A grocer from Sussex, he borrowed £10 in 1869 to open a bookshop and stationers in Haverstock Hill, north London. Relentlessly hard-working, he moved in 1887 to Charing Cross Road, eventually having two shops there, and enjoyed a reputation as a poet and editor, rediscoverer of Philip Sidney's Old Arcadia and of Thomas Traherne, and champion of James (‘B. V.’) Thomson. His catalogues, first issued in 1876, were noted for their learning, as were those of his business successors: his sons Percy (1871–1956), an expert on Restoration literature, and Arthur (1882–c.1960). In 1934 Percy moved to Tunbridge Wells, where he was succeeded by his son John (1913–71). Bertram's grandson Bertram Rota served an apprenticeship with his uncles. Dobell's papers are in the Bodleian.
From The Oxford Companion to the Book in Oxford Reference.