving letters, names, and crests on plates and dog-collars. Though a very indifferent engraver, he rose to be the first in his line in Edinburgh. He engraved all the plates to illustrate his friend Smellie's translation of Buffon, which appeared in 1782. His success in life, however, is to be attributed rather to the result of a fortunate speculation than to his powers as an engraver. This was the publication of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica,' of which he was originally the half-proprietor, and to which he furnished the plates. The first edition of this book (the ninth edition of which is now in course of publication) was completed in 1771, and consisted only of 3 vols. quarto. The plan was Smellie's, and all the principal articles were written or compiled by him. On the death of Colin McFarquhar, an Edinburgh printer, in 1793, Bell became sole proprietor of the 'Encyclopædia.' By the sale of the third edition, which was completed in 1797 in 18 vols., and consisted of 10,000 copies, the sum of 42,000l. was realised. Though Bell did not enjoy a liberal education in his youth, yet by means of extensive reading and constant intercourse with men of letters he became remarkable for the extent of his information. In his personal appearance he was noticeable for his smallness of stature, the immense size of his nose, and the deformities of his legs. He bore these personal peculiarities, however, with philosophic equanimity, and they constantly formed the subject of his own jokes. He died at his house in Lauriston Lane, at the age of eighty-three, on 10 May 1809, leaving two daughters and a handsome fortune, which was mostly derived from the profits of the 'Encyclopædia.' A sketch of him, with his friend Smellie, by John Kay, the miniature painter of Edinburgh, will be found in vol. i. of 'The Original Portraits,' No. 86.

[Kay's Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings (1877), i. 13, 210; Kerr's Memoirs of the Life of William Smellie (1811); Encyclopædia Britannica (8th edit. 1860), pp. v-xxix.]

G. F. R. B.