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Nutt, Alfred Trübnerlocked

  • H. R. Tedder
  • , revised by Sayoni Basu

Nutt, Alfred Trübner (1856–1910), publisher and Celtic scholar, was born in London on 22 November 1856, the eldest and only surviving son of David Nutt (d. 1863), a foreign bookseller and publisher, and his wife, Ellen, daughter of Robert Carter and granddaughter of William Miller, publisher, of Albemarle Street, London, predecessor of John (II) Murray. His second name commemorated his father's partnership with Nicholas Trübner. He was educated first at University College School, London, and afterwards at Collège de Vitry-le-François in the Marne département, France, until 1873. Having served three years' business apprenticeship in Leipzig, Berlin, and Paris, in 1878 he took his place as head of his father's firm which, founded in 1829 at 58 Fleet Street, London, was moved in 1848 to 270–271 Strand. The business, which had been mainly confined to foreign bookselling, soon benefited by young Nutt's energy and enterprise, especially in the publishing department, which he mainly devoted to folklore and antiquities. Among his chief publications were the collection of unedited Scottish Gaelic texts known as Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition, the Northern Library of Old Norse texts, the Tudor Library of rare sixteenth-century works, the Tudor translations (in sixteenth-century prose), the Grimm Library, the Bibliothèque de Carabas, a critical edition of Don Quixote in Spanish, Nutt's Juvenile Library, the works of W. E. Henley, and the collection of English, Celtic, and Indian fairy tales. He also produced a number of excellent school books. The business was carried on in London at 57–59 Long Acre, 'At the sign of the Phoenix', from 1890 to 1912, when it was removed to Grape Street, New Oxford Street.

Nutt was not only an astute businessman, but was also a lifelong student of folklore and of the Celtic languages, and displayed scholarship and power of original research in both fields. His name was 'definitely associated with the plea for the insular, Celtic, and popular provenance of the Arthurian cycle' (Folk-Lore, 513). Nutt founded the Folk-Lore Journal (afterwards Folk-Lore), was one of the earliest members of the Folk-Lore Society (1879), and was elected president in 1897 and 1898. Besides presidential addresses he contributed many valuable articles to the society's journal, the Folk-Lore Record, and in 1892 he edited a volume of Transactions of the International Folk-Lore Congress (1891). In 1886 he helped to establish the English Goethe Society and he was one of the founders of the movement which led in 1898 to the formation of the Irish Texts Society. His most important literary productions included 'Studies on the legend of the holy grail, with special reference to the hypothesis of its Celtic origin' (Folk-Lore Record, 23, 1888), and two essays on the Irish vision of the afterlife and the Celtic doctrine of rebirth, appended to The Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal, to the Land of the Living (Grimm Library, vols. 4 and 6, 1895–7). He also wrote numerous studies of the Mabinogion, the holy grail and of Celtic and Gaelic literature, and produced an annotated edition of Matthew Arnold's Study of Celtic Literature (1910).

On 21 May 1910, while on holiday at Melun on the Seine, Nutt drowned trying to save his invalid son, who had fallen into the river. His wife, Mrs M. L. Nutt, who had been his secretary for several years, succeeded him as head of the firm. Two sons survived him.


  • E. Clodd, Folk-Lore (30 Sept 1910)
  • The Times (24 May 1910)
  • Athenaeum and Publisher's Circular (28 May 1910)
  • The Bookseller (27 May 1910)
  • J. Wood, ‘Folklore studies at the Celtic dawn: the rôle of Alfred Nutt as publisher and scholar’, Folklore, 110 (1999), 3–12


  • King's Cam., letters to Oscar Browning
  • UCL, letters to Karl Pearson


  • lithograph, repro. in Clodd, Folk-lore