ALAN SCOTT BELL (1942-2018)
It is with great sadness that the Library learned of the death on Tuesday 24th April of Alan Bell who was the Librarian here from 1993-2002.
Alan became Librarian following a distinguished career in collection development that began on graduation from Selwyn College, Cambridge with his appointment as Assistant Registrar to the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, and included fifteen years as Assistant Keeper at the National Library of Scotland (1966–81) and twelve years as Librarian at the University of Oxford Rhodes House Library (1981–93).
Alan had joined The London Library as a member in 1983 and was appointed Librarian in 1993 on the retirement of Douglas Matthews. He played a key role in the continued development and expansion of the Library’s collections and his tenure coincided with a period of considerable change as the Library tackled a series of significant building projects and embraced computerised cataloguing and Internet use. The Anstruther Wing (enabled by a major donation from Ian Anstruther) had recently been opened and the Drue Heinz Literary Fund had been established (the gift of a major endowment from Vice-President Drue Heinz, who died earlier this month). Alan helped ensure that both these generous gifts were able to fulfil their potential. Over 40,000 rare and vulnerable volumes were transferred into the safe storage of the Anstruther Wing, while the Drue Heinz Literary Fund has already enabled the Library to acquire thousands of books.
Alongside his highly successful library career, Alan actively pursued wider literary and antiquarian interests. He was a regular reviewer in the TLS and other London journals and his work for publication included a biography of Sydney Smith (1980), editing The Letters of Henry Cockburn and contributing to Histories of Oxford University and the Oxford University Press. He was appointed a Visiting Fellow at All Soul’s College, Oxford in 1980 and from 1993 worked as an advisory editor on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Following his retirement he continued his literary projects including providing editorial assistance with the Oxford edition of The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh.
For much of his time at The London Library, Alan was assisted in his work by the then Deputy Librarian, Inez Lynn, who succeeded him on his retirement in January 2002. Inez commented: “Alan brought a deep knowledge of books, writers and scholarship to the role of Librarian and embraced new technology with enthusiasm. Always generous with his assistance to writers and scholars, he was also exceptionally generous in allowing his senior staff to develop their own ideas for the Library and to bring them to fruition, taking real pleasure in their professional development.”