See caption
Andrew Bell by George Watson
Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Bell (1725/6–1809) was a Scottish engraver, printer, and with his fellow printer Colin Macfarquhar co-founder of the Encyclopædia Britannica. He was probably born in Edinburgh, the son of John Bell, a baker.[1]

After having received little formal education, Bell was apprenticed to the engraver Richard Cooper, and began his career fulfilling commissions for engraving such items as plates, documents and dog collars.[2]

Bell has been described as “strikingly ugly” by his biographers, very short with an immense nose and deformed legs,[1] but he was able to make fun of his deformities; he deliberately rode the tallest horse available in Edinburgh and always mounted by a ladder, to the cheers of onlookers.[3] Bell married Anne Wake, the daughter of an excise officer, on 20 June 1756, and they had two daughters.[1]

Encyclopædia Britannica

The French Encyclopédie, published between 1751 and 1772, was the inspiration for the creation of the Encyclopædia Britannica,[3] but it is uncertain whether Bell or Macfarquahar was the first come up with the idea.[2] The first edition of Britannica appeared in instalments from 1768 to 1771, followed by a three-volume quarto set in 1771, edited by William Smellie and containing 160 plates by Bell.[1]

The Encyclopædia Britannica became a best-seller, netting Bell and Macfarquhar a sizeable fortune. On his death in Edinburgh on 10 June 1809, Bell’s estate included printing works, a linen factory, a house in a fashionable residential suburb of Edinburgh, and about £25,000, equivalent to about £2.15 million as at 2022.[1][a]Calculated using the real wealth value of £25,000 as at 1809.[4]


a Calculated using the real wealth value of £25,000 as at 1809.[4]