Alfred Hutton’s Entirely Frustrating Catalogue

Alfred Hutton (1839-1910), former Captain of the 1st Kings Dragoon Guards, military reformer, antiquarian, and amateur historian of swordsmanship, gathered a significant personal collection of swords, weapons, and books on martial history, swordsmanship and the development of fencing as a sport. Hutton left a substantial part of this collection Victorian and Albert Museum, London, and his books were integrated into the National Art Library.*

Amongst his books was his personal catalogue (London, National Art Library, Special Collections, 275.E). I had the opportunity to look at this catalogue during a recent visit. Expectation is the source of all misery and I did not find what I expected.
Only part of Hutton’s book collection went to the V & A. Some duplicate copies went to other libraries and it is difficult to form a complete picture of his collection before dissolution. I had hoped that this personal catalogue would clear this up and tell me how many copies of each title he had. If I was very fortunate it may also list provenance details for the books I was most interested in and which lacked these kinds of details in themselves.
The catalogue itself is a large quarto volume, the last half supplied with pre-printed alphabetical headings and a thumb-index cut into the fore-edge. Hutton had it bound in off-white vellum with gold stamps and his armorial badge to match most of his other books. Hutton ignored the supplied headings and began his entries on the first page, leaving about ten leaves for each letter.
Unfortunately, Hutton was not much of a cataloguer. Most of the entries consist of pasted cuttings of bibliographic descriptions. I had hoped, at first, that these cuttings were from auction catalogues or the like but they are actually from one of the early editions of Carl A. Thimm, A Complete Bibliography Fencing and Duelling…** Hutton simply went through Thimm, cut out entries for the books he owned (several of which mention Hutton’s own copy as the source of the description). There are a few manuscript entries, but little more than titles and dates. Occasionally he added a note to a Thimm entry noting that his personal copy of the book described i a particular edition. There is no provenance detail, dates for acquisitions, prices, or even notes about numbers of copies. It would be difficult to imagine a personal library catalogue less helpful than this.
I do note that the National Art Library has a personal diary from Hutton, but I worry it is full of newspaper clippings containing events similar to his own experiences, arranged chronologically.

* A. F. Sieveking, “Hutton, Alfred (1839-1910), Swordsman.” rev. J. Lock, In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004. [, accessed 13 March 2012].
** Carl A. Thimm, A Complete Bibliography of Fencing and Duelling as Practiced by All European Nations from the Middle Ages to the Present Day. (London: J. Lane, 1896).

1 thought on “Alfred Hutton’s Entirely Frustrating Catalogue

  1. Things there are two:

    1)”{N.A.L} has a personal diary from Hutton, but I worry it is full of newspaper clippings containing events similar to his own experiences….”

    From what I’ve heard, it’s mainly point-form descriptions of dreams and pictures of unicorns with huge eyes.

    2) “Expectation is the source of all misery….”

    There’s a familiar sentiment/sensation. Amen, brother.

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