Huth, Henry (DNB00)

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HUTH, HENRY (1815–1878), merchant banker and bibliophile, was the third son of Frederick Huth of Hanover, a man of energy and mental power, who settled at Corunna. Driven thence by the entry of the French, the elder Huth left with his family under convoy of the British squadron, and landed in England in 1809. Here he became a naturalised British subject by act of parliament, and founded in London the eminent firm which is still carried on by his descendants. Henry Huth, the son, was born in London in 1815. At the age of thirteen he was sent to Mr. Rusden's school at Leith Hill in Surrey, where, since his father had some idea of putting him in the Indian civil service, he learned, in addition to ordinary classics, Persian, Arabic, and Hindustani. As a schoolboy he interested himself in physics and chemistry, and devoted all his pocket-money to the purchase of the necessary apparatus. When his father supplied him with a teacher of chemistry, Huth's modest private funds were set free to gratify his lasting taste for old books. In 1833 his father took him into his business.

The drudgery of work in his father's office proved so distasteful that he lost his health and was sent to travel. He first stayed for about two years at Hamburg, occupied at intervals in a business firm: then at Magdeburg for nearly a year, where he learned the German language perfectly. He then made a tour in France for about three months, and in the beginning of 1839 went to the United States of America, and, after travelling in the south for some time, entered a New York firm as a volunteer. His father, however, arranged that he should join a firm in Mexico in 1840. In 1843 he paid a visit to England, and after marrying in 1844, settled in Hamburg, but rejoined his father's firm in London in 1849.

Thenceforward he lived in London and occupied himself in forming his library. His youthful collection, which he had left behind him during his wanderings, was examined and most of the books rejected; but a few still remain in the library. In Mexico he had been fortunate in finding some rare books, and he had bought others in France and Germany. Starting with this nucleus, he began to call daily at all the principal booksellers' on his way back from the city, a habit which he continued up to the day of his death. He gave commissions at most of the important sales, such as the Utterson, Hawtrey, Gardner, Smith, Slade, Perkins, Tite, and made especially numerous purchases at the Daniel and Corser sales. He confined himself to no particular subject, but bought anything of real interest provided that the book was perfect and in good condition. Imperfect books he called 'the lepers of a library.' His varied collection was especially rich in voyages, Shakespearean and early English literature, and in early Spanish and German works. The Bibles, without being very numerous, included nearly every edition especially prized by collectors, and the manuscripts and prints were among the most beautiful of their kind. Every book he carefully collated himself before it was suffered to join the collection. In 1863 he was elected a member of the Philobiblon Society, and in 1867 printed for presentation to the members a volume of 'Ancient Ballads and Broadsides' from the unique original copies he had bought at the Daniel sale [see {DNB lkpl}]. He allowed Mr. Lilly, the bookseller, to reprint the book without the woodcuts. In 1866 he was elected a member of the Roxburghe Club, but never attended a meeting. He printed, in limited impressions of fifty copies, edited by Mr. W. Carew Hazlitt, the 'Narrative of the Journey of an Irish Gentleman through England in the year 1752,' in 1869; in 1870 'Inedited Poetical Miscellanies, 1584-1700;' in 1874 'Prefaces, Dedications, and Epistles, selected from Early English Books, 1540-1701;' and in 1875 'Fugitive Tracts, 1493-1700,' 2 vols. In 1861 he caused to be translated into Spanish the first chapter of the second volume of Buckle's 'History of Civilisation,' for the author, who was one of his greatest friends. About ten years before his death he commenced a catalogue of his library, but, finding that the time at his disposal was inadequate, he employed Mr. W. C. Hazlitt and Mr. F. S. Ellis to do most of the work, only revising the proofs himself. About half of the work was printed when he died suddenly on 10 Dec. 1878. He was buried in the village churchyard of Bolney in Sussex. The 'Catalogue' was continued and published in 1880.

In character Huth was unobtrusive, but kind and sympathetic, fond of retirement, and caring only for intellectual society. He was a charming talker, and was liberal in lending his books to scholars. For many years he was treasurer and president of the Royal Hospital for Incurables; in his general charities the extent of his benevolence will never be known. Hardly any application to him for help was made in rain.

He married the third daughter of Frederick Westenholz, of Waldenstein Castle in Austria, by whom he had three sons and three daughters.

[John Stansfeld's Hist. of the Stansfeld Family, Leeds, 1886, p.191; Huth Library Catalogue, pref.; Burke's Landed Gentry, art. `Huth of Oakhurst;' Times, 14 Dec. 1878; Academy, Athenæum, and Notes and Queries, 21 Dec. 1878; Boston Daily Advertiser, 24 Jan. 1879; Library Journ. iv. 26.]

A. H. H.