Robert Charles Bell

For the Scottish engraver see Robert Charles Bell (engraver).

Robert Charles Bell (1917–2002) was the author of several books on board games, most importantly Board and Table Games 1 & 2 (reprinted as Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations). This work won the Premier Award of the Doctors' Hobbies Exhibition, London. He was instrumental in popularizing traditional games,[1] and is acknowledged as one of 11 "principal sources" in David Parlett's The Oxford History of Board Games.[2]


He was born 1917 in Sudbury, Ontario and moved to England in 1928; and was educated at Haileybury College, Hertfordshire and St Bartholomew's Hospital by 1941. He became a consultant plastic surgeon and was on the editorial board of the British Journal of Plastic Surgery. Outside medicine, Bell was a polymath who became an international authority on board games and wrote books for collectors on Tyneside Pottery and Trade Tokens. His first work on games was Board and Table Games (1960), and he later produced many articles on coin collecting for World Coins.[3]

He died in 2002. As of 2007, much of his extensive collection of games and game paraphernalia resides at the University of Durham.[4]

Categories of board and table games

Bell gives origins, history and some game-playing details for some 180 games in the 2 volumes of his main work (Board and Table Games). He divides board games into four main categories:

Bell used the basic categories suggested by Murray with some alterations. Because his treatment extended beyond board games, Bell also included the categories of dice and domino games; and in his second volume added "Games of Words and Numbers", "Card Games Requiring Boards", and "Games of manual dexterity". In addition, there is mention of the subgenre of solitaire and puzzle games.

Bell drew on a wide range of sources, including Edward Falkener, Stewart Culin, Willard Fiske, H. J. R. Murray, John Scarne, and many others; as well as his own research and collection.


Books about board and table games

Robert Charles Bell MB, FRCS (R. C. Bell)

  • Board And Table Games From Many Civilizations (revised edition with above two volumes bound into a single book) - Dover Publications, Mineola, New York, 1979. ISBN 0-486-23855-5; reprinted by Exeter Books, New York, 1983.
  • Les Plus Beaux Jeux Du Monde (French edition of the above) – Fernand Nathan, 1979. ISBN 978-2092846216.

Robbie Bell and Michael Cornelius

Other books

R. C. Bell

R. C. Bell and M. A. V. Gill

R. C. Bell and Simon Rodway

Edited by R. C. Bell



  1. Finkel 2007, p v.
  2. Parlett 1999, pp xii-xiii.
  3. Bell 1984, back cover.
  4. Finkel 2007, p v.


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