Bell and Bain

The Bell and Bain Collection

A collection of 'Mock Valentines' illustrations produced in the 1840s and 1850s by Glasgow based printers Bell & Bain.

About Bell and Bain

The Bell and Bain printing firm was founded in 1831, when James Bell and Andrew Bain went into partnership. From Mr. Bell’s previous firm of Curll & Bell, they took over premises in Bell Street, near Glasgow Cross. In 1822, the firm took over the business of James Hedderwick, who emigrated in that year to America. Mr. Hedderwick later returned to Glasgow where his family flourished as printers, publishers, journalists and as proprietors of the Glasgow Evening Citizen.

Andrew Bain died in 1858, and James Bell continued as sole partner until his death in 1883. In 1891, the business was incorporated as a Limited Company. Bell & Bain moved from Bell Street to Royal Exchange Square, and then to St. Enoch Square until the building of St. Enoch Street Station necessitated another move – this time to premises in Mitchell Street. In 1973, the firm moved to Burnfield Road, Thornliebank to occupy a modern factory of some 30000 square feet.

About the collection

The Mitchell library has a collection of Mock Valentines produced by Bell & Bain printers. Mock Valentines were popular in the 1840s and 1850s as a counter to the overly sentimental and sincere Valentines that had grown in popularity. They usually mocked old maids, social peers, feminists and male dandies.

Finding aid

Please contact Special Collections or 0141 287 2988 if you would like to access this collection.

Further reading

Pollen, Annebella (2014). ‘The Valentine has fallen upon evil days’: Mocking Victorian valentines and the ambivalent laughter of the carnivalesque’. Early Popular Visual Culture, special issue: Social Control and Early Visual Culture, Vol 12, Iss, 2, 2014, pp. 127-173

McGee, John (2017) Bell & Bain Ltd. : printing since 1831.

BBC – When love letters were hate mail.

BBC – Eight incredibly offensive Victorian valentines.

Image gallery

View a selection of 'Mock Valentines' in our image gallery.

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