Andrew James Bell

Fonds number:
Title: Andrew James Bell
Dates of Material:
inclusive [186?]–1976; predominant 1874–1936
62.5 cm of textual records
1 album of photographs: b&w
Oversized textual material
Biographical sketch

Andrew James Bell (1856–1932) was an academic and a book collector. He was born in Jamesville, near Ottawa, Ontario, the son of George Bell and Jessie Fleming. He married Martha Whitwam in 1882. She died in 1900. He married Martha Anne Sneath in 1903. He died in Toronto, Ontario.

Bell was educated at Ottawa Collegiate Institute. He received a B.A. from University College, University of Toronto in 1878 and then taught for three years at St. Thomas Collegiate Institute in Toronto. In 1881 he was appointed Latin instructor at Victoria College, Cobourg, Ontario, but upon joining the faculty he was given a leave of absence to complete a doctorate at the University of Breslau in Germany. He completed his thesis De Locativi in Prisea Latinitate Vi et Usu, concerning the force and use of the locative case in early Latin, in 1889. In the same year he returned to Victoria College, which had been renamed Victoria University (in 1884) and was preparing for federation with the University of Toronto in 1892. In 1900 Bell was cross-appointed Professor of Comparative Philology at the University of Toronto becoming the first professor to be appointed at the University of Toronto. To prepare for his position he returned to Germany (Leipzig) to study several languages (Gothic, Lithuanian, Old Irish, Old Persian, Oscan, Sanskrit, Umbrium, Zend). Bell served as Professor of Latin at Victoria College until 1921 and as Professor of Comparative Philology at the University of Toronto until 1922. He taught at Victoria College until 1927. He was a member of the American Philological Association and the Archaeological Institute of America.

Bell was the author of The Latin Dual and Poetic Diction (a philological study) published in 1923 by Victoria College and Oxford University Press. He started to collect books as a student in Germany and bequeathed his collection of more than 30,000 items, including works by Desiderius Erasmus, Walt Whitman and Virginia Woolf, to Victoria University.

Custodial history

The Correspondence between Pelham Edgar and Charles G.D. Roberts contained in Box 3, File 1, was probably purchased by A.J. Bell. The custodial history of the material transferred from Victoria University Archives is unknown.

The Latin poetry books which originally belonged to Bell were donated by Larry Pfaff.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of Bell's records pertaining to his activities as an academic, book collector and to his personal life. The fonds includes correspondence, academic and professional records, including Bell's university degrees and diploma's, his thesis, essays, (lecture) notes, and offprints and manuscripts of articles. Personal files include photographs, memorabilia, a diary, three volumes of Latin poetry, and correspondence between Pelham Edgar and Charles G.D. Roberts (potentially purchased by Bell). Also includes material about him, including articles about Bell, correspondence about a portrait of Bell, a memorial address and obituary.

The fonds also contains the catalogue of his book collection, and lists of books. 

The fonds is divided into 5 series.

Source of supplied title

Title based on contents of the fonds.


The fonds is stored in 6 boxes and 1 oversized  box.
Physical condition: The photograph album and diary are extremely fragile.

Immediate source of acquisition

Acquired from Martha Bell in 1933; from Victoria University Archives in 1988 (lecture notes); and from unknown sources in 1996 and at unknown dates.

The Latin poetry books were received from Larry Pfaff in November 2023. The books were originally given to the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies before being offered to Victoria University Library for inclusion in the A.J. Bell fonds.

Finding aids

Box/file list available


No further accruals are expected.

Access points

Provenance access points: Bell, Andrew James, 1856–1932
Names as subject access points: Edgar, Pelham, 1871–1948
Roberts, Charles G.D. (Charles George Douglas), Sir, 1860–1943

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