A collection of 'mock valentines' illustrations produced in the 1840s and 1850s by Glasgow based printers Bell & Bain.
Andrew Bain, co-founder of Bell & Bain, wrote in 1858 that “the business was highly prosperous, and it indeed could scarcely have been otherwise from the assiduous attention and energy that were bestowed on it”. The 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.
The first book printed by the firm in 1832 was a collection of Scottish proverbs compiled by Andrew Henderson. The imprint of the firm appears on numerous works dealing with the history of Glasgow. During this early period Bell & Bain produced various editions of the Bible, including the ‘New Polyglot Bible’, under a licence granted by Queen Victoria. In 1858, they printed ‘A Sketch of the Rise and Progress of the Trades House of Glasgow’, a copy of which used to be handed to new Deacons of the House. This book contains a plan of the part of ‘The Six Pound Land of Gorbals and Brigend’ belonging to and feued by the Trades House. The area was at that time a distinct part of the city and became known as Tradeston.
Copies of many of the books and pamphlets printed by the firm are preserved in the Andrew Bain Memorial Collection presented to The Mitchell by Andrew Bain, the son of the co-founder of the firm, the son, having made large and valuable additions to his father’s library. The most important division of the collection is that relating to Glasgow and the West of Scotland, in which the typographical art of the city is strongly represented by the numerous productions of the three Foulises in the 18th century and of Bell & Bain in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Mock valentines, also known as vinegar 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. The Mitchell library has a collection of mock valentines produced by Bell & Bain printers.
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