Book Collection B - Bell (Gertrude) Collection

Identity area

Reference code



Bell (Gertrude) Collection


  • 1653 - 1990 (Creation)

Level of description

Book Collection

Extent and medium

Approx 2,000 books

Context area

Name of creator

(1868 - 1926)

Biographical history

Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell was born in Washington, in what was then County Durham, in 1868. Her father, Sir Thomas Hugh Bell, was the son of Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, the industrial metallurgist, whilst her mother was Mary Shield, the daughter of John Shield of Newcastle upon Tyne. Her mother died in 1871 and Hugh Bell subsequently married Florence Olliffe, the daughter of Sir Joseph Olliffe.

Gertrude Bell was educated at Queen's College, London and at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford where she obtained a first class in modern history in 1888.

In the years immediately following Oxford, she spent time on the social round in London and Yorkshire, she also travelled extensively in Europe, and visited Persia. Her travels continued with two round the world trips, in 1897-1898 and in 1902-1903. At about this time too, in the seasons 1899-1904, her climbing exploits in the Alps earned her renown as a mountaineer.

But from the turn of the century onwards, her life was governed by a love of the Arab peoples, inspired, it seems, by a visit to friends in Jerusalem in 1899-1900. She learned their language, investigated their archaeological sites, and travelled deep into the desert, accompanied only by male guides. She learned to speak Persian and Arabic and wrote about her archaeological findings and her travels.

Bell's knowledge of the region led her into service with the British Intelligence during the First World War where she worked under Sir Percy Cox and Sir Arnold Wilson. In 1915 she was appointed to the Arab Bureau in Cairo, which was involved in gathering information useful for mobilising the Arabs against Turkey. She also joined the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force in Basra and Baghdad. In 1920, she became Oriental Secretary to the British High Commission in Iraq and was influential in establishing the Hashimite Dynasty when Faisal I became the first king of Iraq in 1921. Her first love, however, was always for archaeology, and between 1923 and 1926, as Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq, she established the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.

Gertrude Bell died on 12 July 1926 in Baghdad, where she was buried.

Her most important works include Safar Nameh : Persian pictures (1894); Poems from the Divan of Hafiz (1897); The desert and the sown (1907); The thousand and one churches by William M. Ramsay and Gertrude Bell (1909); Amurath to Amurath (1911); Churches and monasteries of the Tr 'Abdn and neighbouring districts (1913); Palace and mosque at Ukhaidir : a study in early Mohammadan architecture (1914); The Arab of Mesopotamia (1917); Review of the civil administration of Mesopotamia (1920).

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Presented to the Library by Elsa Richmond, October 1926.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Books on Arabic and Persian languages, and on the history and antiquities of Arabia, Iraq and the Near East that formed part of Gertrude Bell's working library.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


No further material is expected to be added to the collection

System of arrangement

Dewey Decimal

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access


Conditions governing reproduction

UK copyright law applies

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Rare Books / Publications

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier


Institution identifier


Rules and/or conventions used



Level of detail


Dates of creation revision deletion


  • English



Archivist's note


Accession area