John Bell (1745–1831) was an English publisher. Originally a bookseller and printer, he also innovated in typography, being responsible for an influential font that omitted the long s. He was also noted for drawing the reading public to "the best literature" by commissioning attractive art work to accompany the printed work.
From 1769, Bell owned a bookshop in the Strand, London, the "British Library". His 109-volume, literature-for-the-masses The Poets of Great Britain Complete from Chaucer to Churchill, which rivalled Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1781), was published from 1777 to 1783. Each volume cost just six shillings, much less than what was commonly charged.
Bell's joint-stock organisation of his publishing company defied "the trade" — forty dominant publishing companies — to establish a monopoly on top publications. In addition to the extensive Poets of Great Britain, he published book sets on Shakespeare and The British Theatre. The drawings and illustrations in these works influenced later publishers. He also ran a circulating library. In 1788-1789, he operated a type foundry called the British Letter Foundry in collaboration with punchcutterRichard Austin. Revivals of these typefaces have been made under the name of Bell and Austin.
Bell died in Fulham in 1831, summed up by publisher Charles Knight as a "mischievous spirit, the very Puck of booksellers." He was the uncle of the engraver Edward Bell.
Stanley Morison, John Bell, 1745–1831. Cambridge University Press, 1930; reprinted by Garland Publishing, Inc., 1981.
Kalman A. Burnim and Philip H. Highfill Jr., John Bell, Patron of British Theatrical Portraiture: Catalog of the Theatrical Portraits in His Editions of Bell's Shakespeare and Shakespeare and Bell's British Theatre, Southern Illinois University Press, 1998
Thomas F. Bonnell, The Most Disreputable Trade: Publishing the Classics of English Poetry 1765-1810, Oxford University Press, 2008